In August 2018 Salisbury Cathedral was packed to the rafters as concert goers came to enjoy their first ever Organ Prom, a final 'adieu' before the Cathedral's famous Father Willis organ was decommissioned for restoration in 2019. Following completion of this restoration, the instrument sounds more glorious than ever. Due to current social distancing measures the 2020 Organ Prom takes the form of an album to hear at home - enjoy an evening of spine-tingling classics from across the continent on one of the finest organs in the United Kingdom.
Of this most recent album, John Challenger said: "Our Cathedral's great Father Willis organ, known and loved by listeners around the world, stood through the changes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the current pandemic of our own century, we are denied the thrill of live performances of great works in grand spaces, the unforgettable shared musical experiences, the joy of massed crowds. I hope this album might remind us that, despite the loss, trials and uncertainty which currently surround us, it will one day be possible to share memorable musical experiences again, in the glorious and awe-inspiring spaces we know and love. We couldn't let this summer pass without marking the return of our great organ from restoration, so I hope listeners will be able to find comfort in these well-known works, and the familiar sounds of this marvellous organ, restored for future generations."
William Walton, transcr. John Challenger: Orb and Sceptre March
George Frederic Handel, transcr. Edwin Lemare: Largo ('Ombre mai fu', Xerxes,), HWV 40
Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
Sergei Rachmaninov, transcr. Louis Vierne: Prelude in C sharp minor, Op.3 No.2
Edwin Lemare: Andantino ('Moonlight and Roses,) Op.82 No.2
Walter Alcock: Marche Triomphale
Edward Elgar, transcr. John Challenger: Nimrod (Enigma Variations), Op.36
Richard Wagner, transcr. Edwin Lemare: Prelude to Act III and Bridal Chorus (Lohengrin), WWV 75
Charles-Marie Widor: Toccata (Symphony No.5 in F minor, Op.42 No.1)
Sergei Rachmaninov, transcr. George Thalben-Ball: Elegy
Edward Elgar, transcr. Edwin Lemare: Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 in D major, Op.39 No.1
Recorded in Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, UK on 6th-8th July 2020
Recording Engineering & Editing: Andrew Post
Producer: Samuel Bristow
Organ Tuners: Stephen Alliss & Samuel Keeler-Walker Total Time: 78.09
Release Date: August 2020
Organist and conductor John Challenger has been Assistant Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral since 2012, where he was appointed at the age of 23. A Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, he was taught the organ by Frédéric Blanc, David Briggs, Jeremy Filsell, Mark Williams, and the late David Sanger.
In 2015 he released his début solo CD on the organ of Salisbury Cathedral, featuring transcriptions of orchestral works by Edward Elgar. The recording was awarded five stars by Choir & Organ Magazine, and received enthusiastic reviews in the American Record Review, Hi-Fi Plus, Organists’ Review, and on Classic FM, while Cathedral Music Magazine commented that ‘it would be difficult to imagine a more auspicious début CD’.
In early 2017, he acted as Director of Music of St John’s College, Cambridge (where he had been Organ Scholar), during the sabbatical of the College’s Director of Music, Andrew Nethsingha. During this period the world-famous choir’s performances were praised in Gramophone Magazine, and the choir broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Recent engagements have included directing Salisbury Musical Society and Salisbury Symphony Orchestra in Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, and appearing as organist for ‘Organ Vespers’—a sequence of organ cycles by Olivier Messiaen, performed in new liturgical contexts at Salisbury Cathedral.
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