The Voice of Yesteryear CD

A recording by Paul Derrett of the Harrison organ in Halifax Minster is available.

The CD’s track list is as follows:

  • Scherzo Fugue – Edwin Lemare
  • ‘O for a heart to praise my God’- George Dyson
  • Recorder Suite – Philip Tordoff
  • Sonata in E flat – William Herschel
  • Four Sketches – Robert Schumann
  • Reverie – Edwin Lemare
  • Marche Joyeuse – Shackleton Pollard
  • Prelude from ‘Ermelin’ – Frederick Delius
  • Bourée in B minor – Alfred Hollins
  • Pastel No 3 in F sharp – Sigrid Karg-Elert
  • ‘Over Halifax High Hills’ – Richard Popplewell
  • Sonata Eroica – Joseph Jongen

The new CD was launched at a recital in 2012 in the Minster by Paul Derrett.  The Vice-President of the Halifax & District Organists’ Association wrote at the time:

Despite being one of the most distinguished pipe organs in Yorkshire, there is no commercial recording completely dedicated to Halifax Minster’s 1929 Harrison and Harrison instrument. At least until now. On Saturday 8th December 2012, at a recital featuring many of the items included on the recording, a new solo CD entitled ‘The Voice of Yesteryear’ was launched by its performer, Paul Derrett.

In introducing his recital and the recording, Paul spoke in high praise of the Minster’s four manual, 52-stop instrument, saying that it was a truly great organ of much more than local significance. In particular, Paul drew attention not only to its sheer power – enough, he said, to outdo any brass band – but also to the charm and beauty of its quieter colours and moods. His recital, and the disc, is intended to demonstrate both of these qualities – power and charm – but with a strong emphasis on the organ’s gentler, more reflective, characterful and quieter sounds. Paul is a recitalist ideally placed to provide a very persuasive demonstration. A player of outstanding technique, with a phenomenally broad repertoire, Paul is not only a well-respected concert organist and recording artist, he is also a trained and experienced organ builder whose keen ear can help present his audience with some of an instrument’s best sounds.

Many of the pieces on Paul’s CD have a direct connection with Halifax. All were conceived for an instrument with the range of sonority found in the Minster organ over its several incarnations, starting with John Snetzler’s famous organ for the parish church of 1766. Three pieces are by former organists of the Minster: Philip Tordoff’s Recorder Suite is an arrangement of recorder pieces with their roots in baroque forms; William Herschel’s Sonata in E flat comes from the pen of the first and only organist of Halifax Minster subsequently to become a famous astronomer. Finally, Shackleton Pollard’s Marche Joyeuse of 1921 has its roots firmly in the brass band tradition and calls on the organ’s powerful reeds to emulate their namesakes: on the CD listen in particular for pedal Ophicleide 16’ in the final section of the piece, sounding convincingly like (brass) tubas at a Sunday afternoon outdoor concert.

The major work on the CD, and in the recital, is the Sonata Eroica of the Belgian organist and composer Joseph Jongen. Jongen and his family lived in England during the First World War but his connection with Halifax is more aural than geographic. A grand romantic work for solo organ, the Sonata Eroica, said Paul, suited the Minster organ exceptionally well, calling for both its power, and its charm, and much in between.

The Minster organ in its current form originates, as everyone knows, from the major rebuild by Harrisons in 1929, and it is of course showing its age. The organ’s console and playing aids (in essence, devices to help the player change stops) are far behind modern standards and expectations. More significantly, the action – the mechanical and pneumatic links between keys and stops at the console and the production of sound by pipes – is heavily worn and tired. Repeated notes, or fast passage work, for example, sometimes fail. Paul was clear that these faults show to some extent on the recording. But not only will the CD help to make the Minster organ better known further afield, it will also very practically contribute to raising the large amount of money necessary for the instrument to be carefully and professionally rebuilt in the future. Profits from the first 50 CDs sold will go, thanks to Paul’s generosity, direct to the organ fund.

– Chris O’Gorman

The Voice of Yesteryear is available from the Minster Shop, priced £10