Martin Baker Improvises in Westminster Abbey

Martin Baker Improvises in Westminster Abbey

  • Martin Baker improvising at the conclusion of a broadcast of Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3 from Westminster Abbey back in December 1996 or 1997. This was the first improvisation ever made at Choral evensong according to what I can remember of the press cuttings at the time, can that be true? The Radio 3 audience were asked to suggest themes, and out of these, three were chosen, 'Come rest ye Merry Gentlemen', 'As shepards watched their flocks by night' and the Westmister chimes. And I almost missed the start of it too, which is why the audo starts so abruptly! As this was recorded off live FM radio the quality is not the best but more than good enough to demonstrate his fine ability. I think this improv is just perfect - melding the themes together seamlessly, magical :-)
    Martin Baker (born 1967) is currently Master of Music as Westminster Cathedral since 2000. He served as organ scholar in the cathedral for three years 1988-90, St Paul's Cathedral for two as Assistant Organist and Westmister Abbey as Sub Organist from 1992-8. He won the first prize at the St Albans Organ Festival Improvisation Competition in 1997 and is a very fine practicioner, though has sadly never made any recordings of them to my knowledge. But he regularly includes improvisations in his organ concerts.
    The Abbey organ is a much altered Harrison & Harrison of 1937 replacing a Hill organ from 1848, just in time for the coronation of King George VI. In 1986 changes were made to the great, pedal and choir organs, and a new bombarde division was added in the north triforium to help congregational singing and to provide some fearsome fanfare reeds too. You can hear them being unleashed towards the end of the improv, they are very loud! A fifth manual was added at this time too. The organ is disposed in the matching cases on the nave screen and up in the North triforium where all the large pedal stops are located.

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