On 25 October 2013 I attended a Gala Concert featuring Clive Driskill-Smith (organ) and Jevon O’Donovan (Trumpet) at St George’s Anglican Church in Parktown.
Regular readers of my blog will know that St George’s Anglican Church commissioned a Rieger Organ which was installed in 2012 in time for Easter morning. The inaugural concert took place a few days later, followed by an inaugural concert series. The second concert series is now taking place. This is the last of this second series.
Clive Driskill-Smith is a young (35) organist from the UK. He won the Royal College of Organists’ Performer of the Year Competition in 2000 and the Calgary International Organ Competition in 2002. This young organist has performed on five continets – Europe, North America, Asia, Australia and, of course, Africa where this concert took place. At home he has played at the BBC Proms, the Royal Festival Hall, Symphony Hall and Bridgewater Hall, and in the US he has played at Regional and National Conventions of the American Guild of Organists. His CDs have received critical acclaim and his performances have been broadcast on radio and television worldwide. He is currently the organist at Christ Church, Oxford.
I was impressed with Clive Driskill-Smith, as well as the pieces featuring South African trumpeter Jevon O’Donovan, namely the Suite in D Major for Trumpet and Organ (Handel) – a very well-known work. It was, however, the Suite on South African Folk Tones (Opus 78) by Richard Pantcheff (b 1959), the Musical Director at St George’s, which charmed me the most. In comparison to the other works on the programme it is fluffy fun, but it reached out and touched that place we recognise as nostalgia. There one has it – responses to music don’t always follow the recognised greats of organ composition. Another piece from the concert that I would like to single out is American composer Bingham who wrote a “Roulade” – a scherzo in ABA form. Driskell-Smith played this in a very safe manner. It is a humorous piece with very difficult flowing lines and it would have been appropriate for the performer to play it in such a manner that the audience would wonder if he was going to make each of these flowing phrases – then to make it and run away laughing. Ok, I’m being fanciful, but that was the kind of piece it was.
All round it was a very enjoyable Gala Concert.
We then move to the next concert. Before eveningsong on the first Sunday of each month there is a free concert featuring South African organists. Plenty of opportunity for local people to enjoy the new Rieger organ at no cost other than getting to the church. They are also welcome to stay for a sung evensong thereafter – or not. In November this concert featured another young organists, Rolf Rencken. He played (exceptionally well) the Buxtehude’s D Minor Prelude, Mendelssohn’s Sonata no 6 in D minor (first movement), a South African composer, J Elsenaar (1967 – ) Op Berge en in Dale as well as Gigout’s Toccata.
Buxtehude (1637-1707) was an important Danish-German organist and composer of the Baroque period. In 1705, J.S. Bach, then a young man of twenty, walked from Arnstadt to Lübeck, a distance of more than 400 kilometres, and stayed nearly three months to hear the Abendmusik, meet the pre-eminent Lübeck organist, hear him play, and, as Bach explained, “to comprehend one thing and another about his art”.
Again, this was a most enjoyable half hour concert. There will be no organ concert the first week of December which is the start of Advent, but doubtless they will commence again, probably in February 2014. (I can’t imagine the choir being ready to perform the first week of January either).