organist profile concert organist diary first woman civic organist recordings woman civic organist features
photo gallery of first woman civic organist  woman concert organist contact details jazz organist plaudits san diego civic organ links page


Carol Williams: Music from Blenheim Palace

CD and Video Reviewed by Joan Dovener
in "Keyboard Player" Magazine

KEY VIDEO Reviewed by Joan Dovener

CLASSICAL organist Carol Williams' latest project

Blenheim Palace - A Musical Tour, blends regal surroundings with an equally regal performance. Informal conversations between Ms Williams and various members of staff afford the viewer the privilege of a personal conducted tour through the Duke of Mariborough's magnificent stately home.

The sumptuous interior of the building and the sweeping grandeur of the surrounding parkland provide an elegant backdrop to a varied programme performed on the resident 'Father' Willis organ, Postill family chapel organ and Steinway grand piano.

The programme is anything but stuffy, as Carol's piano renditions of the jazzy number Lady Bird and Dave Brubeck's It's A Raggy Waltz demonstrate. And the Willis organ stirs up some dust during Sousa's Washington Post and Widor's Toccata Symphony No.5 Op.42.

Other Willis organ tracks include Walton's Prelude - the Spitfire, Fantasia Op 117, and MacDowell's To a Wild Rose. And there is also a time for contemplation with chapel organ pieces including Dearest Jesus We Are Here, Jerusalem, and Were You There.

Those interested in history will enjoy the guided tour and also the references to Sir Winston Churchill. Organ enthusiasts will likewise enjoy a look around the 'innards' of the Willis organ, courtesy of Mark Wood of Peter Wood & Son (Organ Builders) who are responsible for the maintenance of the instrument.

A delightful video in every respect, Blenheim Palace - A Musical Tour, is out now on the Valentine Music Group label (OSV 507).

As a further point of interest, Carol Williams has recently accepted the post of Civic Organist at Balboa Park in San Diego, California where the Spreckels organ, dedicated in 1914, is the only instrument of its kind still being maintained and played in an outdoor setting.

Joan Dovener also chose this video as her video choice of 2001.

Used by kind permission of "Keyboard Player" magazine (Issue 252):

We start this month's round-up of new releases with a trip to Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, to hear the Father Willis organ which has graced this historic building since 1891. The organist here is Carol Williams one of the UK's most highly acclaimed, contemporary, classical artistes.

Although this might be a good moment to draw attention to the fact that, given half a chance, she also enjoys thrashing around on a good theatre organ and is equally at home jazzing it up on piano, as other recordings will testify.

But on this occasion Music From Blenheim Palace features mainly classical compositions with a few lollipops thrown in. The programme opens with the title tune from the long-running TV series Songs of Praise, before moving onto Purcell's Trumpet Tune and Air, Lemmens Fanfare, Widor's famous Toccata, Elgar's Salut d'Amour, Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary, Sousa's Liberty Bell, Lemare's Andantino, Festival Toccata by Percy Fletcher, Percy Whitlock's Folk Tune and the March from the Occasional Oratorio by Handel. Then three tracks taken from the opening recital in 1891. These include Fantasia Opus 117, composed especially for the occasion by Edouard Silas, O For The Wings of a Dove, and Sir Arthur Sullivan's famous composition The Lost Chord.

The 74 minute programme concludes with a tribute to the late Sir Winston Churchill opening with Nigel Ogden's composition England's Glory, I Vow to Thee My Country from Holst's Planet Suite, In The News, Prelude - The Spitfire, by Sir William Walton and concluding with Sir Hubert Parry's Jerusalem arranged by Carol Williams.

An exemplary performance capturing the grandeur of this magnificent organ and its equally magnificent surroundings, His Grace the 11th Duke of Marlborough is moved to compliment Carol Williams and to wish the recording every success.

Used by kind permission of "Keyboard Player" magazine (Issue 240):

The Video & CD is available from Carol Williams direct.