Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Death by Wurlitzer: Antonia Quirke Finds That Organists Are a Gloomy, Extemporising Bunch

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Death by Wurlitzer: Antonia Quirke Finds That Organists Are a Gloomy, Extemporising Bunch

Article excerpt

The Organist Entertains

Radio 2

A humid, palm-flapping April night and Nigel Ogden is overseeing a stream of listeners' reminiscences about the organ music played at their weddings (26 April, 9.30pm). "We had a think about what we wanted and bought a cassette because, in those days, you had cassettes, not CDs or whatever," a woman is saying. "And then we played it to ray mum and she said, 'I don't believe it.'" There's no sense of urgency here. She's like a cat with its ears flat to the head, preparing to lick itself clean. Her story eventually ends with: "I'd always liked the 'Queen of Sheba'--but my cousin had that."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Others speak fondly of the Te Deum prelude and the Widor toccata but one says that she ecstatically requested Grieg's "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen" because: "I tried to learn to play it on the piano at school and never got it right, so I wanted to hear it played well." It's a lame excuse for the dirge that follows, played in extenso and so bloody awful that you can just imagine the groom--the flutter inside his chest subduing to a steady thump--turning to the bride and saying, "Who are you, young woman?"

Still, Ogden, I guess, is a nice enough guy. He and the Blackpool Tower organist, Phil Kel-sall, have been presenting the programme since 1980 but it's been around since 1969. The very definition of a niche gig ("A weekly show focusing on the organ in its many guises"), The Organist Entertains always, always, feels as pleasantly depressing as a Cath Kidston pinny. …

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