The magnificent pipe organ of Ripon Cathedral is revealed in all its glory this month, with a Summer Organ Festival, showcasing what it can do and premiering a specially commissioned animation telling the cathedral’s 1350-year-old story.
The festival is part of a year of special events including art installations which run until the autumn, a photographic exhibition, concerts, talks and pilgrimages, as the cathedral celebrates the building of a great church on the site by its founding patron St Wilfrid in 672 AD. The remaining crypt is the oldest built fabric of any English cathedral.
Director of Music Dr Ronny Krippner said: “The Summer Organ Festival aims to show the organ in all its colours and all its glory and to give it the time and the attention it deserves. It is played in concerts and in services – to accompany the choir and at the end, but it has more of a serving role usually, whereas now it’s about letting it speak as a concert instrument and it’s really important to give it that opportunity.”
One of the highlights of the festival was a concert on June 21 by the acclaimed Scott Brothers Duo, whose programme was a collaboration between visual arts, organ composition and piano playing. They treated the audience to popular pieces such as Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Ahead of their concert Tom and Jonathan Scott performed at a free event for local schools at the cathedral, providing a fun insight into classical music for some 300 school children.
“It’s important that children are exposed to going to a concert, I think that’s the main thing… hearing instruments that you might not normally hear. I mean these days, on TV, you don’t get people giving organ recitals or piano recitals so young people aren’t going to be exposed to them readily,” said Jonathan.
Their animation A Cathedral’s Story premiered that evening to rapturous apolause. “I’ve spent thousands of hours working on this,” explained Tom, “and it’s been really interesting to do the background research in to how everything was and is now, from the Anglo Saxon monastery to the church built by Wilfrid that became Ripon Cathedral. I hope it will give a real sense of a journey through time on which people can go, bringing that story to life and offering a glimpse of history, of something being created.
“It’s wonderful to be part of this. Music plays a huge part in the life of the cathedral, it’s got wonderful instruments, a wonderful musical heritage, so it’s fantastic just to be a part of that. The animation is called ‘A Cathedral’s Story’ and the idea behind it is that if you go to Ripon Cathedral you become part of the cathedral’s story; for me and Jonathan to perform there we just feel that we are becoming a part of the history of Ripon Cathedral in that musical sense.”
“We have performed in concert halls all over the world, with orchestras and it’s great to have this sense of such a wide range of age groups watching animation and listening to live music,” added Jonathan.
The Summer Organ Festival began on June 7 with a concert by Dr Krippner. He explained: “The fact that you have a mobile console means that the player can play the building rather than sitting in an organ loft not knowing how it sounds downstairs and the audience can actually watch the organist play, which they are never usually able to do and this is always a barrier – in Ripon we don’t have that!”
The festival, which runs until July 5, features Leeds City Organist Darius Battiwalla, Assistant Director of Music at Ripon Cathedral – Tim Harper and Assistant Organist Shaun Turnbull.
Of his programme Tim said: “I’m celebrating several anniversaries, one of the most famous of which is the Belgian/French organsist César Franck who was born in 1822, so we celebrate his 200th anniversary. I’ll be playing his Fantasie in A, which was composed for the opening of the Trocadéro organ in Paris in 1878.”
“Enjoying the many colours which the organ has to offer – I might be privileged enough to bring the sounds of the organ to people who might not have heard it before and I hope there will be moments of meditation, reflection and joy.”
For full details of each evening’s programme and where to get tickets – please visit www.riponcathedral.org.uk/organ