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Brightwings 3 September 2009:

Fine performance ends annual organ music series

Dr Ron Newton at the organ, St Matthew's Church, Masterton

The 2009 Music at St Matthew's organ music series ended in fine style with a matinee performance by Dr Ron Newton.

While titled Victorian Matinee there was nothing Victorian about Dr Newton's performance. Relaxed and engaging, he immediately developed a great rapport with his audience and demonstrated a fine mastery of the Rodgers Trillium organ, together with sensitive, innovative registration.

C S Lang's triumphal, jaunty Tuba Tune opened the programme and was followed by a contemplative Elegy by George Thalben-Ball.

Andantino in D flat - more popularly known as Moonlight and roses - was the alltime audience favourite of distinguished concert organist Edwin Lemare (1865-1934). In 1906, with celebrity status rivalling that of a modern rock star, Lemare packed the Wellington Town Hall night after night with a week of organ recitals to mark the launch of the new Norman and Beard organ. Such was the financial success of the recitals that by the end of the week the organ was paid for. Following expertly in such illustrious footsteps, Dr Newton brought a delicious Edwardian flavour to his interpretation.

The Milner March, hinting at headmasterly pomp and much enjoyed by the audience, was written by Ron Newton to commemorate Waitaki Boys' High School Rector, Frank Milner, and demonstrated Dr Newton's fine skill as a composer.

 

  

Lilburn's little performed but beautiful Prelude and Fugue, written in 1940 for a competition which Lilburn subsequently won, was a concert highlight. This work, which starts in a very simple, understated way, develops into a complex and full-bodied fugue and was another fine performance.

The programme, which also included Franck, Mascagni, Parry, Bach and Barnett, was interspersed with two brackets of audience-selected hymns. The audience enjoyed a really good sing of Praise my soul and - highly appropriate to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War - God the all terrible. More organ recitalists should include audience participation in their recitals. It's a great way of building engagement with the audience.

The concert ended with a lively, stylish performance of Gigout's Toccata in B Minor and was followed by the audience singing Guide me, o thou great redeemer.

Dr Newton is well-known as an organ builder and tuner. Trading as the New Zealand Organ Manufactory, he is based in Oamaru but travels the length of New Zealand installing, restoring and keeping some of New Zealand's finest organs in good working order.

The Arthur Hobday pipe organ, which served St Matthew's for many years, has been restored by Dr Newton and is currently being installed in St Patrick's Basilica in Oamaru with the opening scheduled for 28 November 2009