Original Repertoire for Flute and Organ

Original Repertoire for Flute and Organ

The poetic relationship shared by two instruments is one of unquestionable intimacy, and incorporates a hoste of musical faculties unique to its creator, and the instruments for which the poetry is voiced. Original repertoire for flute and organ is undoubtedly scarce, rarely performed, and yet unquestionably charming. So “why” you might ask, are the reasons for its aloofness? Reasons are likely to include social restrictions, due to the limited availability and general locality of suitable instruments and venues; musical limitations, posed by the very tonal and technical specifications of each instrument; and physical difficulties, in that the cosmetics of each instrument have undergone such extensive developments over the past two-three centuries, and continue to do so. During this period, the tonal developments of the organ, particularly throughout North Western European countries such as France and Germany for instance, have resulted in the organ inhabiting a wealth of sounds, including strings and orchestral reeds, previously thought only to be achieved by that of a full orchestra. Similarly, the technical developments of the flute, most notably its material composition from wood to precious metals such as silver and gold, and its increasing advancements through the Theobald Boehm (1794-1881) and Albert Cooper (1924-2011) scale methods, has led to an influx of “extended techniques”, including quartertonality, harmonics and polliphony. This, together with advanced compositional and musical techniques continually entering new teretory, suggests endless scope for original and experimental compositions.

I was first drawn to the concept of music for flute and organ following a challenge I was set during my undergraduate study of improvisation. The challenge was, in recognition of the fact I play both organ and flute, to create a two-part invention for flute and organ pedals to be played simultaneously. Being faced with the assumption that this would be technically impossible, I set out to produce such a demonstration, and presented it in the following class. This ultimately led to an exploration of the flute sonatas by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), with the continuo bass being played on the organ pedals, then to simplified arrangements of other pieces for performance at weddings and the like, including J. S. Bach’s (1685-1750) Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, Charles Gounod’s (1818-1893) Ave Maria, César Franck’s (1822-1890) Panis Angelicus, and Gabriel Fauré’s (1845-1924) Pie Jesu. Following further investigation, it occurred to me that many of the scores available for flute and organ were in fact arrangements or adaptations of other pieces, which work very successfully in their own right, but which left me growing more and more curious over those which may have been composed exclusively for this unusual duo, raising the questions “how could repertoire for flute and organ be made more accessible to both performers and their audience?” and “what would convince composers that music for flute and organ can be just as successful as that written for other ensembles?”.

Commitment to this project began in November 2009, under the title “Works for Flute and Organ: does it, or doesn’t it?”. After some extensive, and often frustratingly lengthy searches, I discovered. 18 Attractive New Pieces, Music for Flute and Manuals edited by Alistair McPherson, which ultimately led to the indentification of those pieces by Hartmann (1805-1900) Preludium für Flöite og Orgel, Lachner (1803-1890) Elegie für Flöte und Orgel, and Alain (1911-1940) Invention à trois voix pour Flûte et Orgue respectively. Once these pieces had been successfully transcribed into Braille, with thanks to friend and fellow Ronald Bayfield, detailed study of the musical content could commence, intended for analysis and discussion in a lecture demonstration (St. Alfege church, Greenwich, 30 June 2009), and later used for recital purposes, with the ambition of pursuing a musical revival in what seemed like a forgotten world.

From early 2010, once I had identified and obtained several more titles, I became increasingly restless and enthused to produce a compilation as a more comprehensive method of documenting my findings, hence, this rather more detailed project evolved. My long term ambition is to produce a complete recorded collection of the repertoire, not just by means of acknowledging the works and their authors, but as a representation of my personal fulfillment and self-satisfaction. I feel it just as important to raise awareness of the repertoire among performers and composers, and to arouse a curiosity in the appreciating audience, both new and those existing, with the intention of increasing interest and accessibility to a number of works which have hither to remained silent, or which have fallen victim to displacement.

I have been extremely fortunate to have been in correspondence with a number of individuals from throughout urope and the USA, who have willingly and generously offered their time, support and resources in developing and establishing the context and content of this project. These include relations and ex-students of those late composers spoken of, living composers of some of the later works documented, and fellow performers of the repertoire, all to whom I am exceedingly grateful. I have been assured that further collaborations will be made available as the project “Original Repertoire for Flute and Organ” continues to evolve, and would be very glad to receive input from anyone who feels obliging, in order to further develop the subject areas, and thus prolong its success.

I believe music for flute and organ creates a unique and special acoustical ambience like no other ensemble. In celebration of this project, the flute along with hundreds of organ pipes have been united on the CD Reawakening: Original Works for Flute and Organ (Angela Purll, flutes, Christopher Lockyer, organ, 2011), breathing together in harmony, singing their way through songs of romanticism, nostalgia, hope, and vitality, intended to transport you through a world of musical delight which is yet to be fully revealed. The works featured on this compilation explore both sacred and secular committal, and include one of the earliest known pieces dated circa 1842, to one which was specially commissioned in 2011 in celebration of this album. The pieces have been recorded in chronological order to enable the listener to better realise and fully appreciate the musical and stylistic progression through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, with the purpose of “Reawakening” a number of works not known before to have been recorded or performed in their entirety, and to celebrate their renaissance.