New Music for all @ SMSG website

June 20, 2015

Since the Willis Pipe Organ Organ appeal started in 2006 we have had a website and later in 2009 when it became clear we needed to have online reports of our fundraising events we started a separate blog (the website was an older design which was created before blogs became mainstream). So we’ve operated for several years with two websites for the organ appeal, which is not ideal.

When the Heritage Lottery Fund gave us a substantial grant for the 3 year project to restore the organ and create a music events and education programme at St Mary and St Giles we knew we needed a new website which could provide all the essential information about the organ, Music for all @ SMSG events (including online bookings for selected events) and the new learning programme. You can now find the new website at www.musicforallsmsg.org

We are in the process of transferring over all the information from the organ appeal website to the new music for all website, amending URLs in blog posts and redirecting web traffic to the new site, so eventually both the old site and the old blog will be closed down.  The blog posts are already on the new site, plus a lot of information about events.

Please visit our new Music for all @ SMSG website and continue to support our historic Willis pipe organ and musical activities at St Mary and St Giles Church.


StonyLive – SMSG Handbells and Band concerts

June 14, 2015
SMSG church handbell ringers

SMSG church handbell ringers

The sunny summer weather was perfect for two early evening concerts in the StonyLive! Programme in SMSG Church. At 6.30pm on Wednesday 10th June our Church Handbell Ringers gathered to ring a selection of their favourite tunes and to show the versatility of the the handbells (and their ringers!). They ranged from the hymn, ‘How great thou art’ to the energetic ‘Can Can’ and from the calypso-style ‘Mango Walk’ to the poignant ‘Largo’ from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The audience hummed along and were very supportive, many staying to enjoy some refreshments and the SMSG Church Band concert which followed at 7.30pm.

Seriously ringing handbells

Seriously ringing handbells

The Band concert’s theme was songs from the 1940s and encouraged audience participation – we were not disappointed – there was excellent singing! Beginning with ‘Colonel Bogey March’ we enjoyed a ‘Sentimental Journey’ by packing up our troubles in our old kit bag and taking the Chattanooga Choo Choo to Berkeley Square. Television and film tunes were interspersed with a lovely flute and piano duet by Alison and Dave, playing the favourite ‘Danny Boy’ and Anna, Fiona and Sally treated us to two short flute trios. The evening was rounded off with ‘The Dam Busters’ by Eric Coates. Many thanks to all who rang and played and served refreshments and to the lovely audience whose donations of £75.58 will go towards a disabled access at the west door of our church.

SMSG church band

SMSG church band

SMSG church band

SMSG church band

by Lesley Salter, photos Anna Page


Cream Teas and Millbrook Trio

June 14, 2015

Glorious warm sunshine welcomed many people to Stony Stratford on Sunday 7th June – several events took place that day (the Classic Car rally in Market Square, the Big lunch with the Dakota flypast) and we timed Cream Teas and concert to coincide with both to pick up those who had attended either event and wanted some more refreshment as they made they way around the cars and watched the flypast.

Cream Teas in the sunshine

Cream Teas in the sunshine

As the weather was so good we had tables and chairs on the church lawn alongside the parish hall and a steady steam of people throughout the afternoon were served by Fiona, Nina, Anna, Margaret, Dai, Lesley, Sue and Dave, while the Millbrook ensemble tested the acoustic during their rehearsal in the church before they joined everyone in the hall for Cream Teas.

Three of the four members of the Millbrook Ensemble played for us: Charlotte Brennand on Piano, Louise Fuller on Violin and Rosalind Gladstone on Cello.

Louise, Charlotte and Rosalind

Louise, Charlotte and Rosalind

The concert at 4:30 pm was a lovely highlight of the weekend and a great way to finish the afternoon, the programme was:

  • Mozart Divertimento – Piano Trio in Bb K254 (Charlotte, Louise and Rosalind)
  • Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A (Louise and Charlotte)
  • Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D minor Op. 49 (Charlotte, Louise and Rosalind)

David was page turner for Louise (after doing this the previous evening at the Polymnia concert for Anna Le Hair).  Afterwards Louise sent us the following comment:

“Thank you for your brilliant organisation. The church was an excellent venue – a lovely place to play.”

We raised a total of £489.30 from this combined event for the organ casework.  Thank you to everyone who baked the multitude of scones, helped set up, serve refreshments and tidied up afterwards and a big special thank you to Louise, Charlotte and Rosalind for their wonderful music, which was the second event at the church as part of the annual StonyLive festival.

You can see photos of the Cream Teas and concert at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78058413@N06/sets/72157654503458546


Polymnia Summer Delights

June 10, 2015

The well-known local choir Polymnia gave a warm and heartfelt concert entitled Summer Delights on Saturday evening (6th June) in St Mary & St Giles Church.  Their Director is John Byron and accompanist Anna Le Hair.

Polymnia at St Mary & St Giles

Polymnia at St Mary & St Giles

The programme was:

  • Black is the colour of my true love’s hair (Trad. arr. Churchill)
  • A boy and a girl (Whitacre)
  • Seal Lullaby (Whitacre)
  • Spanish Dance no 5 in E minor (Granados) – Anna LeHair – piano solo
  • Amor di mi alma (Z Randall Stroope)
  • Come live with me and be my love (Rutter)
  • Summertime (Gershwin)
  • Down in the river to pray (Trad. Arr. Byron)

Interval during which wine and fruit juice were offered to the audience with donations to the Organ restoration Fund

  • The Seagull (John Hearne)
  • Three Shakespearean Songs (Vaughan Williams)
  • The lake in the mountains (Vaughan Williams) – Anna Le Hair – piano solo
  • The blue bird (Stanford)
  • The long day closes (Sullivan)
  • From the Bavarian Highlands (Elgar): The Dance, Lullaby, The Marksman

We were treated to an encore…

  • Goodnight (Lennon McCartney)

The choir sang from the Chancel for the concert – except for The Seagull which was the first item after the interval.  The choir stood in the side aisles to surround the audience and sang this item which is based on a Skye folk song.  One could hear the seagulls!  Our favourite was The Blue Bird – ‘heavenly’ said Shirley.  I was invited by Polymnia to be a page turner for Anna.  I’ve never been a page turner before and I hope I turned in time and only one page at a time!  But I’d say the page turner has the best seat in the concert: sitting right in front of the choir and next to the piano one feels almost part of the music.  I look forward to being asked again!

Polymnia at St Mary & St Giles

Polymnia at St Mary & St Giles

I thank Marian, Shirley, Dai and Nina for setting up our Church, welcoming audience, serving refreshments and returning the Church ready for Sunday Mass – also to Lesley for making shortbread.  Polymnia kindly offered £100 for the use of the Church and together with donations for an interval glass of wine the Organ Restoration Fund has benefited by exactly £200.

by David Scrutton (photos are video stills)


Northampton Male Voice Choir concert

June 3, 2015

The Northampton Male Voice Choir gave a warm and heartfelt concert on Saturday evening (30th May) in St Mary & St Giles Church, with guest performers James Jarvis (cello) and Helen Rouse (piano) giving the men’s voices a break with their duets in both the first and second half of the concert.  The church was filled with the sound of nearly 40 male voices in beautiful harmony.  As Stephen Bell, their Musical Director explained to the audience the choir is award winning – it recently won its class in both the Oundle and the Northampton Male Voice choir festivals.  The cello and piano duets were performed beautifully by James and Helen.

Northampton Male Voice Choir

Northampton Male Voice Choir

The programme was:

Choir

  • Let All Men Sing
  • Walk Away
  • The Sound of Silence
  • Gwahodiad (sung in English)

James and Helen

  • Suite Française, Op.114 by Paul Bazelaire
    (i) Bourrée d’Auvergne
    (ii) Chanson d’Alsace
    (iii) Chanson de Bresse
    (iv) Berceuse populaire française
    (v) Montagnarde d’Auvergne

Choir

  • American Trilogy
  • My Lord What a Morning (An American Spiritual)
  • My Love is like a Red Red Rose
  • The Wonder of You

Interval

Choir

  • With a Voice of Singing
  • Go Down Moses (with David singing the solo)
  • Let It Be Me
  • Anthem from Chess

James and Helen

  • Sonatina for ‘cello and piano by Pál Járdányi
    (i) Larghetto
    (ii) Allegro assai
  •  Appassionato (originally for violin and piano), Op.75, No.3 by Antonin Dvorák
  • Scherzo for ‘cello and piano, Op.12, No.2 by Daniel van Goens

Choir

  • I Dreamed a Dream (Les Miserables)
  • Bring Him Home (Les Miserables)
  • Do You Hear the People Sing (Les Miserables)
  • Unchained Melody
  • Encore: Saints – some say love it like a river
Northampton Male Voice Choir closeup

Northampton Male Voice Choir close up

I would like to thank all the Music for all @ SMSG front of house team, Stephen Bell and the choir and accompanist, and James and Helen for their wonderful performances.  After expenses this concert raised £185.60 for the organ fund casework.

James Jarvis and his cello

James Jarvis and his cello

Helen Rouse and James Jarvis

Helen Rouse and James Jarvis

You can see more photos of this event at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78058413@N06/sets/72157653978488285

Words and photos by Anna Page


Third Thursday Concert 21st May 2015

May 26, 2015

On a bright and sunny morning, the St Mary and St Giles School Orchestra and the Church Band joined forces, with Lesley Salter conducting, to present the audience with a medley of old and new – music from the 1940s alongside presages of the blossoming of Spring.

Five violins

Five violins

Two drummers

Two drummers

We were swept along at the beginning of the concert by an enthusiastic rendering of ‘Food, Glorious Food!’ Vivaldi’s ‘Spring, Allegro movement’ from ‘The Four Seasons’ followed, with a lyrical and atmospheric performance by the orchestra and band. Real musical concentration was apparent as this famous piece was played.

Peter Eales delighted the audience by singing the poignant ‘A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square’, a song composed in 1939 and sung recently at the VE DAY 70 celebrations this year. And with the 75th Anniversary of the Dunkirk Evacuation taking place, a joyful performance of ‘Pack up your Troubles’ reminded us of the sacrifice and courage so evident in the war years. St Mary and St Giles School pupil, Izzie, followed this with a solo of ‘Oom-pah-pah’, very powerfully and accurately played.

Flute solo

Flute solo

The Church Band continued with the theme tune from ‘The Third Man’, the iconic 1940s film noir and then the School Orchestra added their talent to the ‘Wallace and Gromit’ theme. There was great input from the drumming duo, stirring string section, bright brass and wizard woodwind, all of which continued into ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!’

The Church Band then took us on ‘A Sentimental Journey’, a graceful melody from the 1940s, and continued with the theme from ‘The Great Escape’, where the rousing beat had feet tapping and fingers snapping. ‘Edelweiss’ neatly combined the motifs of thoughts of one’s homeland with hope of new life blooming.

Trumpet solo

Trumpet solo

As the concert moved to its finale, Jamie gave us a tremendous trumpet solo, earning a well deserved round of applause. ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and Holst’s ‘Jupiter’, from ‘The Planets Suite’ brought the performances to a punchy ending and again the applause rang out.

The skill and commitment of the School Orchestra and the Church Band ensured a very enjoyable lunchtime concert for all. Thanks to those who performed, made tea and coffee and all those who helped in any way.  As a bonus £37.09 was donated in a retiring collection for the organ casework.

by Andrea Hearne, photos by Richard Hearne


Spring time Tea Dance

April 20, 2015
All paired up

All paired up

For several weeks SMSG Church band have prepared for the Tea Dance which took place on Sunday 19th April in the school hall.  All the tables around the dance floor were filled with keen dancers waiting for the music to begin and we struck up the band shortly after 3:00 pm with a programme of dances set to some of our favourite pieces of music.  There was an interval with delicious home baked savoury and sweet refreshments, the very popular raffle and more dances.

We raised a magnificent £294 for the organ fund from this event – special thanks to Lesley for organising it and for all the food, to everyone who helped serve refreshments, to the band for playing and everyone who came to enjoy themselves, it was a fun afternoon.

Dancing around the hall

Dancing around the hall

The band plays

The band plays

Rock around the Clock

Rock around the Clock

A crowded dance floor

A crowded dance floor

Anniversary Waltz

Anniversary Waltz

Anniversary Waltz

Anniversary Waltz


Third Thursday Concert – 16th April 2015

April 16, 2015

Hilary O’Donoghue’s students starred in this concert and they certainly illuminated it, alongside the talented Andante Quartet. The audience glimpsed a world of love – for our countryside, home, life, people and God – during this forty-five minutes of varied and moving songs.

Bill Ridsdale opened the programme with a strong performance of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Whither must I wander’, a reflective piece contemplating loss and hope. ‘As Time Goes By’ introduced the universal theme of love with its pain and happiness.

Lucy Clark, from Lord Grey School, followed this with ‘Hushabye Mountain’, her lilting voice perfectly suiting this lullaby piece. In the challenging ‘Songbird’ by Eva Cassidy, she skilfully captured its sense of heartfelt love and longing. The Andante Quartet changed the tempo with a calypso style version of ‘Sloop John B’ and a great rendition of the staunch favourite – Any Dream Will Do’, wonderfully accompanied by pianist Ros Whatmore.

Lucy - Songbird

Lucy – Songbird

We were then treated to Christine Salmon’s performance of Schubert’s ‘Wiegenlied’, a pleasant and engaging song, and ‘Something Wonderful’, where the depth of emotion was strongly conveyed.   Claire Folkes, from Walton High, sang the beautiful aria ‘Voi Che Sapete’ from ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, captivating the audience as she smoothly and serenely negotiated the complex range and diversity of Mozart’s music. She followed this with the contrasting ‘Where Is Love?’ from ‘Oliver’, again showing mastery over the emotional range.

Christine - Something Wonderful

Christine – Something Wonderful

Claire - Where is Love

Claire – Where is Love

Gabriella Policino, also from Walton High, entranced us all with ‘On My Own’ from ‘Les Miserables’ – such a powerful and commanding performance of this lovely song. Was there a dry eye in the house at the end? ‘Not That Girl’ was Gabriella’s next choice and again her ability to convey deep seated emotion was revealed. What strengths in singing these young people showed us.

Gabriella - Les Mis

Gabriella – Les Mis

Tallis’ ‘If Ye Love Me’ and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Crown of Roses’ from the Quartet almost brought the concert to a close; but the actual finale was remarkable in its poignancy, clarity and sense of hope. All the singers performed Howard Goodall’s moving piece ‘I believe in the Sun’, first performed for National Holocaust Memorial Day. Truly a thought provoking lunchtime concert with exceptional talent.

The Andante Quartet

The Andante Quartet

The retiring collection raised £60.35 towards the organ casework.  Thank you to all the performers, helpers and the audience.

by Andrea Hearne, photos by Richard Hearne


Organ restoration progress

April 10, 2015

In January and February the organ chambers were painted while they were devoid of most of the organ actions and pipes and while the organ builders were restoring the Willis in their workshop.

Painting the arches and chambers

Painting the arches and chambers

Painting the South chamber

Painting the South chamber

Painting the North chamber

Painting the North chamber

Painted arches and chambers

Painted arches and chambers

In the middle of March 2015 FH Browne & Sons started to bring the large parts of the Willis organ which had been restored in their workshop back to the church. They had to make some changes to the building frame on which the soundboards are mounted as the organ will be accommodating four new ranks of pipes. This also meant that the Swell box (in the south chamber) had to be enlarged for the 16ft Waldhorn and the Choir swell box (in the north chamber) had to be moved back 7 inches closer to the back wall (and the Violone pipes) and enlarged to include the Piccolo, Tierce and Nazard pipes which were prepared for in 1932 (when the organ was in Edinburgh) but not installed. The Great has also been moved forward to make more space for a wider passage board between the Choir and Great as the previous space between the two was very narrow and the trumpet pipes were in danger of damage during tuning visits.

Great and Choir soundboards installed (by Palm Sunday)

Great and Choir soundboards installed (by Palm Sunday)

The Swell box installed (by Easter day)

The Swell box installed (by Easter day)

The organ builders have made great progress in the past 3 weeks.  The Swell box is now in place, re-painted (and looking very smart), the lower arch in the wall has been shaped alongside it to make a wider space to get to the pedal pipes beside and behind the Swell box (it was always a tight squeeze and bringing the Swell box forward and enlarging the back meant that the gap was even tighter, hence the wall adjustment – fortunately plasterboard not stone).

All the large re-leathered bellows (reservoirs) are now back in place too underneath the soundboards, only one small one still needs to be fixed in place.  It will be a few weeks before the pipes go in as trunking from bellows to soundboards need to be refitted and the structural parts of the casework assembled as well as all the wiring reconnected from the console to the soundboards and stop action (which operates the individual ranks of pipes).  The soundboards are the large chests containing the action which relays the wind to the correct pipes when keys are pressed on the console.

This morning I took some photos of the work in progress. The two organ builders present were a little camera shy so I photographed the organ only rather than the organ builders hard at work.

The enlarged Swell box

The enlarged Swell box

Pipes alongside the Swell box

Better access to the pipes alongside and behind the Swell box

hole in back of Swell box for accessing Waldhorn pipe resonators for regulation

hole in back of Swell box for accessing Waldhorn pipe resonators for regulation

Pedal pipes behind and bellows under Swell box

Pedal pipes behind and bellows under the Swell box

Bellows under the Swell soundboard

Bellows under the Swell soundboard

Bellows for the Choir and Great

Bellows for the Choir and Great

The Choir box being reassembled

The Choir box being reassembled

Pallets and springs inside the Great soundboard

Pallets and springs inside the Great soundboard

Great soundboard in the foreground, Choir soundboard and Violone pipes behind

Great soundboard in the foreground, Choir soundboard, box and Violone pipes behind

Bellows and Violone chest under the Choir and Great

Bellows and Violone chest under the Choir and Great

North gallery filled with pipes and actions

North gallery filled with pipes and actions

It is wonderful seeing the organ restoration part of the 3 year Heritage Lottery funded project come to fruition as the reassembly work progresses.  In the months since July 2014 there has been no musical sound from the Willis (the borrowed electronic organ is no match for the real sound of pipes) and we are looking forward to hearing it in play again.

As the research part of the project has revealed, dedicated fundraising to maintain the organ has happened in the past (notably in the 1980s when the console was moved by Henry Willis IV from the North gallery to the ‘Choir’ gallery between the two organ chambers).  Our recent fundraising efforts to restore the organ entirely started in 2006, with the Heritage Lottery project of restoration, research, education and music programme starting in 2014.

Photos and report by Anna Page


MK Music Co-operative first anniversary concert

March 29, 2015
Quintessential Brass open the concert

Quintessential Brass open the concert

Last year we were delighted to host the MK Music Co-operative’s launch concert at SMSG church and were very pleased when they donated a substantial part of what they raised to the organ fund. They clearly like the acoustic of our lovely church as they booked their first anniversary concert for 21 March 2015, which turned out to be another wonderful evening of music making by some of the Music co-operative teachers and a few of their pupils. These concerts are primarily a way of giving the teachers an opportunity to perform as all their other concerts are pupil concerts, however they invited some of their higher grade pupils to provide some of the music too.

The programme:

Quintessential Brass (Mark Green, Anna Hailes, Kate Knight, Cathi Smith, Malcolm Nevin)

  • La Mourisque – Susato arr Iveson
  • Sweet Dreams – Francis Clifford

Jenny Newman and Andy Glass (Violin and Guitar)

  • A selection of traditional fiddle (and guitar) tunes

Anna Gash and Michael Keep (Cello and Piano)

  • Cello sonata No 1 in E minor Op 38 (1st Movt) – Brahms

Dominic Hindley (pupil) (Clarinet)

  • Clarinet Concerto, 3rd Movt – Mozart

Emily Knell (pupil) (Piano)

  • Nocturne in E minor, Op 72 No 1 – Chopin

Alexandra Nash (Violin)

  • Theme from Ladies in Lavender – Nigel Hess

Frankie Hindley (pupil) (Flute)

  • La Calinda – Delius

Green and Glass (Vocal and Guitar)

  • How Sweet it is
  • Dancing in the Streets

Interval

Alexandra Stacey (and friends – Vocal, Cello, Keyboard)

  • Why soe pall and wan, fond lover – Lawes
  • Fairest Isle from his opera King Arthur – Purcell
  • Bois Epais from the opera Amadis – Lully

Conway Moore (Guitar)

  • Variations on a Theme from Mozart’s Magic Flute, by Fernando Sor (Guitar)

Clare Morris-Keep (vocal)

  • Quanta Qualia – Patrick Hawes
  • Laudate Dominum – Mozart

Madeleine Hamilton (Pupil) (Cello)

  • Adagio, Cello Concerto no 1 in C major – Haydn

Julian Pentz (and friend) (violin and guitar)

  • Bulgarian Drinking song – arranged by Togmor
  • Gamlingay – Togmor

Michael Keep (piano)

  • Prelude and Fugue in A major, Book 2 – Bach

Gemma Shirley (vocal)

  • Porgi, Amor from The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart
  • Fair Robin I love from Tartuffe – Kirke Mechem

Quintessential Brass

  • Galliard Battaglia – Scheidt arr Jones
  • I love Paris – Porter arr Hailes

This was definitely an evening of variety and outstanding quality of performance. About 90 people attended and MK Music Co-operative was able to donate £150 to the Willis organ fund. Several of the teachers said to me afterwards that they look forward to next year’s concert when they hope to include the restored Willis organ in the concert programme.

More photos can be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78058413@N06/sets/72157649308571553/