Playing that fabulous organ as a teenager

The Revd David Burton Evans

Unforgettable experience

In November 1952 at the age of 17, I was allowed two mornings on the organ. It was unforgettable. I explored all the stops, from the powerful reeds to the gentlest strings and flutes. I played a selection of Bach and Rheinberger, Widor and Cesar Franck and extemporised widely to explore that incredible instrument's potential. I recall two particular memories, one was playing a sforzando chord on full organ, whose echo from the opposite wall hit the back of my head like a mallet; an extraordinary sensation. The other memory was whilst playing I was hailed from the stage below by a large elderly woman, "Come down yere, boyo"  Obviously Welsh like me.  I went down, she said she'd sung there years before, " and Queen Alexandra sat there" pointing to the royal box.  I shall sing now and you will play for me. I gulped but at that age in those days you did as you were told. "What will you sing?" I asked, "What ever you can play". I searched my mind and suggested Myfanwy, a lovely old Welsh folk song. I clambered back up, put down a chord of F minor and she started to sing.  It was incredible, she had a huge mezzo voice, filled the hall and she sounded wonderful.  We had just reached the middle section in the relative major and approaching a top Aflat when there was a sudden shriek from down below, I stopped, turned and saw her being bundled off by a couple of attendants.  Who she was, I never knew, I never saw her again but oh what a voice.  I was promised a play on the restored organ by old friend and colleague John Birch, the then Custodian, but the wretched man died before it could be arranged.  Ah me, but I have my memories.

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