St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham
Thursday Live Organ Recitals
First Thursday of each month: 1.15pm
1 February 2024
The Walker at 30
A celebration of the J.W. Walker organ
30 years after its inauguration
David Saint, Paul Carr,
Nigel Morris & John Pryer
To look at old photos of this beautiful Cathedral, you would see the Rood Screen which is no longer here and the Pulpit on the opposite side of the Cathedral from its present position. At some point, the Crucifix which hangs over the altar was taken to another church in the Archdiocese… and was subsequently returned.
To imagine that two of the strongest features of the present life of the Cathedral: the main altar and the organ are so modern in such an historic building is a great credit to the eye and the sensitivity and the attention to detail of those involved. Every time you enter St Chad’s Cathedral, you feel its history. But the altar and the organ are current in the weekly and daily worship of the People of God in our city. They form part of the history but they lead us solemnly but quite often joyfully into a future of hope.
May this day and this year, as we enjoy the beauty of music on the organ, now 30 years young, move our spirits and lift our hearts in praise of God.
Thirty years……goodness me! It’s a rare privilege to be the incumbent organist when a new instrument is commissioned, and I have very clear recollections (and comprehensive files) of the journey which culminated in Nicolas Kynaston’s wonderful opening recital on Friday February 3rd 1994.
And it was quite a journey! Possibly the most critical steps were appointing Nicolas to be our Organ Consultant and then selecting Walkers from the three companies we invited to tender. After that, there was the excitement of deciding what exactly we wanted from the organ, developing its specification, managing the budget and seeing David Graebe’s wonderful design for the case take shape.
Of course, before embarking on the critical steps I’ve described, I first had to gain the support of the then Archbishop, Maurice Couve de Murville, and persuade him to commit to the project. Not entirely guilelessly, I showed him some pictures of stunning organ cases and asked him to imagine what could be done with our own west end. Whilst I had to work hard – quite rightly – to reach the point of formal agreement, I genuinely believe it was his deep interest in the visual impact of the organ which really carried the day. He set out certain stylistic criteria for the organ architect, and even sent his own drawings of how he felt the pipe shades should look.
It seems to me that the organ case is a great success and really looks as though it has always been there. I remember when the instrument was finished but not yet commissioned, I was playing our temporary electronic organ for a wedding after which an American couple came up and asked me “does anyone ever play the old instrument at the back these days?” I came to realise it was actually a great compliment!
* 3me Livre 1696: Dialogue – Louis Marchand (1669-1732)
* Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor BWV 582 – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
* Choral no. 3 in A minor – César Franck (1822–1890)
La Femme et le Dragon: La Cité Céleste – Lionel Rogg (b.1936)
Toccata Psalm 146 – Jan Zwart (1877-1937)
John Pryer – playing the Lloyd Organ
Improvisation upon a theme by Sidney Campbell
* Sept Pièces: Final – Marcel Dupré (1886–1971)
* Pieces also played in the 1994 inaugural recital programme.
Celebrating the Cathedral’s J.W. Walker Organ
On Thursday 1st February 2024 St Chad’s Cathedral welcomed people from across the Archdiocese and beyond to a special organ recital, part of the monthly Thursday Live series, which on this occasion marked 30 years since the inauguration of the Cathedral organ.
The inaugural recital on Thursday 3rd February 1994 had been played by Nicolas Kynaston, organ consultant for the installation of the then new J.W. Walker organ in the newly constructed gallery at the back of the cathedral.
Thirty years later the anniversary recital was given by the four regular organists. Professor David Saint opened the programme with a piece by Classical French composer Louis Marchand – the same piece which began the recital in 1994 – demonstrating from the first arresting pedal note this instrument’s wonderful ‘clang’ which was a key characteristic in Nicolas Kynaston’s vision for this organ.
Other pieces from the 1994 inaugural recital programme were included: César Franck’s Choral no.3 in A minor, played by David Saint, and J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor, along with Marcel Dupré’s Final from Sept Pièces, played by Paul Carr.
Nigel Morris played Jan Zwart’s Toccata on Psalm 146 and demonstrated the organ’s ability to crescendo from ethereal whisper to grand roar in Lionel Rogg’s La Cité Céleste.
During the recital David Saint spoke to the audience about the recent installation of an organ in the gallery at the front of the Cathedral; an instrument built by Lloyd of Nottingham which has come from a redundant church in Scotland. John Pryer then demonstrated this instrument with an improvisation on a theme by Sidney Campell.
At the conclusion of the recital Mgr Tim Menezes, Cathedral Dean, thanked the organists and other members of the music team and presented gifts. Everyone present at this wonderful celebration was given a commemorative bookmark which included a picture of the organ’s beautiful case.
Photos: Andrew De Valliere