“Kaleidoscope One” is the first year of a two-year recital project by Cranleigh’s superb Organist in Residence, Philip Scriven. The title refers to a special selection of primarily twentieth-century organ masterpieces, carefully chosen to display the infinite variety of sonic colours and texture of which the splendid Mander Organ is capable. It also charts, as Philip explained in his engaging introductions to each piece, the considerable journey of musical exploration by C20 composers in a huge variety of styles, from Parry to Messiaen and beyond. Each recital will also contain as a centrepiece a Prelude and Fugue by J.S. Bach, to whom all subsequent composers for the instrument pay deserved homage.

The organ was lit with an appropriate kaleidoscope of ever-changing colours throughout (thanks to George Royall!) and the repertoire Philip chose for this opening concert encapsulated beautifully the aims of the series. Philip is a master of evocative and interesting stop combinations. The exquisite fluttering of high flute stops was wonderfully effective in the mischievous scampering of Bonnet’s ‘Elfes’ (Elves) reminiscent and no doubt inspired by Mendelssohn’s famous Scherzo from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and perhaps even more so in conjuring a flock of sparrows in Ian Farrington’s inventive ‘Animal Parade’. Here, in a modern day take on Saint-Saens ‘Carnival of the Animals’ Farrington depicts Barrel Organ Monkeys and even an attack of piranhas.

A reflective mood was struck in Halley’s evocation of the Outer Hebrides with the barren harmonies of distant bagpipe drones beautifully balanced in Philip Scriven’s masterful performance. The Bach centrepiece was the mighty Prelude and Fugue in D major (BWV 532) with its fiendishly difficult explosion of virtuosic scales and arpeggios for the pedals, dazzlingly played. Other works included Mathias: Processional, the multi-coloured Thema met Variaties of the Dutch composer Andriessen, Durufle’s peaceful Meditation and Takle’s rollicking ‘The Power of Life’ which brought the recital to a fantastic conclusion.

For a short encore, Philip played a moving tribute to Derek Bourgeois, distinguished prolific composer and former Director of the National Youth Orchestra, who died earlier this month. Derek Bourgeois was a Music Scholar at Cranleigh in the late 1950s and returned to teach at the school after studying at Cambridge and the Royal College of Music. He composed a symphony ‘Jabberwocky’ to mark the School’s centenary in 1965. Alan Rusbridger (OC), one of his pupils recalled “he threw wild parties, sang Verdi arias, dressed up as a gorilla and was a rather inspirational music master”. I can’t match that but I did have the pleasure of meeting him several times and found him similarly inspirational. Philip Scriven performed Derek’s ‘Serenade’, composed as a recessional voluntary for his own wedding. His impish wit comes to the fore in choosing the entirely irregular time signatures of 11/8, 13/8 and 5/8 all over the place, wrongfooting any possible attempt at orderly procession – a typically Derek touch of anarchic humour. Our thanks go to Philip for such a dazzling display of organ virtuosity this evening – hugely enjoyed by all who attended.

Recitals continue usually on the first Tuesday of each month in term time at 12.45pm in Chapel.
Further details can be found in this year’s Concert Series brochure.