View the Music Here
View the Music Here
I thank everyone who chooses to take on this music and I am sure you all make it sound rather better than it really is.
Salisbury Cathedral, UK
One of Britain’s finest medieval cathedrals. A living church, home to the best preserved 1215 Magna Carta and UK’s tallest spire.
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Watch David in Recital Here
David won an Organ Scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford and graduated in 1984 with an Honours Degree in Music. He passed both the Associate and Fellowship Examinations of The Royal College of Organists in the same year, being awarded five prizes and the Silver Medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians. He studied in Winchester for a post-graduate Certificate in Education and was Organ Scholar of Winchester Cathedral under the guidance of Martin Neary and James Lancelot. He was appointed Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral in September 2005.
In addition to his daily duties in the cathedral, he has toured Austria, Estonia, France, Holland, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the USA with the cathedral choirs and has appeared as conductor, accompanist and soloist in many concerts and recordings. In demand as a recitalist in cathedrals and churches throughout the UK, he has recorded three solo CDs on the Willis Organ in Salisbury Cathedral and his latest recording of organ music from St Wilfrid’s Church, Harrogate, was released in early 2015. His organ DVD and CD ‘The Grand Organ of Salisbury Cathedral’ was released in Summer 2012. He is active as a composer with many choral and organ works published in the UK and USA.
He is a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Choral Festival Group, regularly conducting Diocesan Choir Festivals and he is an Organ Consultant to the Diocese of Salisbury. He conducts the Salisbury Musical Society and the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra and recent work has included Bach’s “St John Passion” and “Mass in B Minor,” Berlioz’s “Requiem,” Elgar’s “Light of Life,” Schubert’s “Symphony No. 9,” Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Poulenc’s “Gloria” and Britten’s “Spring Symphony.”
This week, we jumped across the pond to hear from our good friend and London based composer, Christopher Maxim. We asked him to share a bit more about his compositions and the inspiration behind them.
“As an organist, I regularly improvise in services. I am often inspired by the liturgy and the ‘atmosphere’ of a service, and sometimes ideas will later find their way into notated compositions. This is true of Easter Alleluias, which began life as a liturgical improvisation on Easter Day, 2019. It is subtitled ‘Fantasia on Victimae Paschali Laudes’ and fragments of that plainsong – often mutated – are found within the material of the energetic and celebratory outer sections. At the centre is a meditative setting of the plainsong in its entirety. Easter Alleluias is suitable as an Eastertide voluntary or more generally as a concert work.
I have played my Suite complete in recital; but I have found the five individual movements to be really useful as voluntaries – and hope others will, too. Intrada is bold and rhythmic, not too difficult but with plenty of spicy harmonies. Aria is wistful in mood. In the central section the melody in the right hand is imitated in canon by the pedals. The chromatic central Fugue (marked Scherzando) is probably the most technically demanding of the movements, requiring much nimbleness to realise its sprightly, dancing, and perhaps slightly menacing, quality. Scena contrasts chordal and melodic material, building to an intense fff climax before dying away. The finale, Toccata-Sortie, is exuberant and virtuosic, but not really much more difficult than (say) the Widor Toccata. Nor is it as disproportionately long as its appearance on the page might suggest, owing to its quick tempo and the fact that some bars occupy an entire system to ensure easy legibility. I recall having tremendous fun when I played it as a post-service voluntary on the mighty organ of Winchester Cathedral.
You can hear me play my Eleven Chorale Preludes complete on YouTube. It is no coincidence that the set contains as many items as Brahms’s opus 122; but mine are no more pastiches of Brahms than his were of Bach. Across there eleven preludes you will find melodies associated with the major feasts of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, together with themes of the will of God and eternal life. Those interested in such things may have fun working out aspects of the macrostructure of the collection in terms of keys and textures. Another music homage comes in the form of my Prelude and Fugue on the name of Duruflé. If you know Duruflé’s famous Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain, you should spot not only the technical, but also the structural similarities – while also noticing that my piece is considerably less difficult. I can’t say that I consciously try to make my organ music easy to play: it depends how good you are as to how challenging you will find it; but I never make impossible demands on the player. All my organ pieces may realised on a modest two-manual organ: anything more is a bonus!
Something similar is true of my choral music: I know it is singable because it is almost always composed with a particular ensemble in mind – often amateur church choirs. Such a piece is the carol All and Some, written for a ‘scratch’ choir and subsequently taken up by many others. A straightforward, homophonic refrain punctuates a series of verses that may be sung by soloists, small groups of singers or the entire choir, as most convenient. You can hear the première (complete with improvised interjections by a baby in the congregation!) here. Another Christmas piece, Hurry to Bethlehem, is a little more challenging, having been written for my chamber choir, The Giltspur Singers. But it also offers the flexibility of different modes of performance because there is, as well as the SATB scoring, another for unison voices with optional descant. Additionally, there are two versions of the accompaniment: one for organ and one for piano. Either choral scoring may be sung to either accompaniment. Jesus, to your table led, sets words adapted from a nineteenth-century hymn. Although it explores a range of textures, this tuneful Communion anthem should be within the reach of any church choir that can sing in four parts.
The pieces that I have discussed here were all published by Paraclete Press in 2020. I was so glad that they were able to release some new music during such a challenging time. I am now greatly looking forward to seeing further planned publications come to fruition. Two organ works (Prelude and Fugue, and Invocation and Paean) are due out soon, with six Christmas choral pieces (Ad Cantus Leticie, A Little Child There is Yborn, Love Came Down at Christmas, The Jolly Shepherd, The Linden Tree Carol, and The World’s Desire) to follow.”
Chris Maxim was born in Wrexham, North Wales in 1971. He showed a keen interest in music from a young age, driving his grandfather to distraction with his improvisations on his grandmother’s piano. Aged eight he joined the choir of St Margaret’s Church and it was there that his love of choral and organ music was first fostered. Chris was appointed to his first ‘proper’ Organist & Choirmaster post at the age of sixteen, and two years later took up an Organ Scholarship at the University of Bristol, where he was also a prize-winner. Shortly after graduation he was awarded a Research Studentship to Cardiff University, completing his PhD in music in 1996. Chris holds several diplomas in music, in addition to qualifications in education.
Although he specialises in composing for choirs and the organ, Chris has written for a variety of other instruments, too. His music is performed around the world and has been broadcast on the radio in the USA and the UK. It has been featured in music festivals, recorded on several CDs, and is in the catalogues of a number of eminent publishing houses. Many pieces can be heard in performances available online.
Chris lives in London and works as a musician and education consultant. He conducts the Giltspur Singers, which he founded in 2003. In January 2021, having been Organist & Director of Music at St Matthew’s, Bethnal Green for eighteen years, he accepted the post of Organist & Choirmaster at the C12th church of St Mary Magdalene’s, East Ham.
His website is www.christophermaxim.co.uk.
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“I recall that when I was a music student in the 60s I asked a gentleman very much my senior who was a lover of classical music what his tastes were in organ music. His reply was that he didn’t much care for organ music as it was ‘too heavy’. To me as a young organ-mad student this response was truly astonishing. How any lover of classical music could dislike organ music was beyond my comprehension. The gentleman in question had a point, however, and I’m sure that he was by no means alone among music lovers in holding this view. Acquiring a taste for some organ repertoire is a process that may take some considerable time and require dedicated effort.
When, in 2017, I decided to turn my attention to composing organ music I determined that this should be of a nature that would appeal to a wide audience, not just to organ aficionados. (Prior to 2017 my chief interest as a composer was choral music and I produced only two original works for solo organ during a period of nearly fifty years.) Moreover, I decided that, as well as being easy on the ear, my music should not be too difficult, should be playable on an organ of just two manuals and pedals and be useful to church organists as voluntaries. (All the organ works I compose feature as voluntaries at the parish church in South Yorkshire where I am organist.) Though intended primarily for use before, during and after church services, my works can also serve as light recital pieces.
My Six Preludes and Postludes, Second Set consists of pieces founded on some of the best-loved hymn tunes and provides voluntaries for Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost, as well as for general use. The first and last of these, founded on ‘Divinum Mysteruim’ and ‘Easter Hymn’ are dedicated to Geoffrey Coffin. Geoffrey was Dr Francis Jackson’s deputy at York Minster in the 70s but later established his own organ building company. Two others, founded on ‘Heinlein’ and ‘Eventide’, are dedicated to the memory of my parents. All six pieces are unremittingly tuneful, none are difficult to play and all are playable on a two-manual organ. In Green Pastures is a gentle pastorale featuring a melody heard first in the treble register on a soft reed and later in the tenor register above a sustained tonic pedal. The piece is dedicated to Gabrielle Lewis who is organist at St Anne’s Church at Gunnislake in Cornwall. In Green Pastures is easy on the ear, easy to play and functions equally well as a quiet voluntary or as a light recital piece. ”
Vernon Hoyle was born in 1948 in Hatfield, South Yorkshire. Having received his first music lessons locally from John Hubert Piper, at the age of fifteen he became a student at the Huddersfield School of Music. After five years’ study at Huddersfield he continued his formal education at the City of Birmingham College of Education and the Open University.
From 1969 until his retirement he taught music and English (and for three years in the early 80s, photography) in secondary schools in West Yorkshire. In his sundry capacities as chorister, organist, choral director, composer, arranger and editor he has been active in church music since he was ten years of age. In the 80s and 90s, as Musical Director of the Danensian Choir, he directed the music at services in most of the cathedrals in England and at other foundations including Llandaff Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Beverley Minster and St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. In 2005 he succeeded the late Dr Roger Bullivant (University of Sheffield) as President of the Danensian Choir. His compositions and arrangements, a variety of which are published in the UK and USA, consist largely of sacred choral works, organ music and music for schools.
Outside music his interests include the English language, classic motor vehicles and photography. He also enjoys running, cycling and dog-walking. He is married to Margaret and they have a son, Matthew (b.1992) and a daughter, Alison (b.1995).
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