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Christopher Herrick at the Royal Albert Hall

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Published on Dec 7, 2009

Christopher Herrick playing the grand Willis/Harrison organ in the Royal Albert Hall during the BBC Proms 1994, recorded from BBC Radio 3 broadcast. The piece is Edwin Henry Lemare's criminally underplayed Concert Fantasia Op. 91, I think the only commercially available performance is by Herrick himself on Hyperion's Organ Fireworks Vol.2. Concert Fantasia is a transcription by Lemare of his own improvisation recorded on a Edison phonograph cylinder. It skilfully weaves three tunes, 'The Sailors Hornpipe', 'The British Grenadiers' and 'Rule Britannia' and managed to combine all three at the end - leaving just the Piéce de resistance, 'Auld Lang Syne' appears in the pedals briefly at the end!

The organ was built by Father Willis in 1871-2, Harrison and Harrison rebuilt it in two stages, first in 1924 and completing it in 1933. Then more restoration in 1954 when the pitch of the organ was raised, and several alterations and colsole aids were added in 1973. The organ began to deteriorate badly, with the bellows leaking air and splits in the wooden trunking much of the electrics were over 50 years old, causing no end of problems, ciphers, dead notes etc. The most obvious problem was the lack of wind pressure for climaxes.

Manders completed a complete restoration in 2004, adding just one 4 rank mixture to make it the largest organ in the UK at the time, 9997 pipes. In the last rebuild, the roof was removed from above 32' Ophicleide which makes it now sound a little less thunderous in comparison to older recordings, but at least we still have those searing orchestral trumpets and tuba chorus. There are many detractors of the organ saying its too loud, too brash etc, but have always found it magnificent, very grandiose, very 'Imperial' befitting its home. I hope this recording shows, that despite it being out of tune and lacking wind in crucial moments, it sounds fabulous and has a unique and beautiful sonority.

Christopher Herrick is a virtuoso organist with a career spanning 22 years in two great church music centres in London, first St Pauls as chorister, then as assistant organ for 7 years. And then Westminster abbey for 10 years with 6 as Sub Organist. For the last twenty years his association with Hyperion has included dozens of CDs, including the complete organ works of Bach and 13
volumes of Organ Fireworks.

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