Really enjoying the loud bits

2008-03-11 00:00

USUALLY when I’m writing a review of a concert, my main worry is: “How critical dare I be?” In the case of Gordon Stewart’s organ recital at the city hall last Sunday afternoon, it’s more a matter of: “How gushing dare I be?”

It would have been worth giving up my Sunday snooze just for the centrepiece of Stewart’s series of delights, his rendition of Ravanello’s Variations in B Minor.

Why have I never heard this masterwork before? And how could Stewart have hit upon the absolutely perfect piece to not only thrill his audience, but to put our city’s wonderful organ through all its paces? I doubt there was a single one of its several thousand pipes that didn’t get a chance to flex its muscles.

But that’s the thing about this acclaimed soloist. Not only is he a brilliant organist, and has that boyishness that so many truly great organists have. He also has a great fondness for our organ, and so he tailored his programme to show it off in all its many moods and glories.

With Wolstenholme’s melancholically beautiful Romanza and Allegretto, Stewart more than proved that he is the master of melancholic delicacy.

But he is unashamed, unlike many organists, in admitting that what he really enjoys are the loud bits. After one of his pieces ended with a particularly thunderous bass note, he was downright impish in his delight.

“It was those sustained pedal notes that, when I was a boy, made me want to be an organist in the first place,” he told us.

And he sure let rip with that good old crowd-pleaser, Cocker’s Tuba Tune. Never have I heard it better played, and at the end of it he made sure our teeth were rattling with the loudest full organ I’ve ever heard. If there were any cobwebs in the city hall before, I doubt they’re still there.

In short, it’s the only one of the many organ recitals I’ve been to, that I never once felt bored at. It’s the only one that I’ve left on a complete adrenaline high. And the best news is that Gordon Stewart is back on June 8. Don’t miss it for the world.

• This peerless musician’s CD, Gordon Stewart Plays the Organ of Pietermaritzburg City Hall, was launched after the concert. I’ve just given it a whirl, and, believe you me, it’s worth forking out for.

Not only is there not a single one of those hoary old organ chestnuts on it, it also captures our city’s instrument at its best, played by the musician who understands and appreciates it best.

You can buy it by phoning Rose at 083 703 8140 or e-mail

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.