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Llandaff organists play back-to-back for 24 hours

10 March 2023


The south aspect of Llandaff Cathedral

The south aspect of Llandaff Cathedral

ORGANISTS at Llandaff Cathedral played back-to-back music for 24 hours last weekend to mark the tenth anniversary of the installation of Llandaff’s Nicholson organ — the first wholly new cathedral organ built in the UK since Coventry’s in the 1960s.

The event was to launch a series intended to showcase all the facets of the instrument, which has 4870 pipes, 80 stops, and four manuals. Twenty-two organists played, including music directors from Brecon and Newport, the director of music of St David’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Cardiff, and a 13-year-old chorister. The extravaganza included 90 minutes of “Beer and Hymns”.

Glampers who brought sleeping bags and camped out on the heated floor for the night were treated to “Breakfast with Bach”. “It was an amazing, wild, crazy idea, but we were really up for it,” the cathedral’s head of events, Olivia Moore, said.

The director of music at Llandaff, Stephen Moore, and his assistant director, Andrew Shilson, took several of the night-time and early morning slots. “We chose quite quiet pieces during the night, so as not to wake the people camping out, and also because people living near the cathedral can hear the organ in in their houses,” Mr Moore said on Tuesday.

“The first thing we played at 7 a.m. was ‘Sleepers, Wake!’, and then we were off again. It was really good fun.”

The repertoire was not confined to standard organ works, but included items such as film music from Jurassic Park, and tunes from the Great American Songbook. Some organists took part on a pay-to-play basis, to experience the organ; their contributions, together with generous donations, have raised money for “Celebrate 10” events throughout the year.

The event started with choral evensong at 5.30 p.m., and ended with music from an 80-strong choir drawn from all the cathedral’s choirs. “The response has been extremely positive,” Mr Moore said. “Lots of people passing by heard the music and came inside. We don’t know yet how much money we’ve raised, but we think we’ve done pretty well.

“The intention of the music at Llandaff is an enhancement of liturgy, and that’s really important to us. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to have an instrument on which you can play any style of repertoire. We are very pleased indeed to have it.”

St Mary’s, Ashwell, in Herefordshire, embarked on a more modest event the previous weekend: a six-hour hymn-singing marathon that raised £2000 towards supporting and growing musical projects in the church and community.

Chris Frazer Smith Some singers in the six-hour hymn-singing marathon

Congregation members, villagers, and people from further afield were invited to choose and sponsor their favourite hymns: a total of 75 in all, many capturing important milestones and moments in people’s lives. “There was a whole raft of different hymns,” the Rector, the Revd Christine Campbell, said. “A lot were chosen because they were people’s favourites, hymns they’d had had at their wedding, for instance.

“There were some lovely moments. A lot of people came just to listen and enjoy the singing, and, when they heard a particular hymn, they got up and joined the choir to sing it; at one point, there were 40 people of all ages in the choir stalls. A lovely old chap came in just to listen to ‘All things bright and beautiful’ being sung, which he’d had at his wedding.”

The church has a strong musical tradition under its musical director, Bene’t Coldstream, and organist, Peter Eaglesfield. Particularly popular is a small junior-choir project of half an hour of singing, followed by activities, snacks, and fun: “Something less formal and more relaxed that encourages children to come in and have a go at singing,” Ms Campbell said.

The money raised will go towards several projects, including updating the music, and offering musical workshops and outreach.

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