Events Coordinator - Basil Brooker

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Saturday May 14 2016 at 7.30 pm

Dr John Wells - Organ concert.  John Wells is a graduate of Cambridge University where he was organ scholar at King's College Chapel. He received his organ performance doctorate with high distinction from Indiana University after studies with Dr Oswald Ragatz. He is well-known as a concert performer, composer, recording artist and teacher. Tours have taken him to Australia, England, Poland, Germany, France and North America.

Dr Wells is Organist to the University of Auckland, Visiting Artist-Tutor at the School of Music and Patron of the NZ Association of Organists; as Auckland City Organist from 1998 to 2012 he played a key role in the campaign to rebuild the Town Hall organ.

Programme details:

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

FANTASIA & FUGUE in G minor, BWV 542

The fantasia is one of Bach’s most impressive and adventurous organ works.   Apart from the dramatic opening (which inspired Poulenc some 220 years later), it is famous for its extremely bold harmonies and key shifts.   The work has been associated with Bach’s application for the post of organist of St James’ Church in Hamburg in 1720 – which he eventually decided to turn down as he would have been required to pay a sizeable ‘token of gratitude’ to the church for his appointment!  Surprisingly - but not uniquely in Bach’s output – the fugue may have been composed apart from the  fantasia.   The fugue subject is based on a Dutch folksong and the reason for its use is possibly an act of homage to Johann Reinken, a senior organist in Hamburg, born in Holland. This fugue is one of Bach’s most expansive and ambitious, with sections that seem to anticipate Classical structures.   It drives on relentlessly with no slackening of tension.

Leo Sowerby (1895-1968)


(from Suite for Organ) 

Chicago-based Sowerby was one of the foremost voices of the American concert organ in his day. His church music was so popular that he was dubbed the “dean of American church music”.  The work is lightly scored throughout with much nimble passagework and characteristically piquant harmonies.   It is cast in ternary ABA form, with the A section repeating almost exactly but with a new pedal line added in.  Interestingly, despite the title, a Clarinet stop is indicated at one point!                 

Percy Whitlock (1903-1946)



After some years as a church organist and school Director of Music, Whitlock landed the post of Borough Organist at the Municipal Pavilion, Bournemouth in 1932.  He held this post, which was tantamount to being a City Organist, until his death.  Although he wrote a full-scale sonata, Whitlock is mainly famous for his suites of character pieces which show a masterful sensitivity to texture and colour while being, at the same time, imbued with an unerring sense of melodic shape and mood.   Truly classic in an unassuming way, Whitlock remains at the forefront of early 20th-century English composers. 

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

From KARELIA-SUITE, Op.11: ALLA MARCIA, arr. Wells

Sibelius’ fame rest mainly on his seven symphonies but he wrote a great deal of incidental music, some of which (like Finlandia) became so popular that he was adopted as his country’s national composer; his portrait appeared on one of Finland’s banknotes before it changed to the euro.  This is the third and final movement of the suite, which was itself a selection from a substantial work called Karelia Music.  This was written in 1893 and consisted of an overture and eight tableaux depicting the history of the Karelia area of Finland where, incidentally, Sibelius spent his honeymoon. 

I N T E R V A L   

John Wells (b. 1948)


Piacevole/Allegro marziale/Piacovole

Commissioned by the Trustees of the Auckland Town Hall Organ and funded by the Roskill Foundation (Freemasons), the symphony was given its world première at the Inauguration Concert celebrating the completion of the new Klais organ in Auckland Town Hall on Sunday 21st March, 2010.  The second movement starts slowly and peacefully, and originally featured the Koauau (one of two stops on the organ inspired by the sonorities of Maori taonga puoro) and other soft reeds on the well-equipped Solo division.  The music then breaks into a lively march which features the heavier reeds.   A more tranquil atmosphere is resumed in the closing bars.

Louis Vierne (1870-1937)

TOCCATA and CLAIR DE LUNE, Op.53, Nos 6 and 5

Vierne was the final and masterful word on the French symphonic school, wrapping it up in much the same way as did Bach the German Baroque period.   Of his many symphonic and free compositions, the finely crafted pieces to be played today come from the Pièces de Fantaisie, written between 1926 and 1927.  The toccata was a favourite French genre and Vierne contributed as much to it as did Widor.  Clair de lune (Moonlight) has many namesakes in music, from Schumann’s lovely song to Debussy’s famous piano piece.  Here, the ABA form is again followed.   Let yourself go in these luxuriant harmonies and broad, shapely phrasing – bathe in the moonlight!

Charles Marie Widor (1844-1937)

Finale from Symphony in D major, Op.13, No.2

Widor wrote twelve symphonies so it is a pity that our appreciation of him rests disproportionately upon the Toccata-Finale from the fifth.   It is a great pleasure, then, to present a relatively unknown finale, which has all and more of the sparkling appeal of its more famous sibling.   Note the short-long-short rhythmic pattern used in ‘the’ famous toccata.  As organist at St Sulpice for 64 years, Widor was inevitably a key figure in the organ world of Paris.   He succeeded Lefébure-Wély as probationary organist.   The post was never confirmed, so Widor must hold the world record for any probationer!  He was a student of Fétis and Lemmens, and taught or worked with just about every big name of the period.


Saturday May 28th at 7.30 pm - Preliminary notice.

Combined concert by the Orlando Singers of Auckland & the Linden Singers of Hawkes Bay.  It is 400 years since the death of Shakespeare so to commererate his life much of the programme uses his texts set to music by such composers as Vaughan Williams, the famous jazz musician Sir George Shearing, Thomas Morley, Edward German and others.  The choirs will sing a number of joint items some of which will showcase the Cathedral organ which is regarded as on of the finest in the country.


Friday 1 & Sunday 3 July 2016  

Napier Civic Choir - Time and programme details to be advised.


Sunday 14 August 2016 at 2.30 pm   

Kemp English - Organ Concert.  Kemp English is one of New Zealand’s leading concert performers. Much in demand as a solo organist, collaborative pianist, and specialist fortepiano exponent, he relishes the opportunity to work in a diverse array of styles and periods.  He enjoyed a distinguished studentship at the Royal Academy of Music in London and later completed a Master of Arts degree in Music Performance from the University of York. In 2001 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, in recognition of his distinguished performing and teaching career.

Programme details to be advised


Friday 23 & Sunday 25 September 2016  

Napier Civic Choir - Time and programme details to be advised.


Sunday 13 November 2016 at 2.30 pm

Martin Setchell - Organ concert.  Martin Setchell is an international concert organist who believes in promoting entertaining organ music to a wide audience.  Born and educated in England, he also studied at various times with Pierre Cochereau, Marie-Claire Alain, Piet Kee, and Peter Hurford. He is based in New Zealand, as curator of the Rieger organ in the Christchurch Town Hall for the Performing Arts, and is Associate Professor of Music and University Organist at the University of Canterbury.  He regularly performs in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan.

Programme details to be advised