Olivier Messiaen’s contemporary compositions for organ have become know throughout the world for their varied textures and themes whilst being occasionally controversial.
His festive work, La Nativity du Seigneur, is made up of nine meditation works set to represent the nine months of pregnancy Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, endured. They begin with what is described of as “a mood of rapt contemplation – a moment frozen in time as the Virgin gazes down with infinite tenderness at her new-born child.”
As the works continue more and more of the functions of the historic Father Willis organ housed in Lincoln Cathedral is put through its paces reaching it’s thundering finale in God Among Us. So much so is the power of this meditation that the sheer volume of wind used to power the violent E major chord causes a vast draft to swirl around the ancient stones of the Cathedral. Messiaen said that “This toccata in E major is the essence of the piece, the long development which precedes it being nothing more than a preparation.”
Listened to by a crowd made up of varying ages and backgrounds, Colin Walsh, Lincoln Cathedral’s Organist Laureate (in charge of maintaining, promoting, and playing the organ) gave a rousing performance of this well loved work. His passion for not only the music but also the instrument itself is telling as following the performance and after taking his bows, he beckoned us to applaud the vast organ which stands tall above the collected listeners.
- Messiaen’s La Nativity du Seigneur was performed by Colin Walsh at Lincoln Cathedral of Sunday 20th December 2015