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GORDON STEWART ORGAN RECITAL (article first published : 2007-05-7)

Gordon Stewart, one of Britain's leading organists, will give an organ recital at St Thomas Anglican Church on May 15. The concert is to celebrate the centenary of the church’s Willis organ.

Throughout Europe and in America, South Africa and New Zealand, Gordon Stewart has delighted audiences with programmes which range from the earliest known organ music through the baroque to the virtuosic 19th and 20th century repertoire. Born in Scotland, he studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music and at the Geneva Conservatoire, gaining a performer's diploma with distinction from the former and a premier prix de virtuosité from the latter. His teachers included Gillian Weir, Lionel Rogg and Eric Chadwick.

He has appeared as concerto soloist with such orchestras as the BBC Philharmonic, the Hallè, the Northern Chamber and Manchester Camerata, and has performed numerous recitals in such venues as Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Birmingham Town Hall, and Blenheim Palace.

He has broadcast on BBC Radios 2, 3 and 4, Classic FM and BBC television, and has recorded on the Priory, Foxglove and OxRec labels. Lionel Rogg, Dick Koomans, Michael Ball, Alan Spedding and Noel Rawsthorne have all dedicated pieces to him. In addition to organ playing, he is one of the regular conductors of BBC Television's Songs of Praise and is Musical Director of the Millennium Youth Choir. He is a Past President of the Incorporated Association of Organists and has recently been awarded a Fellowship of the Royal School of Church Music, and an Honorary Doctorate by Huddersfield University.

For eleven years Gordon Stewart was organist of Manchester Cathedral, and for the past thirteen years he has been organist of Huddersfield Town Hall with its magnificent Father Willis organ.

Henry Willis & Sons is a firm of pipe organ builders in the UK, examples of whose work can also be found in other countries. They are known as Father Willis organs after the founder of the company, Henry Willis.

Willis's are regarded as the leading organ builders of the Victorian era, itself a time when both civic and religious commitment led to the erection of a large number of impressive buildings and other public works The result was a convergence of both a very fine and technically proficient organ builder, and a substantial number of commissions for really exceptional instruments. This heritage has lived on, fortunately, thanks in part to the quality of craftsmanship and in part to sensitive restorations and maintenance such as that recently completed on the Albert Hall instrument by Mander & Sons of London. It is a tradition that an organ, when rebuilt, retains the original maker's name, even if the pipework has been substantially augmented or replaced.

Although Willis are mostly remembered for organs on the grand scale - such as those in the Royal Albert Hall, St. Paul's Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral - they also built smaller instruments such as the organ at St Thomas Anglican Church, Musgrave Road. This organ was built in 1905, just four years after Father Willis' death. The company was continued by his son Henry who maintained his father's tradition of fine workmanship and attention to detail. The fact that the St Thomas organ retains largely the original materials and mechanics that Willis fitted bears testimony to the quality of his skills. It is considered one of the finest church organs in South Africa.

The Gordon Stewart organ recital will take place at 19h30 on May 15 at St Thomas Anglican Church, Musgrave Road. Tickets R50 available at the door. Safe parking is provided at the rear of the church entered from St Thomas Lane off Essenwood Road.




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