composite of the 15 contemporary composers in the Orgelbuchlein concert at St Bride's

Bach and friends at St Bride’s

St Bride’s is delighted to be taking part in a unique musical project. After more than 300 years, J S Bach’s unfinished Orgelbüchlein (‘Little Organ Book’) is now complete and will receive a full UK premiere in a series of nine free concerts this September presented by broadcaster, Zeb Soanes, and promoted by the Royal College of Organists.

Organist and director of The Orgelbüchlein Project, William Whitehead, will himself be performing the second concert in the series at St Bride’s on Saturday 24th September at 11:30am. The recital is free and no pre-booking is required; simply turn up in good time!

Bach’s original idea for the Orgelbüchlein was a collection of 164 settings of Lutheran chorale tunes covering all parts of the church’s year. However, he finished just 46 of these. Whitehead set-up The Orgelbüchlein Project which has commissioned 118 new compositions from contemporary composers to complete Bach’s original plan. Composers included John Rutter, Judith Bingham, Sir Stephen Hough, Sally Beamish, Louis Andriessen, Daniel Kidane, Roxanna Panufnik and Nico Muhly.

The concert at St Bride’s has the theme of “Symbols and Pictures”. Whitehead writes that all the pieces he will play “carry an obvious symbolism or pictorial quality –so [for example] Bingham’s Meine Seele erhebt, in which she imagined a somewhat Vermeer-like, candlelit scene, the moment just before the Annunciation. Or Bach’s Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar, with its cascades of angels, descending.”

The St Bride’s Compton organ is a world-away from the instruments Bach would have known. However, Whitehead who has previously accompanied the choir in services at St Bride’s believes “The Compton will be a blessed gift for its range of colours! The contemporary pieces (not to mention the Bach) will give ample opportunity to explore the variety.”

The programme for this concert which is free to attend includes new works by Grayston Ives, Naji Hakim, Franz Danksagmüller, Judith Bingham, Diana Burrell, Stephen Barber, Robert Saxton, Enjott Schneider, Anthony Powers, Alastair Putt, William Whitehead, Edward Higginbottom, Rhian Samuel, Vincent Paulet, Daniel Beilschmidt and Bach’s original Orgelbüchlein compositions BWV 607, 621 & 622.

Our own Organist Matthew Morley said, “I’m thrilled that we at St Bride’s are able to support this historic project, and that William Whitehead (the project director) will be performing on our wonderful Compton organ as part of the day’s complete performance in London churches is especially exciting.”

Details of all nine concerts in the Bach and Friends: The Orgelbüchlein Completed series are available at the RCO website.

Posted On: Monday 8th August, 2022

congregation sitting for service


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