A new three-part documentary featuring Dundee’s Caird Hall reveals the vibrant culture and history of The English Organ.
A new feature length documentary by Fugue State Films traces the history and development of the organ and its music from c1550 to the present, showcasing its vibrant culture, music and social impact.
The English Organ, directed by Will Fraser, is presented by Daniel Moult, international performer and Director of Organ Studies at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The four DVD and three CD boxed set charts the history of the organ, its design and cultural significance.
Filmed across 40 locations in three continents, the box set also features musical performances on each of the 33 organs featured, including a guest appearance from the famous Truro Cathedral girl choristers.
This documentary celebrates the arc and development of the organ in this country, but also tells a broader story as the development of the organ exactly echoes the narrative of all the major events and epochs in our history, from reformation, civil war, restoration, slave trade, colonial expansion, industrial revolution, democratisation, world wars, popular culture, religious decline and even Brexit!
Will said: ‘What I found fascinating about this project was how it exists on two levels, the musical story that you would expect, plus also this new and quirky view of English history. Taken together I think this film will speak to anyone who is interested in either music or history, or of course both.’
The range and quality of the instruments is evident in the films, from the smallest example of Victorian mass production, via bespoke instruments for churches, cathedrals, concert halls and educational establishments to the biggest organ in the world at its time at Sydney Town Hall.
Will and Daniel filmed a piece of repertoire and a demonstration of each of the 33 organs and spoke to historians, organ builders and restorers, priests, professors, choirmasters and musicians. They discovered that the organ and its music give a startlingly vivid portrait of the English quest for, and retreat from, identity.
Like any cultural or technological artefact, the organ represents its time and the people who built it. This story features several strands – musical, social, historical, political and religious, but above all it is a musical story. Daniel’s passionate presentation, knowledge and musicianship is evident as he effortlessly moves from one instrument or historical style to another.
Filled with dozens of pieces of music, musical highlights within the box set include much loved pieces by Handel, Parry, Stanford, Elgar, Howells and Whitlock, to name just a few.
The English Organ will not only entertain and inform organ and music enthusiasts, but hopefully break perceptions and outdated opinion of the organ as an unapproachable and unplayable instrument. The once thriving industry of organ building has seen numbers of employees drop in the UK from 6000 just after the second world war to around 350 today. It is also mostly the domain of male scholars and musicians but Will and Daniel hope to inspire and encourage more female scholars and younger musicians in general to take up the organ.
This luxurious boxed set is the magnum opus of Fugue State Films, and will appeal to anyone with an interest in music, the organ or English history. The English Organ is available for Christmas pre order now at https://fuguestatefilms.co.uk.