The island nation of New Zealand used to be mentioned
only in Agatha Christie novels as an appropriate place for English
speaking people suddenly to emerge from or suddenly to disappear
to, the surface of the moon being, at that time, due to technical
considerations, as yet unavailable for such purposes. But now
New Zealand has conquered the world by means of two films (a third
being promised) based on the Tolkien novels. New Zealand has triumphed
where Hollywood and London had, following 50 years of pitiful
struggle, miserably failed. The superiority of New Zealand having
thus been definitively established, other things from there are
now of interest. Already volume 1 of Bonbons for Organ
has become a best seller (regrettably I’ve not heard it) but never
fear (fanfare, please) volume 2 is here!
The first selection is, perhaps not surprisingly,
the New Zealand national anthem, "God Defend New Zealand:"
God of nations! at Thy feet
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our Free Land.
Guard Pacific's triple star,
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.
Thomas Bracken (1843-1898)
We are spared the words in this performance,
but soon we spy that there is a purpose to it for the second selection
is a set of variations on that same tune. Foreigners understandably
being unfamiliar with the song would naturally require a refresher
This set of variations on a national air is not
nearly so much fun as Charles Ives’ set of organ variations on
the tune that is sometimes known in the colonies as ‘My country,
‘tis of thee.’ Mention of this Ives composition under the wrong
circumstances could easily get your name struck permanently off
the invitation list for Royal teas, and might even earn you a
dead fly in your next G&T. Now that’s FIREWORKS. However unless
fireworks is New Zealander slang for gentle smirk, or maybe
quiet snicker, the piece is not aptly described. No, this set
of variations is a perfectly acceptable topic of conversation
at most Royal occasions, right after She says something modestly
dismissive about New Zealand in general, of course.
I have a particular nostalgia for Bach’s BWV
592 because in my very first love affair it was "our song."
Surely not terribly many starry eyed teenage lovers have a special
song with a BWV number, but I have never confessed to being anything
other than exceptional. And while Setchell’s performance of it
is quite OK, my performance is better, my registration is better,
and my ornamentation is better. So if those of you who admire
this recording want something a little more upscale, watch this
space for information on how to purchase my recording of this
music when it becomes available.
Finlandia as performed here is arranged
by Fricker; but not the Fricker you might expect, that is to say
P. Racine Fricker, composer and professor at the Royal College
of Music and actually a distant relative of Racine. No, not that
Fricker whose surname was once described in a masterpiece of British
understatement as ‘faintly Teutonic.’ No, this Fricker is a different
Fricker entirely, Herbert Fricker, who was organist at Leeds Town
Hall before emigrating to Canada. And while Canada is not nearly
so conservative nor so far away from England as New Zealand, many
will no doubt consider it to be a step in entirely the right direction.
Organist Setchell himself was born in 1949 in
Blackpool, England. He is also a linguist as well as a musicologist,
and teaches and lectures at various universities as well as giving
concerts in many countries. He is occasionally even permitted
to return briefly to the UK.
Although the Gymnopedies of Satie are
heard these days played on almost every combination of instruments
except its native instrument, the piano, this organ version by
Setchell is particularly effective. The Sousa is played with plenty
of bounce, and there are genuine wit and sarcasm in the Walton.
The Callaerts and Grison Toccatas are unfamiliar (to me) but brilliant
display pieces of considerable interest. Setchell brings the requisite
heaviness to the Saint-Saëns, and the clever and sprightly
Langlais gives the perfect contrast. The Finlandia makes
abundant use of the organ’s extensive brass voices. The Yon Humoresque
makes a quiet interlude between two loud pieces. It is startling
to think of the rollicking Sortie by Lefébure-Wély
actually played in any church, let alone Saint-Sulpice; a music
hall would be more like it, but it brings things to a solid conclusion.
Although it was built by an Austrian firm, this
is a French organ in sound and style, and the performer underlines
that by programming much French organ music. We might hope that
in the future recorded recitals of French repertoire might issue
from this venue. The cartoon figures on the packaging (and the
tone of my comments) might have you believe that this is a comic
concert with whoops and shrieks and a laugh track, but in fact
it is more in the mood of a noontime organ recital. Although Number
2 might bring a smile to the face of a New Zealander, there is
nothing here that is blatantly satirical or bufffoonish; while
some of the music is quite serious, most of it is light in nature.
However, it should be obvious that the whole production has left
me in a playful mood and I suspect it will do as well for you.
Spoofing aside, Mr. Setchell is a virtuoso of awesome capabilities
and knows how to use of every feature of this huge instrument
with its 32 foot kontraposaune, and make it all sound so
easy, which it most certainly is not. The variety of pieces displays
the organ to very good advantage, and, since the recording is
demonstration quality, enthusiasts of organ sound would find this
a valid documentation of this beautiful and unique instrument
which includes a sequencer. But this is not a true theatre organ,
and as such there is no xylophone in the Sabre Dance, no cymbals
in the Mohrentanz, no drums or snares in the Sousa, and no drum
roll before the National Anthem.
If your favourite record shop does not stock
this CD, it is available on line from
see also review
by Simon Jenner