Event review: an evening with former organists of Croydon Minster

By - Wednesday 15th June, 2016

The minster’s the daddy, says Sue Harling, and its former organists provided a wonderful evening’s entertainment

As a choral singer of thirty years’ standing, I like to think I know quality and consistency when I hear it, and the minster choral foundation has never failed to impress. I wasn’t sure what to expect, though, when a friend invited me to an ‘evening with former organists of Croydon Minster’ on Bank Holiday Monday, 30th May. I hadn’t appreciated until then just how integral the role of Director of Music is to church life, or that the director has two equally important roles: that of organist and that of training the choir.

The object of the event was to raise money for the minster’s organ restoration appeal, and the fact that no fewer than seven former organists donated their time and considerable talents is testament to the affection they hold for the minster (formerly Croydon Parish Church, as they will have known it).

The evening started with a piece from the choral foundation under the expert leadership of current incumbent Ronny Krippner. Thereafter the seven organists each performed a piece that they had selected. This made for tremendous variation, from the capricious Tantum Ergo performed by Nigel McLintock to the more solemn Bach prelude performed by Ian Keatley. These two currently ply their trade north and south of the Irish border in the cathedrals of St Peter and Christ Church respectively. Whatever your personal views on the individual pieces, there was no doubting the level of skill involved.

Who knew that organists were such a racy lot?

What made the evening really special was the question and answer session between the performances. Andrew Cantrill (Royal Hospital School, Holbrook) spoke about links with choristers from the minster schools. David Swinson (Trinity School) was saddened by how much the organ had deteriorated since the early ’90s. We learnt from the final trio of Simon Lole (formerly Salisbury Cathedral), Carl Jackson (the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court) and Peter Nardone (Worcester Cathedral) about people getting lost in Amsterdam and, my personal favourite, a colleague resorting to an impromptu midnight performance for a couple of local police officers to prove that he wasn’t up to no good leaving the church late at night. Who knew that esteemed cathedral musicians were such a racy lot?

But the highlight of the evening for me was not even an organ piece. Each performer had been asked what organ pipe they would be. You could have heard a pin drop when Peter Nardone replied “Vox Humana”, stepped forward and gave an incongruously beautiful rendition of Purcell’s ‘Music for a While’ in the most exquisite counter tenor voice I’ve ever heard. Ronny Krippner’s piano accompaniment was a perfect compliment.

Peter was musical director of my choir, Croydon Bach, until 2001, but I’m not biased as I can’t recall him doing anything like that in a rehearsal. Since his day most of our concerts have taken place elsewhere in the borough: at St Matthew’s in Chichester Road, St John’s (Shirley and Upper Norwood), St Mary’s (Canning Road), St Mildred’s (Bingham Road) and St Michael’s (Poplar Walk). Each of these are beautiful in their own way, falling masonry notwithstanding, but Monday’s event reminded me that in terms of Christian places of worship in Croydon, the minster’s the daddy.

The next event for the organ restoration appeal is the minster’s hymnathon: 500 hymns will be sung non-stop for thirty hours, culminating in a gala concert of the top ten favourites at 7pm on 2nd July. A group of us from Croydon Bach will be lending support. Singing in the minster? In the middle of the night? Yes please!

Sue Harling

Sue Harling

Sue Harling moved to Croydon from Leicester twenty-three years ago via Bath, Krefeld and other parts of London. She lives with her family in Waddon, where there is plentiful access to her favourite pastimes: tribute bands, cafes, choral singing and quizzes. In her spare time she’s a civil servant.

More Posts