Wayne Marshall explores church organ’s incredible power at Cuckfield concert

Wayne Marshall sitting at the Kenneth Tickell organ at St Wilfrid's Church. Picture by Melvyn Walmsley
Wayne Marshall sitting at the Kenneth Tickell organ at St Wilfrid's Church. Picture by Melvyn Walmsley

Wayne Marshall in Concert, St Wilfrid’s Church, Cuckfield, June 21

Wayne Marshall is rightly celebrated across the world as conductor, organist and pianist: music’s equivalent of another great northerner, our Olympic champion triathlete Alistair Brownlee.

The big audience at St Wilfrid’s appreciated a master class in just one of Wayne’s talents – exploiting the organ’s orchestral capabilities, its colours, moods, bubbles, whispers and earth-shaking roars.

Here, playing the Kenneth Tickell instrument on its 20th anniversary – and for a third time – he followed European repertoire with improvisations on the 20th century American music in which he triply excels.

Wayne’s improvisations show how music, though the food of love, also paints humanity’s nobility, excitement, cruelty, joy, intolerance and confusion.

His ‘Improvisée Intrada’ took us gently into the mystery of our life-cycle of womb to sunlit vigour to tomb. Then the powerful opening chords of Parry’s ‘Fantasia and Fugue in G’, with its unceasing momentum, led us into exultant joy.

Next, Campbell’s ‘Canterbury Interlude’, a lazy summer stroll across a cathedral close, afforded us awesome glimpses of the towering structure.

In Bach’s ‘Great C Major’ we had in full measure its brisk dance rhythms, its playful lambs in a tightly argued fugue.

Statham’s ‘Rhapsody on a Ground’, with hints of discord overwhelmed by shafts of light and an ending suggesting Creation’s dawn, ushered in Liszt’s ‘Prelude and Fugue on Bach’, in which that musical showman dispelled Gothic horrors with soft harmony and sun-filled heavens.

Wayne’s concluding improvisées on themes of Bernstein and Gershwin demonstrated that freedom in the USA and elsewhere has a hefty price tag; that feeling pretty can be scary and hushed babies have reasons to cry; that we’ve got rhythm but it’s interrupted and influenced by a society whose sense of community is fragile.

Such great music making made us pause – and loudly applaud.

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