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Church Music November 2016

Tim McWhannell, Tom Chatterton and Stephen Beech following a performance of Vierne's Double Organ Mass

Having moved into central Auckland I set about finding a new church community, a task which is maybe easier said than done. I guess I approached the task with an unwritten shopping list. My list includes high activity level, excellent music, leadership, prayerfulness and only then did I consider location. I’m currently patting myself on the back for having made a good choice in becoming (again) a parishioner at St Matthew-in-the-city.

In recent months we have been exposed to generous activity in the presentation of wonderful church music and although the calendar calls these ‘ordinary Sundays’ they have been festive and have delighted regulars, like me and visitors, alike.

Some highlights for me have been lots of Bach organ and choral music during the services, a series of striking and popular anthems (Haydn, Brahms, Vaughan Williams), a new liturgical setting, three ‘big music’ days and the launch of our 2017 Concert Series. In a period which included our Name Day it was reasonable to expect something striking in celebration of St Matthew.

For the Patronal Festival the choice of the Poulence Gloria was both festive and compatible with the musical resources to hand - the organ taking over the orchestral part (the notes largely taken from a piano score adapted to the task). Three trumpets and percussion with 8 voices (sometimes doubling for soprano and bass solos) produced a vivid sound and enthusiastic reaction from the big congregation of friends and former parishioners who traditional join us for our birthday.

Requiem by Maurice Durufle kept us in 20th century France – a concert performance in St Matthew’s the pervious weekend with small orchestra and organ was followed by a liturgical performance to mark All Saints Day and it was sung sympathetically by Auckland Youth Choir. We marvelled at both the choral balance, vocal tone and flashy organ accompaniment. One wonders how bearded young men could be ‘Youth’ but who cares when under-pining the vocal ensemble is so strong and telling… I understand that 25 years of age is the cut off for Auckland Youth Choir participation.

Still in France and in the company of the Choir of Holy Trinity Cathedral and St Matthew’s Voices with two organs made for generous sounds and thrilling antiphonal effects in Louie Vierne’s Solemn Mass.The short-term loan to St Matthew’s of a high quality digital organ allowed this unusual combination to be mounted with instruments in the east and west and we were left wondering which was the pipe and which the digital organ. The congregation was swelled by a number of visiting organists and organ enthusiasts (see illustration showing some of our own).

On Friday 11th November St Matthew’s new 2017 concert series was launched by young AucklandUniversity musicians, St Matthew’s Voices and the Cathedral Organ Scholar in a divers programme compared by Tom Chatterton. The short and pithy range of music demonstrated the style of performance we will enjoy during the 2017 concert series. Each of the six concerts will be at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon with a duration of about an hour.

To extend the possibilities of chamber music in St Matthew’s the parish has also started a fundraising effort to encourage the purchase of a concert grand piano. Solo piano concerts, piano concertos with St Matthew’s Chamber orchestra, vocalist and instrumentalists accompanied by piano and occasional use in a liturgical context will all be part of the role envisaged for this hard-working instrument.

Also included in this highly active period was an ‘off site’ organ concert of Bach organ works given by Director of Music, Tom Chatterton in our brother church, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Patrick. The mechanical action organ was eminently suitable for Bach and Tom’s playing ably demonstrated his impeccable understanding and skill in this repertoire. Although during the September/October period Tom had played much of this Bach in a liturgical context at St Matthew’s it truly shone in his concert performance.

Tim McWhannell was organist of St Matthew's (1993 – 2000) and is currently a parishioner who, recently returned to central Auckland delights in the liveliness of the parish music and liturgy. He is an organist for Auckland Rainbow Church and a member of the Music Events Group, who aid the promotion of the 2017 Concert Series.

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