The St Mellitus Organ was built as a war memorial, but for years was almost silent, such was its state of deterioration.
We celebrated its restoration by commissioning two short new works, drawing together the themes of remembrance and restoration that the organ represents – themes that are particularly relevant after the devastation brought by the pandemic.
We asked Nicholas Singer, an Emmy-nominated composer who lives not far from St Mellitus in North London, to create the compositions, Our time Lost and All Losses Restored, which were recorded at St Mellitus in July. James Orford, until recently Organist in Residence at Westminster Cathedral, played the pieces. Our Time Lost and All Losses Restored are being released a century after the Hunter memorial organ was installed, in honour of the men of the parish who fought and died in the First World War.
Nicholas’s aim with this commission was to link the theme of loss associated with the pandemic and the effect that the First World War had on the local community, and express the ensuing spirit of remembrance, rebuilding and hope.
He explains: ‘the pieces begin with a slow meditation on the loss of lives, community and the sense of “life as we knew it” – reflecting the surreal sense of time standing still as we all wait for an unpredictable outcome. As they develop, the sense of restoration shines through, as the performer shifts through the different colours made available by the organ’s impressive variety of pipes.
Although there is much sadness and sombre melancholy in the music, it is essentially a celebration of what this organ’s renewal has come to symbolise.
As the pieces develop, the sense of restoration shines through, as the performer shifts through the different colours made available by the organ’s impressive variety of pipes. Although there is much sadness and sombre melancholy in the music, it is essentially a celebration of what this organ’s renewal has come to symbolise, and as the second piece becomes more animated, the sense of movement and exploration contrasts with the static, drawn-out nature of the preceding material.
It has been a huge privilege for me to be involved with the St. Mellitus Organ Restoration Project; it has widened my understanding of how important community can be, and taught me the true significance that objects of memorial can represent. I hope my contribution to the project can help celebrate these concepts’.
Nicholas Singer is an Emmy-nominated composer from London UK, with 20 years’ experience of scoring music for film, television, theatre, and installations. He studied music at Oxford University and composition at the National Film and Television School (NFTS), and is currently focusing on interactive scores for video games and the implementation of adaptive music technology. http://www.nicholassinger.com
James Orford, until very recently Organist in Residence at Westminster Cathedral, previously held organ scholarships at St Paul’s Cathedral, King’s College, London, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and Truro Cathedral. He is a regular performer, both as a soloist and an accompanist and also performed in our lived-streamed Christmas centenary concert for the memorial organ in December.