2018 -2019 Huddersfield preview

Huddersfield Town Hall

Gordon Stewart is the Borough Organist of Kirklees, a position he has held for 28 years.  Each year he plays a series of lunchtime concerts, starting in September and running through until March. Here he previews the season.

The whole season can be seen at https://www.creativekirklees.com/kirklees-concert-season/

The season starts on September 10 with Noel Rawsthorne’s final composition for organ, the Marche Triomphale, which he wrote for me and which I premiered using the new "en chamade" reeds at Portsmouth Cathedral in 2017.  It makes a perfect vehicle for demonstrating the famous Willis Grand Tuba. Other works in the programme include Mendelssohn’s sixth organ sonata and Bossi’s seldom heard Toccata di Concerto.

The concert on September 24 includes music by Marchand, Pachelbel and Bach, and ends with the Dance Suite by Noel Rawsthorne, written for the Father Willis organ in 1998, which includes a March on Ilkley Moor and a Line Dance featuring Simple Gifts, the Sailors’ Hornpipe and Old Macdonald had a Farm.

In his concert on October 15 I play music by Clérambault, Bach, and Lefébure-Wély, the third sonata by Mendelssohn and the famous Toccata in F by Widor. For the lovers of the Strauss family, Johann Strauss’s Radetzky March is included too.

The concert for Halloween on October 29 includes Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre and the first Huddersfield performance of Garth Edmundson’s Gargoyles. Other scary pieces include the famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor of Bach and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.  Expect interesting lighting effects and lots of colour!

The first visiting recitalist of the season is Darius Battiwalla from Leeds Town Hall who plays a wonderful programme including a scene from Huperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and a virtuoso toccata by Alfred Hollins. More Johann Strauss opens the concert with an arrangement of the Blue Danube.

One of the greatest organ works of the 19th century is Franz Liszt’s Fantasia and Fugue on a theme from Meyerbeer’s opera, The Prophet. Every stop of the Father Willis organ will be used in this masterpiece which, especially in the slow central section, calls for lots of colour.  Opera opens the programme too, with Verdi’s Grand March from Aida.

The second visitor is Nigel Ogden, a Huddersfield regular who finds theatre organ sounds on the Father Willis organ which no other recitalist does! His programmes are always full of variety and fun. A very good way to start the Christmas season.

On Thursday December 20th I am joined by the Huddersfield Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs in a wonderful selection of music for Christmas. This concert is a great way to enjoy Christmas music without having to go out at night! Carols come from all round the world, and there is lots of new organ music by composers in Britain and the United States.

The second half of the season starts on January 7 when I play Bach’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, Sullivan’s Overture to the Yeoman of the Guard and Grison’s Toccata in F.  Local composer Robert Cockroft’s Elegy is given its world premier in this concert.

John Cook’s Fanfare opens the concert on January 21. The programme also includes music by Mozart, Rheinberger, Dupré and York-based composer, Andrew Carter. During the summer of 1975 Gordon Stewart studied with the Belgian organist and composer Flor Peeters whose Concert Piece ends the concert.

On February 4 Paris-based organist Andrew Dewar makes his Huddersfield debut. His programme includes Elgar’s Second Sonata for Organ, actually an arrangement by Ivor Atkins of Elgar's Severn Suite, originally for brass band, but sounding very much at home on the organ! It’s very unusual to see the name Beethoven in an organ concert, as he wrote no music for the instrument, but he did write for musical clocks, and those pieces work beautifully on the organ.

Just at the time the Town Hall was being built, a hall in South Wales which had installed a Father Willis organ decided to put it on the market as it was not being used.  The former organist of St Paul’s Church, Huddersfield, Walter Parratt, by then organist at Magdalene College, Oxford, encouraged the council to buy it for their new hall.  So it is that Huddersfield ended up with one of the finest concert organs in Britain. The concert on February 25 is a tribute to Sir Walter and includes four pieces dedicated to him by their composers, Stanford, Howells, Parry and Erlebach.

For the concert on March 11 I am joined by the Hallé Orchestra’s  Tom Osborne, one of the finest trumpeters of his generation.  The programme ranges from Martini, Loeillet and Bach to Ennio Morricone and Percy Code whose virtuoso Zelda ends the concert. 

The series ends on March 25 with a programme of music by Lemare, Bach, Handel, Saint-Saëns, Vierne and Dupré.  Just as a piece featuring the Grand Tuba appeared in the first programme of the season, so another by the same composer, Noel Rawsthorne. is heard for the first time in this concert.

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“Gordon Stewart is a marvellously engaging performer. He almost literally runs onto the stage, and before he plays a note transmits a sense of energy, fun and anticipation. This touch of showbiz and the scattering about of funny stories prepares you to fully enjoy yourself. Gordon’s ‘show’ is very visual, but nothing of this style of delivery detracts from the seriously good musicianship of his performance. On the contrary, it energises and places in the mainstream an instrument which, certainly in the eyes of the young and the unchurched, can seem stuffy and dull……Gordon Stewart is a vibrant and accomplished player, at one with his instrument and his audience, whom he delighted from beginning to end.” Organ Australia
Organ Australia
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