It felt like party time at the final concert of the 2018 series of Organ Concerts in All Saints church.
The huge audience was delighted to welcome Gordon Stewart to play for the 30th time in the series which uses the 1878 Father Willis organ. Gordon was playing to friends and greeted his audience with enormous good humour and cheerfulness. This in no way detracted from his playing, which was impeccable, as we have come to expect over the years. Gordon began with a lively Concert Overture by Hollins, setting the tone for the evening. This was followed by Unter der Linden Grune by Sweelink
This was a set of variations based on folk tunes, and played on the flute stops., with fast, furious, fluttering finger work. Next came a Toccata by Buxtehude. Each of these composers was important in their era, having many people travelling far and wide to hear them. Next came a charming tune by Robert Cockroft ,dedicated to “Marion”, the previous organiser of the series. The first half concluded with the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor by Bach. Never have I heard this monumental work played so brilliantly and dedicated to absolute veracity. Gordon is a master of almost clockwork rhythm needed in a piece of this magnitude.
After the interval, the organiser, Malcolm Lock, welcomed the Mayor of Hastings and the Deputy Mayor to the concert. After he had paid tribute to all the people who had been involved in the running of the series, Malcolm invited the Mayor to say a few words, which he did most graciously. Then a presentation was made to Gordon. He had requested a specialist book about musical technique which he offered to explain to anyone, later.!!! Then the Mayor was asked to present a beautiful silver salver, inscribed with suitable thanks to Gordon for all his help, advice and superb organ playing over the years.
Then we had to get back to the music, with a Sonata by Mendelssohn, who was largely responsible for reviving the music of Bach. We went next into a Monastery Garden, followed by a Sortie by Lefebure-Wely, the B flat one. The only jazzy piece of the evening was a Serenade by Derek Bourgeois, with a time signature of 11 beats in a bar, - not easy. The concert concluded with a splendid, noisy Toccata by Albert Renaud, using all the power and glory of the full organ.
The audience demanded an encore, and, as Gordon said, after all that noise, a quiet little piece by Bach brought a triumphant evening to a close. By Marion Lovell.