I have been continuing my long term collaboration with Professor Doctor Ian Tracey this year. Our latest event took place on Tuesday 27th of March, when we presented an evening of Trumpet & Organ music in the beautiful Mossley Hill Parish Church, St. Matthew ans St. Paul. This venue is not only one of the most scenic in Liverpool but contains a wonderful 1873 organ by ‘Father Willis’ and one of the better acoustics for both performers and audience.
This concert was in aid of Garston Rotary Club, who put on such events to raise funds to support local charities and worthy causes. The audience began arriving during our rehearsal, which began at 5.30pm! It was great to see a good crowd, especially as it was in aid of charity. The performance commenced at 7.30pm and the programme included…
When getting booked for solo concerts, it always seems like there is ages before the event; but I can assure you that time flies and before one knows it there is only a short time to the performance. With people who work to schedules as busy as Ian and myself, it is nigh on impossible to find enough quality rehearsal time together. Individual preparation is key and anyway, events always intercede to conspire against all the most carefully made plans.
The previous few days’ schedule, for me alone, included rehearsals and performances for Berlioz’s ‘Symphony Fantastique,’ concerts in Carlisle & Preston and detailed rehearsals for ‘The Four Curmudgeons, by Wolf-Ferarri (an opera which needed a five hour rehearsal before our pre – concert run through at 5.30 on the day! However, we’ve been doing this together for quite a while now and so our work is becoming more efficient all the time.
All seemed ‘ship shape’ with the programme, but the church was a little large for un-amplified speaking and Ian was trapped in the organ loft so it would be down to me to introduce the programme. Although, I noticed the audience were to be provided with detailed notes on the music inside their programmes so that had used up much of my material already!
Never mind, I would have to resort to the less weel known snippets such as Purcell almost getting sacked from Westminster Abbey for charging a Guinea a time for interested people to visit his organ loft at Queen Mary’s Coronation. I also included the rumour about his untimely death coming about when his wife locked him out after a night on the tiles, and poor Purcell dying of a chill.
The audience had a good laugh hearing about the unfortunate Jeremiah Clarke, too. As if it wasn’t enough for Clarke to have much of his best output attributed to Henry Purcell until recently, he was ‘afflicted by a violent and passionate love for a woman well above his station.’ He decided to take his own life and tossed a coin to determine whether to hang or drown. Sadly, for the ‘unlucky’ Clarke, the coin stuck exactly vertically in the mud; seemingly leaving him no option but to shoot himself in the grounds of St. Paul’s Cathedral instead!
I am always amazed at the story of the incredible John Stanley’s life story. After a childhood accident, on a hearth at the age of two, Clarke was rendered almost totally blind for the rest of his life. He overcame this to become a well regarded violin soloist, but it was his prowess as the organist in Temple Church that attracted large crowds to hear his ‘Organ Voluntaries’, many of which employed the newly introduced ‘Trumpet Stop’ on the English organ. Stanley lived into his seventies and left a vast output of important compositions.
The theme of the concert was loosely based around this theme of the ‘Trumpet Voluntary;’ and all the music had been arranged personally by Ian & myself to use the modern piccolo trumpet and a lot of use of the organ ‘Trumpet’ stop. Having such a nice organ meant, although I wasn’t going to play any less music than usual, Ian was able to place several of his own arrangements into the concert, in between items.
We included the challenging ‘Semaine Sainte a Cuzco’, by Henri Tomasi as a tribute to the Great Maurice Andre, who sadly died two weeks before our concert. Andre had made his name playing music of a similar nature to that in our recital, so it was nice to be able to dedicate to whole evening to his memory.
It is interesting to note that the ‘A’ organ stop in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral has recently been named the Alan Stringer Trumpet Pipe, after the great former RLPO Principal Trumpet Alan Stringer, a fitting tribute to one of the world’s great symphonic players.
Visitors to this site will probably know enough about me already, but here is the low-down on the organ virtuoso that is Ian Tracey…
For regular visitors to this site, enough is known about me. Here is a brief low down about the illustrious virtuoso that is Ian Tracey…
Ian Tracey started to study the organ at Liverpool Cathedral under the cathedral organist at the time, Noel Rawsthorne. He then continued his studies at Trinity College, London before gaining further experience in Paris under André Isoir and Jean Langlais. In 1980 he took over from Noel Rawsthorne to become the youngest cathedral organist in the United Kingdom. He was later appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers at Liverpool Cathedral.
His current position is Organist Titulaire and therefore has responsibility over all the cathedral organs and recitals whlist being able to devote more time to teaching, recording, writing and lecturing.
In addition to his position at the cathedral Ian Tracey is also Organist to the City of Liverpool at St. George’s Hall, Chorus Master to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, Guest Director of Music for the BBC’s Daily Service, Professor, Fellow and Organist at Liverpool John Moores University and immediate past president of the Incorporated Association Of Organists.
In addition to his cathedral and university duties and conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, he is in demand as an organ recitalist in Europe and USA. He has also made a number of recordings, both solo and with orchestra.
In July 2006 he was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Music (honoris causa) in the University of Liverpool. This honorary doctorate was awarded to Professor Tracey for “his contribution to music”.
Anyway, after over ninety minutes of concert, with no interval and very tired ‘chops’; Ian and I decided we’d better finish. We enjoyed the concert enormously, and were overwhelmed by the compliments and reaction of the enthusiastic audience afterwards. Of course, it would not do to review our own concert. Therefore, I’ll leave you in the more than capable hands of Simon Cowen, RLPO Principal Trombone and Professor of Trombone at the RNCM to sum up the proceedings…
“… Although a trombonist, and a relatively happy one at that I have to admit that if I had to choose all over again it would most definitely be the trumpet that would grace my lips, it really is the instrument of the angels and ‘lo’ an angel appeared last night – in the guise of a 15 stone, follically-challenged Lancashire lad – I talk of my friend and colleague Brendan Ball who last night performed, along with the amazing Ian Tracey on organ, an evening recital of trumpet tunes from the ages.
Mossley Hill Church was the lucky venue and a whole crowd of trumpet aficionados, keen organists and all round good folk attended this 90 minute spectacle of piccolo trumpet virtuosity and organ wizardry.
Brendan was in ultra-fine form, at times soaring as high as a liver bird as his velvety smooth phrases spectacularly rang around this stunning church accompanied by the beautiful playing that can only be expected of Mr Tracey. The combination was a true delight, the real deal, as fine an example of trumpet & organ playing as one could wish for.
Jeremiah Clarke, Henri Tomasi, Stanley & Purcell, they were all out in their finest glory tonight, The Prince of Denmark marched magnificently and even the Sugar Plum Fairy made a welcome appearance in Ian Tracey’s very own transcription of ‘The Nutcracker.’
It was smart, it was sophisticated. Quite simply a wonderful evening of sublime music-making in a venue worthy of nothing less.” Simon Cowen
Ian and I will be recording our first commercial recording together, for release on CD, later this year. I will, of course, be posting all future events with Ian, and other solo projects on here.
We got booked again next year, too!