I love to travel and perform on different instruments -- this to me is part of the make-up of a concert organist. This year, I have visited Europe twice to perform -- first to Germany and later to England. In April, I flew to Stuggart to play a concert in Pforzheim. I was met by Michael Eckerle, organist and choirmaster of St. Francis Church -- what a delightful drive from the airport to Pforzheim which is right by the Black Forrest. Pforzheim is famous for its gold jewelry and is a fairly modern city being rebuilt after WW2.
The Catholic Church of St. Francis is the main church of Pforzheim with 120,000 residents. The parish is the biggest in the diocese of Freiburg/Breisgau with about 9000 members. The church was built in 1891 as a neo-romantic basilica with three naves and seating for about 800 people. It was destroyed during the Second World War and reconstructed in 1946 and an extensive renovation was completed in 1996. The organ built in 1948 was by the famous organ-builder G.F. Steinmeyer from Oettingen, Bavaria -- four manuals and pedal with fifty stops. In 1996 an extensive organ renovation and expansion was completed by the organ builder Karl Göckel, Mühlhausen-Rettigheim near Heidelberg. The organ now has 65 stops (80 ranks), a modern console with 5000 generals, floppy disk and a playback-system. The sound is superb for Romantic repertoire and particularly from the French school -- I included works by Widor and Tournemire in the program. A large TV monitor was provided for the excellent size audience. What a sound and, what an acoustic!
In late June, I then had the chance to return home and play three concerts. The first was at the beautiful Abbey Church of Selby dating back to 1069 -- a delightful place with the Abbey forming the nucleus of this picturesque town. I seemed to have brought over the intense Southern Californian heat but the Abbey proved a great place to rehearse in. Many of the greatest players have performed at Selby Abbey -- W. T. Best gave the opening recital after the rebuild in 1869, as did Edwin Lemare when the instrument was moved to the Lathom Chapel in 1891. After the rebuild in 1950, recitals were given by Dr. Francis Jackson and Dr. Melville Cook and in the early 1960s, Fernando Germani recorded three LPs for HMV. The present instrument is primarily Messers. Hill & Sons and a complete restoration is planned for this remarkable organ. Dr Roger Tebbet, Organist and Director of Music, is doing a terrific work in this place.
Then onto Gainsborough for a return visit to the United Reformed Church. I was greeted by the two fine organists of the Church -- John Horsley and Doug Proudley. The building is an example of Victorian Free Church architecture constructed in red bricks with bands of Derbyshire Grit and Ancaster stone. The organ case, pulpit and rostrum are of oak and the remainder of the woodwork is pine. The two manual Forster & Andrews dates back to 1903 and was opened by Alfred Hollins. Interestingly, a plaque states that Andrew Carnegie donated 375 pounds towards the instrument. Gainsborough posses a fantastic medieval house which has been wonderfully restored -- it certainly is worth a visit for those interested.
My last concert was at St. James, the Parish Church of Grimsby and known as the mother church of Grimsby. The oldest part of this beautiful church dates back to about 1200. The three manual walker has a fine organ case, three Diapasons and a superb Tuba. Interestingly, the Carillon comes from San Diego! The concert I performed was the start of the Saint James Festival 2005 and I was joined by the choristers, conducted by Adrian Roberts, Director of Music. They certainly produced an angelic sound and we all benefited from a good write up in the local paper next day.
Then, thanks to Continental Airlines, back to San Diego where I knew it would be very hot and remain hot until the late Autumn!
Carol Williams is represented by:
PVA Management UK, 01905 640663
Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, USA,
860 560 7800