After an appearance with the Bach Choir at the Petworth Festival a few years ago, organist Philip Scriven offers his first solo recital for the event, at St Mary’s Church on Saturday, July 30 at 12pm.
Adding to the interest will be the fact that the audience will be able to study Philip at work as cameras will be relaying what he’s up to with hands and feet onto screens in the auditorium: “The organ is actually a very visual instrument,” Philip says. “There is a lot going on visually as well as aurally. I went to a fabulous percussion concert last night. I was just watching the performer going around the different instruments around him, and I was thinking that the organ and percussion of all the instruments are really the most visual. Being at an organ console seems to a lot of people like being in a big cockpit with all the levers and pedals, and people like being able to watch what is going on. It is just interesting for people to see. Sometimes you are playing maybe three or four manuals at once with two hands. You can be doing two distinct things with both hands and both feet. Once you have been doing it for a while, it become second nature. In a smaller way, it is a bit like driving a car. You are not consciously thinking about everything you do all the time.
“I had the great fortune of being a chorister at Westminster Abbey from the age of nine to 13, and I was exposed to all this wonderful choral tradition we have in this country in the most glorious building in the land. But my voice broke quite early when I was 11 and a half, and so for my final year, I was pretty useless as a chorister, but quite useful up in the organ loft, turning the pages and just generally helping. And I became fascinated by watching the organist. I had got pretty proficient on the piano. I had done grade seven by the time I was 12 or 13, and I seem to remember having three or four organ lessons before I left the Abbey. But when I then went on to Charterhouse, I just took to it like a duck to water.
“For this concert in Petworth, I just wanted to try to do something a bit different. When you are thinking organ recitals, they don’t always sound the most exciting things, and people think of cold, hard benches and pews and long sermons. But it doesn’t have to be like that! We have got a huge repertoire for the organ, one of the largest for any instruments bar perhaps the piano, going back to all the great classics. But I wanted to show a different side. I am calling my programme American Dreams. The music is all, bar one piece, by American composers.”
Philip, who is the organist-in-residence at Cranleigh School, principal conductor of the Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra and assistant conductor and accompanist of the Bach Choir, will be offering: Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings arr. William Strickland; Dan Locklair – Rubrics; Joel Martinson – Aria on a Chaconne; Charles Ives – Variations on America; Pietro Yon – Toccatina; Harold Britton - Variations on I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin; and George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue arr. Jesse Crawford.
“Some of the pieces are relatively new to me; some of them I have been playing at different times over ten or more years. Rubrics is a newish piece. I recorded that on the Cranleigh School organ after I started here about six years ago.
“I am part-time at Cranleigh. I teach the organ and I play as piano accompanist and I conduct the school chamber choir but it does also allow me a bit of time to explore my freelance interests around the world. It is a wonderful balance.”
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