Interesting organ programme from Tom Chatterton at St James, Lower Hutt

St James Sunday Organ Recital Series 2017
(St. James’s Church and Wellington Organists Association)

Tom Chatterton (organ)

Elgar: Imperial March (arr. G. Martin)
J.S. Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 547
Mozart: Adagio from Serenade no.10 in B flat, “Gran Partita” K.361 (arr. Tom Chatterton)
J.S. Bach: ‘Komm Heiliger Geist’, BWV 651
Londonderry Air, arr. J. Stewart Martin
Vierne: Allegro first movement from 2nd Organ Symphony
Purcell: ‘When I am laid in earth’ (arr. Martin Setchell)
Jehan Alain: Litanies

St. James Church, Lower Hutt

Sunday 28 May 2017, 3pm

Tom Chatterton, a fairly recent arrival from Britain (where he attended Uppingham School, where Professor Peter Godfrey taught before coming to New Zealand), was heard by upwards of 40 people, on the impressive three-manual organ.  His mixing of shorter, more lyrical pieces between longer, more serious ones was good programming.  It was a shame that the Bach Prelude and Fugue was a substitute for Toccata in C, BWV 564 (i), a brilliant work I am particularly fond of, and the Vierne for Bach’s Concerto in A minor BWV 593 based on Vivaldi.  The organist explained that lack of sleep occasioned by his young daughter’s teething necessitated the changes.  However, no loss of technical ability was apparent in the works he played.

Chatterton’s introductions to pairs of pieces were informative, genial, and easily heard.  He introduced the Elgar as being bombastic – but the opening wasn’t, and elsewhere I found it lacking in this characteristic also.  I did wonder if moving the console into a central position on the platform (rather than being on the side, where it sits for church services) meant the organist was hearing the pipes more strongly than the audience was.  However, I did not find this effect in any of the later pieces. However,  in this one I did find the arrangement of the orchestral piece rather restrained for an Imperial March, much of the time.

The Bach Prelude and Fugue was very clear; each part could be distinctly heard, the notes being detached, but not too much.

The Mozart arrangement was interesting, calm and peaceful – but I must admit to preferring the original!

The Bach chorale prelude was a very sprightly one, played presto, its unstoppable momentum employing reeds, had pedals intoning the chorale melody underneath throughout.  It was a masterly performance.

The Londonderry Air worked well as ‘something completely different’.  Lovely flutes with plenty of ‘chuff’ were used to open the piece; later, plenty of variety of registration was used to enhance this beautiful air.

The Vierne movement opened spikily, then there followed passages for full diapason organ; loud episodes were followed in turn by episodes that sounded to me as if rather too great a mixture of stops of different tonal qualities were being employed.  It is a very inventive work (written in 1902), using all three manuals and pedals, with much variation of registration.

Purcell’s beautiful aria gave another quiet interlude.  This was an excellent arrangement, and made a very effective contrast to its predecessor.  It is interesting that arrangements of orchestral and vocal pieces seem to have returned recently to the organist’s palette; for a long time they were frowned on as Victorian and Edwardian excesses not needed in these days of orchestral concerts and recordings; organists should stick to what David Briggs described in a broadcast from Auckland played on RNZ the previous day as ‘indigenous’ organ music (he didn’t).

The final work was the only one to have some notes in the printed programme – without mentioning the composer’s famous organist sister, Marie-Claire Alain, who visited New Zealand.  The plain chant-style opening melody returned frequently sustained through many variations, changes of registration and harmonic shifts.  It was always interesting and at times, arresting.

The whole made up to a varied and pleasing concert.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *