SOME PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF THE IAO CONGRESS
The 2006 Incorporated Association of Organists Congress was centred at the
Sofitel Hotel in
the five days of the Congress the intensive programme included
no less than 13 organ recitals, 2 lectures, a cruise on the
The music of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, composer, organist and pianist, was very much to the fore during the Congress; a composition by him was included in each recital.
Monday 24 July.
was a day for travelling for some and, due to a delayed
Eurostar, we were not able to hear the recital by Gerhard Blum,
Organist at St Kunibert, Cologne; although by all accounts it
one would expect, a fore-taste of the excellent performances to follow.
Tuesday 25 July.
was an exceptionally full day commencing with a 30 minute drive to
next stop was Schwarzrheindorf and the Church of St Maria and St
Clemens. The building was on two
levels, effectively one church above the other. The organ was on the
floor, access being gained by a narrow winding staircase.
could be observed through a large railed gallery.
The church was decorated with elaborately painted walls and ceiling with a small, brilliant, apparently modern stained glass window on the upper floor.
1728 Stumm organ had been restored by Klais in 1967. It was unique
in that the two manuals, pedals and
drawstops were inside the organ. The organist would thus effectively be
inside a large box with pipes in front, behind and above.
In the event
recital, again given by Johannes Geffert, was played on a
electric console (with 3168 general combinations!) provided by Klais in
situated just a few feet from the ornate pipe front. Delegates who had
quick or agile enough to mount the spiral staircase early were seated
around the console and the organ, the remainder were listening on the
The recital included a short Prelude composed for her wedding by Fanny Hensel, the talented sister of Mendelssohn, and ended with a stirring account of Mendelssohn's Prelude and Fugue in C Minor. The performance was precise, the clarity of the stops unaffected at close range by the acoustic of the building. Following the recital we got into a good humoured muddle with those below trying to get up the staircase to see the organ and those on the upper floor trying to get to the ground floor. No doubt, given time to explore, a more convenient way to reach the upper floor would have been discovered.
We returned to Cologne, found a convenient restaurant for lunch and then walked to St Gereon to hear Christian Wilson, an ex pupil of David Sanger. He played Mendelssohn's Sonata in A, a contrasting piece by Byrd entitled Ut, re, mi, fa, so, la and Karl Elert's Passacalia and Fugue on BACH. The overall effect was of a somewhat overpowering organ with fierce reeds - not a 'Mendelssohn' organ. The organ was built by Klais in 1910 and restored by the same company in 1990.
walk in the enervating heat over cobbled streets brought us to St
Ursula to hear James Kennerly, organ scholar of
culmination of a long day was a recital on the Klais Nave Organ
perched high on the north wall of
followed; the Flight of the Bumblebee, remarkable for its clarity in such a huge space, and March
from the Fireworks Music by Handel, the high pressure tubas en
in the west end featuring prominently in the last piece. The heat was
pews very hard but the huge organ sound amply and satisfyingly filled
cathedral. It was certainly a recital to remember. From the
was noted that the organist has access to no less than one million
combinations, surely more than enough for even the most demanding of
Wednesday 26 July.<>Our visit to Beethoven's House in Bonne was interesting. We assembled next door to the House in an auditorium with steeply tiered and comfortable seats. At floor level was a grand piano (a Bosendorfer?) Perhaps we would hear at least a few bars of Beethoven's works on such a splendid instrument but, in the event, an introductory talk about the House and about Beethoven's life was given by the curator before we were led next door to the House proper.
It was very crowded and remarkably hot. We listened to a demonstration of a forte piano, an instrument which Beethoven would have used. It had a complement of five pedals to give various volumes of sound and a bass drum to enhance orchestral transcriptions. There followed a relatively slow shuffle through the crowded House to see some interesting manuscripts and letters; and eventually, despite the heat and the crowds, it was a unique and very special experience to be standing in the very room where Beethoven was born. It is difficult to conceive that he wrote so much wonderful music when he was profoundly deaf. Such is genius.
the visit to Beethoven's House we walked a short distance
down the street to Namen-Jesu-Kirche, a church where the
Pope officiated prior
to his appointment in
then proceeded through cobbled streets to embark on the river- boat Asbach
(an appropriate name) for a short cruise on the
a short coach ride we arrived at the Klais Organ works.
The temperature was such that the first priority was to queue for
glasses of water and lager which the company had thoughtfully provided.
assembled in an attractive courtyard for a short introductory talk by Philip
Klais. We were given the option of either joining organized parties
guide or to wander at will through the numerous well organized
we could see organs in various stages of construction. Four organs were
construction, all for overseas venues including one for
was there to see without restriction from the seasoned logs which
would eventually be sawn and planed to form pipes, stacks of crated
Following the tour we were provided with a tasty light meal, more liquid refreshment, and as an added bonus, Elizabeth Priday standing on a bench in the courtyard, gave us a short recital of Gershwin songs accompanied by Catherine Ennis on the piano in the adjacent Klais apartment.
Thursday 27 July.
day commenced with 50 minute drive to Schleiden some 60 Km from
were then driven to Steinfield where we enjoyed a buffet lunch in a
restaurant adjacent to the entrance to the Monastery where the Klosterkirche
was situated. Klosterkirche was a magnificently decorated
church; the Koenig organ was built in 1727 and restored during the
1977-1981 by Weimbs. The recital was given by Daniel Hyde, an
the age of 16 and currently director of Chapel Music at
A half hour drive through delightful countryside brought us to Neiderehe and St Loedegar to hear Catherine Ennis playing the 1770 Konig organ restored by Weimbs in 1987/88. An organ of modest specification with 10 stops on the single manual and 3 stops on the pedals, Catherine Ennis demonstrated her mastery of the organ choosing stops to maximum effect in a bouncy Fugue in C by Buxtehude, a contrasting set of German and English renaissance dances, a quiet Aria Sebaldina by Pechelbel, and Mendelssohn's Andante in D. She concluded with Bach's Prelude and Fugue in D Minor and D Major from the Well Tempered Clavier, Book 2. It was a most enjoyable performance. It was noted that the organ was tuned to mean tone temperament.
We returned to the hotel for an excellent dinner and it was there, in the dining room, that Guido Graumann, organ builder and consultant set up screen and projector and bravely launched into a lecture on The Organs of Mendelssohn's Time. Despite a full day and a good meal he held his audience to the end and received a well deserved round of applause.
Friday 28 July.
We drove for an hour through the picturesque forested countryside to Sayn, Abteikirche, to hear Daniel Hyde and Guido Graumann in duet playing the 1778 Stumm organ restored by Klais in 1996. The first piece was a duet by Mendelssohn, Fugue in D Major, an enjoyable piece, not immediately apparent as a duet. There followed 7 Duets for Eliza by Samuel Wesley illustrating the range of stops on the organ. The final piece was Mendelssohn's Duet Fugue in D minor, full organ in contrast to the previous works. It was noted that the Positive sported a 'Pordong 8'. ('Spell check' had a field day with this one).
Following this recital we had a half hour drive to Maria Laach, Abteikirche. A substantial packed lunch was awaiting us for collection from an hotel near to the church. As we settled down to lunch in the grounds of the hotel the rains came giving a welcome relief to the heat, but drenching those who had not come prepared.
Abteikirche has two
organs, a 1910 Transept
Organ restored by
Klais in 2000, and a Choir Organ built by Klais in 1998. The Choir
heard first, played by Guido Graumann. His recital included
Carl Philip Emanual Bach, Reger's Jesus, mein Zuversich during
intrusive tremulent was used which was
something of a distraction. Mendelssohn was represented by Sanft,
Empfindung Op 7/1.
this recital, Daniel Moult, an organ tutor at the
As if this was not enough for one day we were driven through the picturesque North German countryside to Kloster Marienthal, a vineyard, where we tasted six samples of excellent German wine and partook of a substantial buffet meal in delightful surroundings, a sociable and fitting end to Congress.
So ended a busy Congress; interesting and beautiful venues, organs ranging from 1770 to the present day, a feast of enjoyable music all thoughtfully organized by our ever-present and indefatigable President, Catherine Ennis
and her dedicated team. The well produced Congress Handbook included not only the programme of the Congress but also the specifications and photographs of the organs.
As always it was a pleasure to meet old friends again, not forgetting those who could not be present with us this year.
David Ball. Bexley and District Organists' and Choirmasters' Association.
August 2006. (Rev 1)