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City Organist launches free winter concert series

29 April 2005

City Organist launches free winter concert series

New City Organist Douglas Mews is planning a descent into the Underworld in the first of a winter series of free organ recitals at the Wellington Town Hall.

To launch his appointment, Mr Mews has devised programmes for five Sunday afternoon concerts on 19 June, 3 July, 17 July, 31 July and 28 August, featuring the Town Hall’s organ. Each concert will have a different theme and, with the exception of one concert, all music will be performed by Mr Mews.

The theme of the first concert is “Phantom of the Organ” which allows audiences to enter the organ underworld with music to conjure spirits and demons in the imagination. Hear Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Liszt’s Fantasy on B-A-C-H and Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre.

Forget sporting heroes, the 3 July concert focuses on the real thing. This time the organ music evokes heroic scenes, as in David slaying Goliath, heroic feelings, in Franck’s Pièce Heroïque, or heroic memories, in Alain’s Deuils (Mourning).

“Wet and Wild”, on 17 July, is a chance to hear traditional organ “storm music”. Thunderstorms and the thunder of horses’ hooves will shake the Town Hall floorboards in Lemmens’ Storm Fantasia, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and Rossini’s William Tell overture.

The 31 July concert features guest organist Michael Fulcher, Director of Music at Wellington Cathedral of St Paul and Music Director of the Wellington Orpheus Choir. Mr Fulcher will perform works by Bach, Handel, Vierne and Sousa. Before arriving in New Zealand, Mr Fulcher was the Organiste Titulaire at St George’s Church in Paris.

The concert series ends with a flourish. “Pomp and Circumstance”, on 28 August, celebrates Elgar, with Chanson de Matin and Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (Land of Hope and Glory).

“The splendour and majesty of Wellington’s Town Hall organ, a marvel of Edwardian style and technology, is the ideal instrument for Elgar’s music,” Mr Mews says. Baritone Peter Russell also makes a guest appearance to sing Arthur Sullivan’s (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) Victorian masterpiece The Lost Chord.

“A lot of the pieces are orchestral,” Mr Mews says. “When the organ was built, in 1906, people weren’t really able to hear these orchestral pieces. So the organ was the easy, popular way for people to get their dose of classical music. These organs were more or less designed for that kind of music.”

The 3000-pipe organ was restored to its original glory in 1986, without any modernisation, so audiences will be hearing the same sound as Town Hall audiences of 100 years ago.

Mr Mews, a tutor at Victoria University, was appointed in February to the position as City Organist. He has a Masters degree in organ performance and has given recitals in New Zealand, Australia, Holland and Germany. He frequently performs with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

“I see the City Organist as someone who can basically bring the organ to the people – to as many people as possible. I want people to come to appreciate the organ in its own right,” Mr Mews says.

All concerts will be held at 3pm at the Wellington Town Hall.


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