Monday, May 14, 2012

At St. Paul's Cathedral

The organ loft overlooks the choir area in the nave of St. Paul's Cathedral, London

On Sunday the Pipe Dreams Tour group attended the Eucharistic Service at St. Paul's Cathedral. After the service, organist Simon Johnson explained his role and work at the Cathedral and then played for us. Most of the organists whom we have met are young men, maybe in their mid-thirties.

Stairway to the organ loft

We toured the organ loft, which basically means that we scuttled up the narrow stairway to the loft and viewed the console with five keyboards and tons of stops. Pipes "live" in two huge cases hung on both sides of the cathedral in the choir area. These cases date from the time of Sir Christopher Wren, designer of the Cathedral. Additional ranks of pipes are located in one transcept and at the back of the Cathedral. It is quite an organ.

The "Willis On Wheels" at St. Paul's
St. Paul's also has a pipe organ that can be moved, not easily, but can be wheeled from place to place. Called the "Willis on Wheels," the massive, yet portable, organ is used for smaller events at St. Paul's. The organ builder's last name is Willis, hence the name, "Willis on Wheels." The Willis Company built over 2500 organs. In Britain, when you say such-and-such place has a Willis, they know what you mean.

The absolute highlight of Sunday's visits came at the third church we visited when Daniel Moult, organist of excellence, played the Mendelssohn Organ Sonata #1 at St. Anne's, Limehouse. There are six Mendelssohn organ sonatas and they were favorites of the Victorian Era.

Daniel's playing virtuosity was heightened by the pure clarity of the historic organ, an 1851 Gray and Davison. It was a musical moment to be treasured as we heard music from the time of Queen Victoria played as the parishioners who sat in the pews of St. Anne's heard that music over a century and a half ago.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

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