Geoff Howells – organJohann Sebastian Bach
Toccata in C, BWV 564
‘Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele’, BWV 654
Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548
Based in South Wales, Geoff Howells divides his time between playing organ music (Bach, earlier composers and, wherever possible, the work of living musicians), directing ensembles, Early Byrd and Sad Ghost Club, and writing his own music – often for these ensembles to sing and play. The music of Bach is at the heart of all of Geoff’s playing. He likes to present the music, as far as possible, in a ‘chamber music’ kind of environment, where performer, audience and music are close and there is a feeling of real connection.
He has two baroque organ music series running on weekday afternoons in beautiful village churches. In both cases the instruments are small and modest in scope but are able to project the music perfectly to an audience gathered around the organ. The informal character of these performances seems to catch the spirit that Bach intended with his ‘coffee concerts’! The driving force behind this is to put the organ into a place in the musical spectrum where it is seen as more than just a liturgical resource, important as that element of its work is. Buxtehude, Bach and others wrote music for connoisseurs, music so complex and ambitious that it went way beyond regular liturgical needs. Geoff’s mission is to see the organ as a mainstream concert instrument and perform these pieces in this context.
This is Geoff’s sixth recital (two online and four live) at St Bride’s and it is a favourite venue, much valued. In his own writing, the aim is to keep things clear and simple, using the basic elements of silence and sound, sparse chords, modes, plainsong, folksong, the blues. The music is not ‘academic’ and finds no place in any particular genre or classification but he is drawn to the space, freedom to improvise and reflectiveness in much non-European music and also the depth of feeling and integrity that flows from people across the world singing and playing straight from the experiences of their own lives. His music includes the song cycle, ‘Poets Corner’ and a sequence of settings of poetry by George Herbert called ‘In His Temple’. There are many songs and vocal pieces including ‘Seven Pink Roses’, ‘Corpus Christi Carol’, ‘Waiting For Cecelia’ and ‘You Are Eve’. These can be viewed on his website: www.geoffhowells.uk.
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