Uplifting concert in Cuckfield

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Readers' news

A concert at Holy Trinity Church, Cuckfield, sponsored by the Friends of the Holy Trinity Church, held on Sunday October 4 was entitled ‘Toccata’ - the Italian term originally used for a musical composition for a keyboard instrument designed to exhibit the performer’s touch and technique.

The Reverend Michael Maine, vicar of Cuckfield and virtuoso organist, certainly gave vivid meaning to the term as he put the venerable church organ through its paces in a programme so varied and colourful that it is conceivable that every stop of the organ was usefully employed!

The beautiful setting of the thirteenth-century stone church in the early autumn sunlight provided its superb acoustics to a recital which combined familiar Toccata classics from Bach and Widor with interpretations of lesser-known works from composers such as Rheinberger and Karg-Elert, which have clearly captured the imagination of the Reverend Maine during his distinguished musical career.

In this connection, a particular favourite of both the capacity audience and (I suspect) the performer, was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Military March, which had been arranged for organ by the Music Director at Truro Cathedral where Reverend Maine was once a chorister.

This quintessentially English composition provided a wonderfully rousing antidote to feelings of gloom following England’s elimination from the Rugby world cup the previous evening!

With such a varied programme of eleven organ pieces and three songs, it is indeed difficult to single out items for review. Three pieces, however, made a special impact on your correspondent.

First was a lesser-known composition, Allegro Grazioso by Brighton-born Frank Bridges. Bridges composed mainly for strings and this was clearly apparent in the subtle evolution and lyricism of the central theme, interpreted by the Reverend Maine with sensitive mastery of the organ’s ‘quiet’ stops.

Second, a particularly moving rendition was Reverend Maine’s sung performance of Quilter’s setting of Tennyson’s 1847 Sonnet Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal.

This sensitively performed lyrical paean to nature’s beauty at twilight could not have enjoyed a more evocative setting than the fading rays of afternoon sunlight through the glorious stained glass windows of the Holy Trinity Church. It has to be conceded, however, that one of the things we all go to organ recitals to hear is the thunderous resonance of the loud pipes.

The third item (which received equally thunderous applause from the concert goers) was, of course, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

It must be a challenge to find something new for an interpretation of this seminal organ work.

The Reverend Maine, however, certainly succeeded in a truly chiaroscuro rendition which shook the foundations of the church with its strident opening bars and then wove the intricate contrapuntal phrases of the Fugue with a masterly touch on pedals and manuals.

Paul Goldfinch, chairman of the Friends of the Holy Trinity Church expressed the warm appreciation of all attendees for what had been an inspiring and uplifting programme.

Guy Berkeley, the ever-enthusiastic sponsor and originator of the Friends’ series of Concerts, expressed his confidence that events like this will continue to expand the thriving membership of the Friends of the Holy Trinity Church.

Report contributed by Patricia Jamieson.