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DR JOE DAWSON REVIEWS Live YouTube performance by Jonathan Scott on Rochdale Town Hall Organ

Live YouTube performance by Jonathan Scott on Rochdale Town Hall Organ 5 June 2020


Spare a thought for classical musicians who saw their work opportunities dry up and their audiences locked down during the Coronavirus pandemic.


One performer who endeavoured to keep music alive during this time was Manchester-born international organist Jonathan Scott, who gave a special live online Rochdale Town Hall Organ Concert on Friday 5th June 2020 at 1pm (UK Time) on the YouTube channel, where it is still available on https://youtu.be/0bEnrPci2tM . It is also accessible through his website www.jonathanscott.co.uk.


According to YouTube, 676 of us watched it live on the day from all over the world. How fantastic that we can continue to see it because it is also an evocation of the town, beautifully filmed by brother Tom. Not just the town hall with its Gothic grandeur, staircases and stained glass, but also the newly-revealed River Roch, which substitutes for the eponymous Vltava river during the music of Smetana!


Jonathan studied piano and organ at Chetham’s School of Music and the RNCM, where he is now a member of staff. A distinguished performer worldwide, he is Associate Artist of the Bridgewater Hall where his popular lunchtime recitals attract audiences approaching 1000.


Jonathan is also the Honorary President of ORTOA (Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside Organists’ Association) and knows the town hall organ intimately, from hiring it for 50p per hour as a student to professional recitals and playing to a full house with his Christmas Extravaganzas in recent years.


The programme is a superb tour de force on the internationally renowned instrument, which was built by Binns in 1913. In addition to JS Bach’s Jig Fugue with its spectacular dancing feet on the pedal board we are treated to his own wonderful arrangements of Verdi’s Grand March from Aïda, Smetana’s Vltava (Má vlast), Saint-Saëns’ Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix (Samson et Dalila), and a finale of Lemare’s stupendous arrangement of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. These operatic and orchestral transcriptions demonstrate the full pallet of colours of the civic instrument with excellent introductions and insights from this outstanding interpreter and exponent.


The town hall will be closed for refurbishment at the end of 2020 but hopefully ORTOA will present at least two recitals before the organ is mothballed for the duration. But we will still have Jonathan Scott’s recording as a living exemplar.

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