Newark Music Club Chamber Concert - Michael Overbury Organ Recital
7th May 2015
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Most musicians take their instruments with them wherever they play.  Even concert pianists expect a similar instrument at each venue.  Organists face a different challenge.  Each instrument will have its own distinct character and the stops available with vary considerably.   

The instrument in Newark Barnbygate Church dates from 1898 by well-known Hull organ builders Forster and Andrews.  It has two manuals and pedals and a versatile range of stops, but nothing like the vast rank of keyboards and pipes that you will see on a modern concert hall organ. 

This then is organ that Michael Overbury had at his disposal for the recital on Saturday.  He chose to present a programme of music that spanned more than 500 years.  His own comprehensive programme notes traced the development of not just the music but also of the organs themselves – they inevitably go hand in hand. 

Starting with three pieces from the 14th to 16th centuries Michael illustrated the move from simple open pipe organ through Flutes to the earliest use of pedals.  Continuing with English music from Byrd and Purcell he showed the versatility of the instrument with different Flutes and alternate Swell and Great manuals. 

Organs were developing fast in Germany in the 17th century and Buxtehude provided the first piece that might be regarded as “typical” organ music.  The sound of the Prelude and Fugue in F# Minor was “brilliant”, in its literal meaning.  Michael explained that this was beginning of instruments being tuned evenly.  Previously they had been tuned to particular keys, but around this time “Well Tempered” tuning was introduced as celebrated notably in Bach’s suite of works entitled “The Well-Tempered Clavier” in which every possible key is used. 

Alternate keyboards were again used to effect in the Echo Fantasia by Dutch composer Sweelinck before the first half of the recital concluded with a Bach Toccata, Adagio and Fugue. 

Organ and musical development continued in the second half with the 18th and 19th century.  Handel imitated “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale”, Mendelssohn wrote fanfare and pedal virtuosity for his sister Fanny’s wedding and Samuel Sebastian Wesley used a hymn-like theme. 

For the climax of the evening we were treated to a Cesar Franck Choral that used the organ to its full potential with great drama – more like a symphony.  Exciting stuff!! 

There are no flashing lights nor does the console rise from the floor at Barnbygate, but Michael’s final choice from French virtuoso Lefebure-Wely would have been well suited to a Wurlitzer – real fun!! 

I’ve talked about the instrument and the programme.  In Michael we are very lucky to have an international prize winning organist living in Newark.  Over the years he has contributed much to the musical scene on both organ and harpsicord and also to choirs, notably the Newark Song School. 

Thank you, Michael, for showing us your skill and knowledge in a most entertaining evening. 

Nick Narracott

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