Organists of the 1950's

This series of CDs features some rare and precious recordings of the best known British organists of their day.

From the 1952 BBC Radio Series: Organ Music from British Cathedrals & Abbeys

John Dykes Bower - St. Paul's Cathedral, London - Recorded 17 April 1952
[1] Spoken introduction [2] John Stanley (1712-1786) Voluntary in A minor
[3] Charles Macpherson (1870-1927) Prelude in G from The Little Organ Book
[4] Hubert Parry (1848-1918) Chorale Fantasia on
The Old 104th from Set One, Op. 198
Meredith Davies - Hereford Cathedral - Recorded 22 April 1952
[5] Spoken introduction [6] Maurice Greene (1696-1755) Voluntary in C minor
[7]-[8] J. S. Bach (1685-1750) Fantasia & Fugue in C minor, B.W.V. 537
Herbert Sumsion - Glouchester Cathedral - Recorded 23 April 1952
[9] Spoken introduction
[10] Herbert Howells (1892-1983) Rhapsody No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 17
Alwyn Surplice - Winchester Cathedral - Recorded 2 May 1952
[11] Spoken introduction
[12] Henry Ley (1887-1962) Jubilate Deo
[13] William H. Harris (1883-1973) Prelude in E flat from Four Short Pieces
[14] William H. Harris Reverie from Four Short Pieces
[15] Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924) Postlude in D minor from
Second Set of Preludes & Postludes Op. 105
Douglas Guest - Salisbury Cathedral - Recorded 3 May 1952
[16] Spoken introduction
[17] Herbert Howells Psalm Prelude No. 3 from the First Set
Conrad Eden - Durham Cathedral - Recorded 8 May 1952
[18] Spoken introduction
[19]-[20] William Russell (1777-1813) Largo & Fugue in A minor
[21] Charles V. Stanford Heroic March from Four Characteristic Pieces
Francis Jackson - York Minster - Recorded 9 May 1952
[22] Spoken introduction
[23] Percy Whitlock (1903-1946) Carol from Four Extemporisations
[24] César Franck (1822-1890) Pièce Héroïque from Trois Pièces
Recordings digitally restored & produced by Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings

Released 4/10/04

Producers Notes:
These performances were recorded in complete takes, and later broadcast as part of the B.B.C.'s Third Programme series Organ Music from English Cathedrals and Abbeys, during 1952, on medium wave, three years before the introduction of V.H.F. or F.M as we now refer to it. They were recorded on magnetic tape and then transferred by the B.B.C. to 331/3 r.p.m. transcription discs, from which these recordings are taken, the original master tapes have long since vanished. At this time, during the transition from 78 r.p.m. record to 331/3 r.p.m. L.P. record, relatively little organ music was recorded commercially, and although B.B.C. radio were broadcasting organ recitals frequently, very few of these transmissions survive, making these recordings rare and precious gems. Extracts from the spoken announcements have been retained to add period feel. I am grateful to Timothy Day of the National Sound Archives, London, who brought these recordings to my attention also thanks to Enid Bird of Wakefield for her biographical notes on the performers, which are reproduced by kind permission from her book - Twentieth Century British Cathedral Organists.
Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings, August 2004

The Organs at the time of the recordings
St. Paul's London: 'Father' Smith - 1679. In 1872, 'Father' Henry Willis complete re build with further by modifications by Willis in 1897 and 1900. More alterations by Henry Willis III in 1930.
Hereford Cathedral: Built by 'Father' Henry Willis in 1892, replacing the Gray & Davison instrument of 1862-64, only the pipe-rack forming the case of the present organ survives. Further modifications made in 1909 by Henry Willis II and rebuilt by Henry Willis III in 1933.
Gloucester Cathedral: 'Father' Henry Willis 1847 (including pipework from 1666 ­ Thomas Harris. Rebuilt by Willis, 1889 and Harrison & Harrison, 1920 and as heard here no longer exists.
Winchester Cathedral: Core of this organ by 'Father' Henry Willis built for the Great Exhibition of 1851. When installed in Winchester it was reduced to 49 stops spread over four-manuals. Rebuilt and enlarged by Willis again 1897, with some tonal alterations. Enlarged by the firm of Hele in 1905. 1938 rebuilt Harrison & Harrison.
Salisbury Cathedral: 'Father' Henry Willis 1877, uncharged to this day.
Durham Cathedral: 'Father' Henry Willis 1876/7. Rebuilt 1905 by Harrison & Harrison, with further additions by them in 1935, the organ remains in their care.
York Minster: Built 1831 by Elliott & Hill and entirely reconstructed by the same firm in 1863. Work carried out by Walkers & Sons in 1903. 1916 alterations by Harrison & Harrison who completely rebuilt the instrument in 1930.



Live recital performances from the
First International Congress of Organists
London 1957

Ralph Downes - The Oratory, Brompton - 1 August 1957
[1] John Stanley (1712-1786) Voluntary VIII, Op. 5, 1748
[2] Harold Darke (1888-1976) Chorale Prelude on a Theme by Tallis Op. 20, 1919
Harold Darke - St. Michael's Cornhill - 2 August 1957
[3]-[4] Hubert Parry (1848-1918) Fantasia & Fugue in G
[5] Herbert Howells (1892-1983) Fugue, Chorale & Epilogue from Six Pieces
[6] Harold Darke A Fantasy Op. 39
John Dykes Bower - St. Paul's Cathedral - 2 August 1957
[7]-[8] J.S. Bach (1685-1750) Prelude & Fugue in G, BWV. 541
[9] Herbert Howells Paean
Francis Jackson - Westminster Abbey - 27 July 1957
[10] Samuel Wesley (1766-1837) Voluntary in E
[11] Flor Peeters (1903-1986) Aria, Op. 51, 1945
[12] Leo Sowerby (1895-1968) Toccata, 1940
Speech by Sir William McKie, chairman of the congress given
at the dinner to mark the conclusion of congress held in the
Connaught Rooms, Great Queen's Street, London, 2 August 1957
[13] Toast Master [14] Introductory comments [15] The London County Council & Festival Hall Organ [16] Comments on the Congress
Recordings digitally restored & produced by Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings

Released 4/10/04

Above ICO Committee members 1957- Standing left to right: Mr Howard Vernon, Mr Henry Croft Jackson, Dr H. Lowery, Dr A.J. Pritchard, Mr George Malcolm, Mr D.H.R. Brearley, Mr C.H. Mortlock, Mr A.H. Morriss & Mr Dean Bown.
Seated left to right: Mr W.D. Richardson, Dr Dykes Bower, Sir William Mckie, Dr W. Greenhouse Allt, Mr W.F. Mahony & Mr J.A. Sowerbutts.

Above the performers: Downes, Darke, Dykes Bower & Jackson

I am grateful to Terry Hoyle of Tuffley, Gloucester, who kindly provided the L.P. records heard on this CD and to David Rogers of Doncaster who transcribed them to digital audio tape. Also thanks to Paul Hale, Editor of Organists' Review for kindly permitting the reproduction of the article from Organists' Quarterly Record and for the photograph of John Dykes Bower. The recordings were produced by the American label, Mirrosonic, the master tapes no longer exist.
All recordings made during public recitals are prone to some unwanted occurrences. One such is the cipher on the organ during the Bach fugue, track 8. However Dykes Bower battles on in an admirable fashion. The difficulties of live concert recordings are described in one of the L.P. sleeve notes, where the producer comments: These recordings are a candid, aural document of an event in every sense of the word. They were made as the recitals and other programmes of the International Congress of Organists actually took place. This accounts for the presence of extraneous sounds from within the churches; which we believe, adds to the authenticity of the programmes.
Potentially hazardous to the success of the recordings, however, was the fact that they had to be made without rehearsal. The events of the I.C.O. took place in such rapid succession and in so many different locations that pre-performance run-throughs were impossible. Only careful planning of the engineering crew's moves about London made it barely possible to have a van load of equipment set up and checked out, minutes before a recital started - not the easiest way to make high fidelity recordings!
Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings



Geraint Jones - organ
EMI Recordings of Schnitger's Organ in
St. Martin & St. Nicolauskirche Church Steinkirchen
Recorded 1950 - 1952

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
[1]-[2] Prelude & Fugue in D BWV 532 Issued as H.M.V. C. 7898/9. 2EA 16242-44 [11.48]
Chorale Preludes: [3]* Dae Alte Jahr BWV 614 2EA 16343-1A [2.58]
[4]* Herzlich thut mich verlangen BWV 727 2EA 16332-1A [2.40]
[5]-[6] Prelude & Fugue in B minor BWV 544 Issued as H.M.V. C. 7858/9. 2EA 15839-42 [13.35]
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
[7]* Variations on Mein Junges leben hat ein end 2EA 16344-5 [8.15]
Johann Sebastian Bach
[8]-[9]* Prelude & Fugue in A minor BWV 543 2EA 16332-4 [10.58]
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
[10] Durch Adam's Fall ist ganz verderbt Issued as H.M.V. HMS 61 - History of Music Series 2EA 15507-1A [1.45]
Johann Sebastian Bach
[11]-[13]* Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C BWV 564 2EA 16328-31 [16.26]

* Previously unissued recording

Geraint Jones - organ. Recorded by E.M.I. between 1950 & 1952 on the Schnitger organ in St.Martin &
St. Nicolauskirche Church, Steinkirchen.

E.M.I. tape matrix & 78 r.p.m. record numbers are given in italics.
Digitally restored from the master tapes by Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings.


Total Playing Time: 69.11


Producers Notes
Many of the tracks on this CD have never been issued before, which I find remarkable, given the quality of the organ and the outstanding performances by Geraint Jones. These were some of E.M.I.'s earliest recordings on magnetic tape which travelled at 30 inches per second. Why E.M.I. didn't release these recordings one can only speculate. Perhaps, as they were made at the time when the transition from 78 r.p.m. disc to 33
1/3 r.p.m. vinyl L.P. record was beginning, E.M.I. may have considered these recordings too specialist, making them financially risky for the new L.P. format. Or maybe because a few years later Fernando Germani started to record the complete works of Bach for E.M.I., this project was never completed. Some of Geraint Jones's recordings from Steinkirchen were issued on 78 r.p.m. records by E.M.I. and for many in the U.K. this was the first time they had heard a Baroque organ, these issued recordings made a big impression.

The late Magnus Black, for many years Organist of Doncaster Parish Church, commented: 'When I was an Oxford undergraduate, reading music and doing battle at the R.C.O. our talk was usually about where to add stops, change manuals and use of the swell pedal. Some considered it bad to mix flutes and diapasons or use the 'open wood' too much, but of style we were blissfully innocent. Bach and Parry received the same treatment. Into this, my accepted world came talk of some Bach recordings by Geraint Jones at Steinkirchen. So I bought his Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor (Bach) the only record I then possessed, and played it whenever possible. Geraint Jones allowed space for the pipe-work to be heard - and what pipe-work!'

Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings, November 2004

A note on the origin of these recordings by Geraint Jones - writing in 1997
In September 1949 I was dispatched to Germany by the British Council on a recital tour, one of many similar events designed to begin the process of restoring normal relations after the war. The first week of concerts ended in Hamburg, and Kenneth Bartlett, who was the British Council officer accompanying my trip, asked me what I would like to do over the weekend, there was a car available, etc.......
Thus began my acquaintance with the celebrated north German organ builder Arp Schnitger, as we explored the Altes Land, that part of Germany bordering the Elbe between Hamburg and Cuxhaven, home to beautiful half timbered small towns and villages with organs in profusion, many by the great Schnitger himself. Of all the instruments I played during that weekend the one at Steinkirchen, which had just been restored by Rudolph von Beckerath, was my favourite, and during the last days of the same year, and the first days of 1950, I was back there making recordings for the B.B.C._ the first of many such journeys I was to make all over Europe during the next thirty years. Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, [see page 6], was recorded at this time by the B.B.C., and was heard by Walter Legge, then at the peak of his career, was acquired and released by E.M.I. The Steinkirchen recordings heard here were made in between January 1950 and February 1952, with no play back facilities nor possibility of editing; I have in fact never heard the bulk of these recordings until recently, an event which came as a severe shock_ it seemed inconceivable that my ideas on the music could have changed so much over the years !
Not that I think this is a matter for concern. In masterclasses in America I frequently encountered students who had been exposed to European visitors of the type that maintains there is only one correct way to play anything, a philosophy which is the basis of the authenticity craze currently bedevilling the performance of music written more than a hundred years ago. The exercise of a modicum of imagination usually reveals several possible interpretations of a piece of music which would not violate the canons of seventeenth and eighteenth century manuals of performance practice.
My devotion to these old organs has nothing to do with authenticity. It is due simply to the fact that for the first time I was able to hear what was written on the page. Listen on this disc to the inner parts in the fugues _ the lightly blown pipes sing and the textures are transparent. Moreover the over-fast non legato playing which was just about the only way to achieve any sensation of movement in a Bach allegro on a typical English organ was rendered unnecessary. The prompt speech of the un-nicked pipes of the old organs combined with mechanical key action provided control of nuances of phrasing and articulation which no amount of cajoling could conjure from the organs with which I had grown up.
The organ at Steinkirchen offered even greater hazards to the security of one's technique, especially for a player reared on the comfort of radiating and concave pedalboards. Its very wide, straight and seemingly convex pedalboard was bad enough, but worse, by far, the position of the unadjustable bench, which left me forever struggling not to fall forward and bang my head on the music desk. Moreover the recordings were made at the beginning of the year, and we were on the point of abandoning the project in the unheated church when the commanding officer of the occupying British army somehow procured some coal, and not only saved the day for us, but gave the village congregation their first warm service for a very long time.