Autumn Organ Celebration

Dr Christopher Cockburn in Concert
St Thomas Church: Sun 30 May at 3pm
Master organist, Maestro Dr Christopher Cockburn, will be performing a solo afternoon concert on the magnificent newly-refurbished 116-year-old Henry Willis organ in St Thomas Church, Berea, on Sunday 30 May, starting at 3pm, to celebrate the completion of the organ’s major restoration process.
The programme features a carefully curated blend of famous and fabulous organ music – such as the perennial favourite Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by JS Bach, and the Toccata from Charles-Marie Widor’s fifth (of 10) organ symphonies. Interspersed with these two grand works will be pieces relevant to the organ’s illustrious past – almost a highlights package history of the instrument told through eclectic music. e
Dr Christopher Cockburn is well known throughout South Africa as an organ recitalist and accompanist. After graduating with a Masters degree in Organ Performance from UCT, he studied in London and was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists. On returning to South Africa, he was appointed Director of Music at Grahamstown Cathedral and Lecturer in Music at Rhodes University. In 2003 he moved to Durban to take up a lectureship at UKZN, where he also graduated with a Doctorate in Musicology. He has given recitals throughout South Africa and appeared as organ soloist with orchestras in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. He has been organist for many events organized by the Royal School of Church Music, including their National Summer Schools in KwaZulu-Natal, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg.
The organ is one of the best church pipe organs in South Africa. It is one of the few instruments in South Africa made by the world-renowned Henry Willis and Sons – a Liverpool-based, British firm of pipe organ builders founded in 1845, who have been making bespoke organs for more than five generations. They are responsible for many of the greatest organs in the UK and further afield: Winchester Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral London, Salisbury Cathedral, Kings College Chapel London and Truro Cathedral (where Cockburn has performed).
The St Thomas Church organ keeps distinguished company, being built in the same factory as so many globally great organs. “An organ is a work of art!” muses Cockburn. “One should no more tamper with the design of a good organ than re-paint the background to the Mona Lisa.”
“Unlike many instruments which have been changed and added to in order to reflect the changing tastes of generations of organists, the instrument at St Thomas has fortunately not suffered in this respect so it is very satisfying to play. It is an English Romantic organ, and several pieces on my programme will reflect this, but because it has retained its basic integrity one can effectively perform a range of other music on it,” Cockburn acknowledges. “So it has the character of an English Romantic organ, but because it’s a good example of its kind you can adapt it to play other music as well. What has happened to so many English Romantic organs is that people have tried to give them a Baroque character, or a French character, and that’s when the instrument loses its integrity. In fact, sometimes once they have been modified, you find that nothing sounds really good on them anymore!”
This concert forms part of the popular series that has been happening on Sundays at St Thomas Church. Tickets for the concert can be booked by contacting the church office in the mornings: ph. 031-201 2204 and WhatsApp organist Mervyn Payne on 082-706 4619.
Tickets are R100 with concessions of R80 for pensioners and students and must be pre booked before the day.
The programme will run at approx. one hour, no interval.
All monies raised will go towards the enormous costs of refurbishing the organ.
Covid protocols will be observed.

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