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The Milton Organ dates from 1631, when Robert Dallam built a new organ for Magdalen College, Oxford. John Milton, no less, is reputed to have played it during its brief relocation to Hampton Court Palace prior to the Restoration of Charles II. Following a 1690s remodelling at Magdalen it was sold on to Tewkesbury in 1736, and over the next two centuries acquired Swell, Echo and Solo departments during rebuilds by the great Henry Willis and later Walker's.

The current four-manual restoration is by Kenneth Jones and Associates Pipe Organs of Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, builders of the organ for Dublin's National Concert Hall of Ireland and Christ Church Cathedral, and of instruments in a host of other striking locations. Prominent among these are Great St Mary's organ in Cambridge, Trinity College organ in the University of Melbourne, Australia, the organ at Rugby School, Warwickshire, UK and the Margaret Reynolds memorial organ in River Road Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Virginia, as well as organs in China (at the Chinese Central Music Conservatory, Fang Zhuang, Beijing) and Japan (for a Catholic church near Hiroshima).

Carleton Etherington, a former winner of the Royal College of Organists' 'Performer of the Year' Award and a pupil of Peter Hurford, David Sanger and Nicholas Danby -- in UK terms the credentials don't come much better than that -- is one of both the Midlands' and England's outstanding solo organists and broadcasters. He also serves as organist to Tewkesbury Abbey, following a period as assistant to Simon Lindley at Leeds Parish Church.

Carleton Etherington. © Adrian Burrows
Carleton Etherington. © Adrian Burrows

This is a magnificently inventive programme for a resplendent instrument, and Etherington's talents serve both superbly. As you'd expect, he knows this Tewkesbury organ backwards, and proves especially masterly at finding subtle and unexpected nuances of registration that inform, colour and penetrate not just solo work but even the thickest forte registrations.

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Copyright © 24 May 2003 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK


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