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Carol Williams: Music from Blenheim Palace

Carol Williams plays the
historic "Father" Willis organ

Blenheim Palace, the home of the 11th Duke of Marlborough and the birthplace in 1874 of the late Sir Winston Churchill, is one of England's most prestigious heritage sites.

A magnificent four-manual organ was installed by the world-famous "Father" Willis in the spring of 1891 in the Long Library of the Palace and the programme for the opening concert on 18 May 1891 has been preserved in the Palace archives. It includes a "Fantasia" composed by Édouard Silas "purposely for the opening of the organ" and also the "Lost Chord" which was accompanied by the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) who also accompanied "O for the Wings of a Dove". Carol's CD, recorded in August 1999, commemorates the opening concert by including these three compositions.

Importantly, it also pays tribute to Churchill with compositions that focus attention on his unique position in the history of the United Kingdom with: "England's Glory"; "Jupiter Theme" (often sung to the words "I vow to thee, my country"); "In the News"; Sir William Walton's Prelude "The Spitfire"; and, finally, Sir Hubert Parry's ever-popular "Jerusalem". There are eleven other tracks ranging from the "Fanfare" by Lemmens through Purcell's "Trumpet Tune and Air" to Percy Fletcher's "Festival Toccata".

Interestingly, Winston Churchill had strong links with the USA stemming from the fact that he was the elder of the two sons of Lord Randolph Churchill and Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill) who was one of the daughters of the American financier and newspaper owner Leonard Jerome from Brooklyn and his wife Clara.