Saturday, 3 March 2012

Organ Music in the Chapel at Marlborough College.

High altar in the Chapel, with the organ pipes (left)
The music department at Marlborough College hold organ recitals every year, and last week I listened to  works by Louis Nicolas Clerambault (1676 to 1749) a French composer, and also to music by the modern French composer Pierre Cocherau (1924-1984.)   I am realising that I enjoy modern organ music, which at times is discordant,  but which  has huge sounds, joyful at times,  sometimes threatening and always very exciting.   Last year in the Kaiserdom in Königslutter near Braunschweig, I heard the most amazing music by Baptiste Dupont,  "Improvisation über ein gegebenes Thema,"   Improvisations on given Themes.   This work sounded like an industrial city starting up in the early morning fog.  The engines whirled, clanged and banged, the whistles blew,  valves and pistons hissed open, blew their tops and closed, and  at the end of the day all gradually shut down, until a final whistle spluttered into silence.     

The "new" Marlborough College Chapel, dedicated to St Michael and All Angels was   consecrated on 29th September, 1886 by the Bishop of Salisbury.  It was erected on the site of the old chapel, and  was built at a cost of £31,000 by Stephens & Barstow  and under the direction of architects, George Bodley and Thomas Garner.  The organ was restored  circa  2006, the contract for its rebuild going to "Beckerath" of Hamburg.   The chapel is a  wonderful place in which to sing, and our spring concert is held here every year.    This year we are singing "Messiah" by Händel.
Mural of "The Woman at the Well" painted circa 1880
Three of the murals that surround the chapel walls.
A series of 12 large murals by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Spencer Stanhope adorn the walls. They depict Biblical scenes involving angels, six on the north side from the Old Testament and a similar number on the south from the New Testament.    Other artistic features of note are the Scholars' Window on the south side (a green window featuring two boys,  which was designed by Burne-Jones and made under the direction of William Morris) and Eric Gill`s sculpture of “The Virgin and Child” outside, above  the West Door.  The ceiling of the apse is a bright, heavenly blue, and just visible at the top in the first photograph.   

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