Instrumental success in Sheffield

Simon Lindley
Simon Lindley
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SIMON Lindley gives his now seemingly annual recital on the historic ‘Father’ Willis organ in what used to be known as Hallam Methodist Church on Thursday, September 13.

It is still there, at Nether Green, but in recent times has been renamed as the Beacon at Nether Green Methodist Church.

It will be the distinguished organist and choral director’s third recital on the organ since 2010, when he gave the first to swell the Diamond Jubilee Fund of the Sheffield Bach Choir, of which he took up the appointment of conductor at the start of its 60th anniversary, 2009-2010.

He has recently discovered a rather nice piece of coincidence about the organ, originally by built by the first Henry (‘Father’) Willis for Broomhill Chapel in 1863 and transferred to its present location in 1946 after the former had been bombed.

“Recent possession of my late grandmother’s deed box, which I inherited from my father on his death in 2010, and careful perusal of the contents reveal that my family’s connection with the Broomhill Chapel extends to 1915 when she and my grandfather were married there,” reveals the organist.

“What a coincidence it is for me to have played so regularly on the Willis instrument at the Beacon (Hallam) Methodist Church at Nether Green, unknowing that its wonderful timbres certainly accompanied my grandparents’ nuptials in 1915,” he adds.

The London-born musician’s grandmother was born and brought up in Sheffield where her brothers were chartered accountants. His grandfather, a Methodist minister, was ordained as an Anglican priest at Leeds Parish Church in 1930 which is also not without coincidence.

Simon arrived at the historic Leeds landmark as master of the choristers and organist in 1975 and remains there to this day as master of music at the church which becomes known as Leeds Minster in just over a week’s time, from September 2.

But enough of name changes and genealogical coincidence, fascinating though it might be; what about the music on the Lindley programme for this year’s recital?

Quite a strong Sheffield connection surrounds one of the items being performed at it, actually – the second of two Louis Vierne pieces, Les Cloches de Hinckley – The Bells of Hinckley, from the composer’s fourth and last book of 24 Fantasy Pieces for organ Op 55, penned in 1927.

It is dedicated to ‘Mr JW Ibberson’, an amateur organist who studied with Widor in the 1890s, who took over running the long-established Sheffield cutlery and tool business George Ibberson and Company upon the death of his father in 1901.

Vierne played at the church of St Mary in the Leicestershire town of Hinckley on May 3, 1925 as part of a concert tour and the church’s carillon bell sounding every three hours kept him awake at night.

The tour included a concert in Sheffield when he stayed with the Ibberson family – “I’m pretty sure there’s an Ibberson connection somewhere along the line at Ranmoor,” believes Simon Lindley, his grandmother’s original stomping ground! The other piece by Vierne, who died 75 years ago, is Épitaphe from 24 Pieces in Free Style Op 31 No 4 and other anniversaries are marked: the 150th of the birth of Bradford-born Delius with his well-known The Walk to the Paradise Garden, and the 100th of the death of Massenet with The Last Sleep of the Virgin from his oratorio La Vierge.

Elsewhere are Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata No 1, Handel’s Overture to the Occasional Oratorio, Schumann’s Canon in B minor from Six Canonic Studies for pedal piano Op 56, Flor Peeters’ Variations on an original theme Op 58 and two pieces by hugely prolific Lefébure-Wely, Song of the Nuns from Religious Meditations Op 122 No 7 and Sortie in E flat.

The concert begins at 7.30pm and admission is free with a retiring collection in aid of the Sheffield Bach Choir’s Diamond Jubilee Fund.

The choir’s new season begins a month later on October 13 with a performance of Handel’s Solomon at Sheffield Cathedral.