Neil Weston plays organ at Spencerville Seventh Day Adventist Church, Maryland, USA
Music by Christopher Boodle
My first introduction to the organ music of Christopher Boodle was in 1998 while browsing the shelves of a music store in London. I came across a copy of Toccata Éclatante and was immediately struck by the vigour of its writing and the creativity of its musical ideas. I was also thrilled to see that it was so obviously written with the player in mind, and that it would work smoothly and effectively on most instruments. I bought the piece, learned it, and subsequently gave its first broadcast performance on BBC Radio 3 in December 1998. Shortly after the broadcast, the composer and I made contact and I was introduced to more of his music, and thus began a fruitful and creative relationship between composer and performer.
Christopher Boodle’s organ music is quite unlike any other composer’s with which I am familiar. It runs the gamut of creative design: sometimes it is stark and earthy; at other times lyrical and tender. It is often uncompromising in its tonality, but it is never humdrum or predictable. It is typified by driving rhythm, with frequent repeated chords and ostinato figures. The music is often witty, and the allusions to the melodies or style of other composers never fails to give delight to both performer and audience. Christopher Boodle uses the organ as a powerful resource, and he paints a broad and vivid canvas contrasting unusual colours and unexpected sonorities with the immense joy and verve of some of the most exciting organ music I have been privileged to play.
This CD is the fulfilment of a long-held wish to bring together a representative collection of some of Christopher Boodle’s best work. The pieces on this recording span nearly twenty years of creative endeavour. They are extremely varied, and there is certainly something for everyone here: even for those who are not particularly engaged by contemporary organ works. This is one of the great gifts of this music. It is accessible, engaging, and exciting. I hope that the new audience gained through the release of this recording will find the music as rewarding as those audiences who have heard it so far.
A native of England, Neil Weston was a treble chorister at Chichester Cathedral and an entrance scholar in music at Harrow School. He went on to study at the Universities of Oxford and London, and at the Royal Academy of Music. He also holds the Associateship Diploma of the Royal College of Music, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. For four years he was Assistant Master of the Music at Chelmsford Cathedral, before moving to the United States. He has held positions at two Episcopal churches in the Washington, DC area, and is currently the Director of Liturgical Music at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Annandale, Virginia. He is active as a conductor and performer and has appeared as a soloist, continuo player, and conductor in the Kennedy Center, the National Cathedral, and other major venues in the city. He was awarded second prize in the final of the AGO National Competition in Organ Improvisation in July 2002.
Neil Weston is Assistant Conductor of the Alexandria Choral Society; Keyboard Artist of the Washington Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra; and organ teacher at Northern Virginia Community College.
Further information about the performer may be found at his website.
Christopher Boodle was born in Gloucester in 1952 and received his musical education at New College, Oxford, and the Royal College of Music in London. During his student years he gained the A.R.C.M. and F.R.C.O. diplomas, in addition to receiving first prize in the Incorporated Association of Organists Competition in 1974. For six years he lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, combining the post of Assistant Cathedral Organist with teaching, and conducting a choral society. In 1983 he moved back to England where he is active on a self-employed basis.
Christopher Boodle’s main activities now consist of solo organ-playing and composing. With regard to the former, performing venues have included festivals at Ross-on-Wye, Guiting Power, and the Three Choirs Festival; engagements abroad have included the Uster Festival in Switzerland. Compositions include three symphonies, much organ music, a Passiontide oratorio, a dramatic Cantata “Death of a Martyr” plus many chamber and church works. Christopher Boodle is now an Associate member of the Performing Rights Society, and Chairman of the Stroud Festival.
Further information concerning the music recorded here may be obtained direct from the composer by email.
Maryland, USA on 6th and 7th May 2002
Thanks to Mark Willey and Ann Whiteley.
Produced by Graham Elliott
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photographs by Lance Andrews