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Inaugural organ recital

David Briggs, one of the finest organists in the world, visited St John’s last Friday to give the inaugural organ recital on the new Hickson organ, designed and built by Kenneth Tickell Ltd.

It was a sparkling evening and a tour-de-force of what the new instrument can do. From a sonic guided tour of the organ, through thundering renditions of Bach, Tchaikovsky, Dukas and Widor, to a silent movie and improvisation on a given theme, the recital showed every conceivable constituent part of the instrument.

An audience of well over 300 people found David Briggs to be a consummate performer in every possible sense: humour and pathos combined to make the evening quite unforgettable. Among the many generous donors and benefactors present, it was particularly good to welcome Peter Hickson (after whom the organ is named) and Jamie Justham, whose donations facilitated the success of the project.

There was extraordinary buoyancy to the evening, tempered only by the awareness that two people, fundamental to the project, had not been able to see it through to completion. Kenneth Tickell, who sadly and suddenly died in the summer of 2014, and Christopher Tambling, whose death in the autumn of 2015 came as a shock to many, are deeply missed by friends, family and colleagues, many of whom were present at the recital. The evening was dedicated to their memory.

The organ is an astonishing instrument: it is extraordinarily versatile, responding equally well to great crowds or smaller gatherings. It is an instrument of which we are very proud, and one that will stand for a century or more as a testament to the centrality of the Chapel and musical life at St John’s. As standing ovations greeted the close of the recital, and a sumptuous performance by David Briggs, it was quite clear that the evening would live long in the memory of all who attended.

Further photos of the evening can be viewed in the inaugural organ recital photo gallery.

Published on 12/02/2016

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