Handwashers’ Newsletter 31st January 2021


As an organist, I am frequently asked to play at funerals, both at the Abbey and at other churches. The musical provision for these services varies dramatically. Traditionally, the requirement would be some fairly sombre music before the service, a couple of hymns and an appropriate voluntary at the end. Nowadays, it is increasingly popular to have CD’s played at the beginning and end of the ceremony, and the perception of what is appropriate has broadened considerably over the years!

This week, I played for my first funeral in ten months. Sadly, it was the funeral of a friend and parishioner at the Abbey who had died suddenly. Music had played an important part in this person’s life so, unsurprisingly, some lovely music was requested for the service, including pieces by Purcell, Howells, Vaughan Williams and Elgar. The widow asked me to play Elgar’s Triumphal March from ‘Caractacus’ at the end of the service -she wanted something upbeat, and this piece was played at their wedding forty years ago, so it seemed the perfect choice. Fortunately, I did have an organ transcription of this piece, which I immediately set about learning – there are a lot of notes!

I thought I would share this stirring music with you this week, but in Elgar’s original orchestral version. This performance is directed by the legendary, Sir Adrian Boult.


 GREAT CONDUCTORS remembered by Dorothy Hartridge:

In the 1960’s when David and I were living in Windsor we were easily able to go up to the Festival Hall in London and we saw conductors like Otto Klemperer and Carlo Maria Giulini.


 By that time Klemperer was quite old and he was helped on to the stage and sat on a tall stool to conduct but he was still very impressive.

Otto Klemperer

Here is Klemperer conducting Beethoven’s 6th Symphony at the Royal Festival Hall:


Giulini on the other hand was a very dashing figure. We went round to the stage door after the concert and he came out wearing a black brimmed hat and a black cape with a red lining which he swung elegantly over his shoulder.

Here’s the hat:

 and the cape:

and the baton in Brahms 4:


OLIVIER MESSIAEN (1908 – 1992) reminds Lorna:

When I read Carleton’s piece about being awarded 1st organ prize by Olivier Messiaen, I was reminded of the first time I heard Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time; I thought it was absolutely stunning! It has an interesting history:

Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time)

Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered World War II. He was captured by the German army in June 1940 and imprisoned in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp in what is now Poland.

In the camp Messiaen met other professional musicians, a clarinetist, a violinist and a cellist and, after he managed to obtain some paper and a small pencil from a sympathetic guard, he wrote a short trio for them. This soon developed into the Quatuor pour la fin du temps. In that first performance, in the prison camp in 1941, Messiaen played the piano (with keys that didn’t always repeat, and the cello used had only three strings. This combination of instruments apparently had not been used before and rarely since!

The World Premier?

And here it is in a peacetime setting:


(Editor’s Comment: I was struggling to understand Lorna’s liking of the quartet until I made this typo: Quartet for the End of Tim )

Going back in time to 1927 when Messiaen joined Marcel Dupres’ organ course. After having never seen an organ console before, he sat quietly for an hour while Dupres explained and demonstrated the instrument. He then came back a week later to play Bach’s Fantasia in C Minor ‘to an impressive standard’.

The young Messiaen

As Carleton didn’t play any Messiaen or Bach in his You Tube video, I thought you might like to hear Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor:

Bach – Fantasia and fugue in C minor BWV 537 – Wiersinga | Netherlands Bach Society – YouTube

Mention of World War ll reminds us that last Wednesday was Holocaust Memorial Day. Anita Lasker, born in 1925,  survived Auschwitz by playing her cello in the womens’ orchestra.

In 1946, Anita moved to Great Britain where she married the pianist Peter Wallfisch. Here is their son, Raphael, playing Prayer by Ernest Bloch:



Mention of Vaughan Williams reminded me of an early introduction to his music. Our music teacher had the whole school march into the hall where she played Vaughan Williams’ Symphony Antarctica on gramophone records:


Two hundred and fifty girls sat cross-legged on the floor with backs ramrod straight and woe betide anyone who moved a muscle! It didn’t endear me to his music (that came later).

How could I have known then that one day I would live in Down Ampney about 100yrds from the house where he was born! I met his widow Ursula at the Vaughan Williams festival and she told me that he insisted that his name was pronounced Rafe and got very irate if anyone pronounced it otherwise!


Next Saturday 6th February at 11.00 am Warwick Cole and violinist Laurence Kempton will be presenting an online live-streamed concert from the Music at Minch You Tube channel:


They will play: Handel Sonata in E major; Vivaldi: slow movement from Winter; John Williams: ‘Winter 1941’ from Schindler’s List; Dvorak Romantic piece no 1 and finish with the lovely Dvorak Sonatina. 

There are also plans for James Gilchrist to finally give his recital of songs by Brahms, Spohr and Prince Albert on March 6.


Just to prove there’s nothing new under the sun:


and Pat Scott offers this:

Thought you would like this. A really fun piece by Noel Rawsthorne who was a family friend and played at our wedding a long time ago. He was organist at Liverpool cathedral for many years.