The Oundle for Organists Summer School was once more a great success - an enjoyable and constructive week for students and tutors alike. Director Robert Quinney was joined by tutors Catherine Ennis, Johannes Geffert, James Lloyd Thomas, Margaret Phillips, Gordon Stewart and Mark Williams, and 31 students, including two from Australia and one from France.
The wonderful Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge, was in residence for the latter half of the week, and gave students the chance to receive tuition on choral direction in front of a real, responsive choir, as well as giving a number of brilliant performances. Two of these also involved the organ students as singers - in Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary the OfO students formed a plainchant Schola Cantorum, and all sang in a live broadcast of BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship from Oundle School Chapel.
A focus for the week was J. S. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein. Almost all the students prepared one or more of the short preludes, several of which were heard in performances throughout the week, including the superb Platform Concert given by students: a remarkable demonstration of musicality and grace under pressure! Three tutors contributed performances to the Festival: Margaret Phillips launched the Summer School with a superb recital of music by J. S. Bach on Monday; William Whitehead played as part of the popular Bach Walk on Wednesday, including both Orgelbüchlein preludes by Bach and new pieces on the chorales not set by Bach, part of William’s ongoing The Orgelbüchlein Project; and Gordon Stewart brought his inimitable extrovert flair to a recital of music transcribed for the organ in Peterborough Cathedral on Thursday, immediately after an excellent Choral Evensong sung by Jesus College Choir and attended by the OfO students and tutors, together with a sizeable congregation from Peterborough, Oundle and elsewhere. A memorable week for all concerned!
Later in the summer nine students met at Magdalen College, Oxford for the Advance course, with Robert Quinney, Sarah Baldock, Matthew Martin and Katherine Pardee teaching and/or giving talks. In a short space of time a huge variety of topics was covered, including choral direction (with a guinea-pig choir formed partly from the student body), organ repertoire, repertoire planning, the liturgical year, hymn playing, plainchant, improvisation...and more topics were discussed after evening sessions in the pub! It was great to work our way around a few excellent, and very different organs, at Magdalen, Queen's, St John's and Keble Colleges. The verdict was 'enriching...extremely useful...a great atmosphere' according to some comments received afterwards.