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The Organ Resounds

Author: David Norton

The world premiere of two new memorial compositions for organ by Emmy-nominated composer Nicholas Singer takes place at St Mellitus on Saturday 30th October (2-3pm).

Our Time Lost and All Losses Restored were commissioned by the St Mellitus Organ Restoration Project. Organist Marion Bettsworth will perform both new works on the magnificent Hunter organ that was installed at the church in 1920 and restored for its centenary last December as part of the National Lottery-funded project. 

The organ was installed as a memorial to 221 local men who served in the First World War, 46 of whom lost their lives. And Marion’s recital, part of the 2021 Stroud Green Festival, will also include pieces by William Wolstenholme and John Ireland that were played at the dedication of the organ 101 years ago. 

Nicholas, who is best known for his film scores and video games music, explains how the compositions link our recent experience of Covid-19 with those of the First World War generation, through themes of loss and the spirit of rebuilding and restoration. 

‘The restoration of the organ was overshadowed by the devastation wreaked by coronavirus in 2020. These short pieces attempt to link the theme of loss associated with the pandemic in parallel to the effect of the First World War on the local community, alongside the spirit of rebuilding and restoration that followed both tragedies.

‘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 waited for an unpredictable outcome. The sustained tones and tentative, inconsistent harmonies that shift around them aim to evoke that sense of the unknown, laced with both tragedy and occasional rays of hope.

‘As the pieces develop, the sense of restoration hopefully shines through, as the performer shifts through the colours made available by the organ’s variety of pipes. There is sadness and sombre melancholy in the music, but it’s a celebration of what this organ’s renewal has come to symbolise.

‘It has been a huge privilege to be involved with the Organ Restoration Project; it has widened my understanding of how important community can be and taught me the significance that objects of memorial can represent. I hope my small contribution can help celebrate these concepts.’

The compositions were written during lockdown when live performances were not possible, and it is fitting that they will be given their first public performance as we approach Remembrance Day. 

The programme for the recital also includes William Wolstenholme’s Minuet from his Sonata in the Style of Handel and the Villanella from John Ireland’s Miniature Suite, both of which were played at the dedication of the organ at New Court Congregational Chapel on 12th December 1920. 

The Organ Resounds: a Stroud Green Festival event – full programme

William Wolstenholme – Minuet from Sonata in the Style of Handel
C. P. E. Bach – Sonata in G minor, Wq 70/6, H 87
John Ireland – Miniature Suite (Intrada, Villanella & Menuetto-Impromptu)
Nicholas Singer – Our Time Lost and All Losses Restored
J. S. Bach – Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV 543
Emma Lou Diemer – Fiesta

Tickets are available from Eventbrite for the price of however much you wish to donate.

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