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Sounds from St Albans

Sounds from St Albans cover picture

David Humphreys plays the organ at St Albans Cathedral

Allegro vivace from Symphonie V Charles-Marie Widor

Prélude sur une Antienne Jean Langlais

Suite Modale Flor Peeters

Moto Ostinato from Nedělni hudba Petr Eben

Benedictus Max Reger

Choral No. 3 in A minor César Franck

Meditation from Suite ‘Laudate Dominum’ Peter Hurford

Dieu Parmi Nous from La Nativité du Seigneur Olivier Messiaen

Total playing time 67m 36s

Sounds from St Albans

David Humphreys

Born in Hertfordshire in 1983, David Humphreys took up the organ aged 13, learning at St. Albans Abbey with Peter Dyke and Andrew Lucas. On leaving St Albans School, he studied at the Royal Academy of Music with David Titterington, gaining a first at the end of the Organ Foundation Course. At the same time, he held the Organ Scholarship at All Saints, Margaret Street. He then spent a year as Organ Scholar at St Albans Abbey, where he regularly accompanied both the Cathedral Choir and the Abbey Girls Choir. In September 2004, he went up to Jesus College, Cambridge as Organ Scholar, to read music.

David also plays the cello and, as a senior member of Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra, performed at many of the top concert venues in the UK, playing both cello and organ at the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, and St John's, Smith Square. During 2002, he performed cello and organ concertos with local orchestras.

David has taken part in chamber music masterclasses at the Purcell Room, the Menuhin School and Trinity College, London, and as an organist has performed in masterclasses with Dr Ewald Kooiman (Royal College of Organists) and Dr Peter Hurford (2003 St Albans International Organ Festival).

As a chorister and cellist he has taken part in several tours, visiting Germany, Austria, Hungary and Poland. Further European tours are planned in 2005 with the Jesus College choirs.

He has taken part in many CD recordings, and has played in concerts with John Lill, Jack Brymer, and Philip Langridge. While at St Albans Abbey he acted as accompanist for several choral societies, including the St Albans Bach Choir, for whom he recently played organ and continuo with the City of London Sinfonia.

The Organ

The organ at St Albans Cathedral has become famous throughout the world due to the St Albans International Organ Festival, founded by Peter Hurford in 1963. The Cathedral organ was rebuilt by Harrison and Harrison in 1962 to a design by Ralph Downes (Organist at Brompton Oratory), working in close collaboration with Peter Hurford (Master of the Music at St Albans Cathedral from 1958 to 1978). The organ is a particularly versatile instrument, capable of reflecting all schools of organ composition, providing the daily accompaniment for the Cathedral Choirs, leading and accompanying congregational singing and being at the centre of the International Organ Festival competitions and concerts.

Early records tell us that an organ was situated in the Chapel of St Mary in 1380, and that an Organist named Adam was in post in 1302, when John de Maryns was elected Abbot. The distinguished composer Robert Fayrfax was Organist at St Albans Abbey from c1498 to 1502, but records are sketchy until 1820, when Thomas Fowler was appointed. No mention is made of an organ in an inventory dated 1 November 1552, and there is no record of an organ until 1820, when an instrument by Father Smith and John Byfield, originally built by Father Smith for St Dunstan’s in the East in 1670, was installed.

A new organ was built in 1861 by William Hill, including the Father Smith Open Diapason from tenor C. The Abbey Church became the Cathedral of the new Diocese of St Albans in 1877, and in 1908 the organ was rebuilt with new oak cases (still in use today) by the firm of Abbott and Smith of Leeds. The organ was subsequently remodelled by Henry Willis and Son in 1929. It was decided however in 1958 that the instrument should be completely rebuilt, this time by Harrison and Harrison of Durham. Between 1959 and 1962 services were accompanied by a two-manual organ with 13 speaking stops, placed on the centre of the nave screen. The rebuilt organ was dedicated by the Bishop of St Albans on 18 November 1962.

The organ has been modified a little in recent years. In 1972 the nave of the Cathedral was reordered in response to changing liturgical needs, and at this time the manual mixtures were slightly raised in pitch and the console was moved to the centre of the organ loft with the organist facing west. In 1991 the Swell Cymbel was replaced by a three-rank Mixture designed by Mark Venning and Peter Hopps of Harrison and Harrison.

Recorded in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban on 6th and 7th August 2004 by kind permission of Andrew Lucas (Master of the Music) and the Dean and Chapter

Produced by Simon Johnson
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photograph by David Humphreys