Organ Recital May 2019

CHRISTOPHER RATHBONE, our Director of Music, will devote his monthly organ recital at 12.30 tomorrow (Friday) in memory of his long-time  friend the late composer Kenneth Leighton.

"Our friendship began In 1981 when I invited him to Marlborough College, where I was organist,' he recalls. 'I had become very keen on his organ music and what I knew of his other stuff. Amazingly, he and his wife Jo came and stayed with us and attended an evensong, an orchestral concert and my organ recital which included his brand-new Missa de Gloria. He also gave a General Studies talk to the sixth form about being a composer and Professor of Music at Edinburgh. 

'The following year we met up again, because I was engaged to record Kenneth’s Organ Concerto for Hyperion, at St Paul’s Knightsbridge. Kenneth was present and made helpful suggestions about balance, tempo etc.

'Later the Leightons arranged for me to play the Missa de Gloria at Edinburgh University’s McEwen Hall and after a lovely dinner together  I got to play Beethoven Symphonies with Kenneth in piano-duet arrangements.

'The friendship blossomed and the following year we joined the Leightons at the Cheltenham Festival for the first performance of a Gerard Manley Hopkins song cycle, Earth, sweet earth, but by August that year (1988) Kenneth was dead of lung cancer – and hadn’t written any new organ music, so I had the claim to fame of having given the first ever complete cycle of his organ music!

'I soon arranged various memorial recitals, mostly containing the Missa de Gloria, Leighton’s magnum opus for the organ. I certainly played it at King’s chapel, Cambridge, Westminster Abbey, St Giles' Edinburgh and in the cathedral of John's birthplace, Wakefield.

'Subsequently I arranged further complete cycles of the solo organ music at Leeds Parish Church (2005) and at Holy Trinity Meanwood. I have also returned twice to the McEwen Hall at Edinburgh, always to play Leighton, and usually some of my own music as well! 

'I'm pleased to say that my wife Isabel and I are still very much in touch with Jo Leighton, and, yes, this recital tribute to a friend a very wonderful composer. Self-indulgent, if you like, but I hope it will give the audience at least some of the pleasure it gives me!'