Keys, Hands, Feet and Pipes

Lights, cameras, action! william saundersWilliam Saunders There were lights, cameras, and plenty of action – including billowing smoke, stupendous organ music and 1,300 cheering children – at the Keys, Hands, Feet and Pipes organ extravaganza at the Corn Exchange, Ipswich, on Monday 4th July. Organists Daniel Moult and William Saunders took their young audiences on a whirlwind exploration of the history, music and mechanisms of the organ, dipping in and out of centuries with the aid of a time machine and a bountiful props department. “I liked the organ music best, especially when the organ was lit up with red lights and smoke,” said Matilda from St Matthews’ Primary School, one of the 13 schools from Suffolk and north Essex to attend. “She couldn’t stop talking about it,” said her mother. “It was such a memorable way to introduce the organ to 8-10 year olds.” The show opened in style with the immensely engaging Dan belting out Bach’s Toccata in D Minor. He then bounded across the stage to explain about the 3,000 pipes, some of them as tall as the Corn Exchange itself. The cameras panned to the interior of the organ. “Oh my goodness, there’s a man living inside the organ!” Closer scrutiny revealed it to be his colleague William. “Say hello to William everyone.” As live pictures of William examining the smallest pipes beamed onto the big screens, pupils from Ipswich Preparatory School politely chorused, “Hello Mr Saunders!” as they recognised the Assistant Director of Music from their Senior School. “Ipswich Preparatory School pupils were thrilled to be able to take part in such an exciting project, giving them first hand knowledge of this amazing instrument. I don’t think any of them will look at a pipe organ in quite the same way again!” said Beverley Steensma, Director of Music, who also prepared the pack sent to all children beforehand. The pack contained activities designed to introduce them to musical composition, and listening skills. The tasks were based round Animal Parade, Iain Farrington’s astonishing composition of animal sounds, first recorded by William Saunders last year at Brentwood Cathedral. As Dan encouraged the children to consider modern organ music, William played extracts illustrating the very different sounds symbolic of penguins, piranhas and hippopotami. Then it was time to play ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ Although the prize turned out to be lollipops (and not even a million of them), the children voted with gusto on questions relating to the sounds produced by the varying pipe lengths. Volunteers helped Dan play ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ on organ pipes. Dan Moult Dan Moult And then to everyone’s astonishment, they were treated to the final pedal solo from J.S. Bach’s Fugue in D major, played entirely by William’s feet in specially clad shoes.. “See the Smarties on his socks!” was the whisper going down the rows. “Mr Saunders has amazing twinkle toes and can play music really fast with his FEET!” exclaimed Chloe from Ipswich Prep. Finally, they heard the story of Daedalus and Icarus, who built wings of feathers and learnt to fly in order to escape from King Minos of Crete. Icarus in his exuberance flew too near the sun, and fell into the sea, leaving his father Daedalas broken-hearted. It was accompanied by improvised interludes from Dan to illustrate composition themes from the pack, such as swooping and falling. “The show was an education into the awesomeness of the organ,” said William who organ-ised it for the Suffolk Organists’ Association. “Lights, smoke, visual effects, and a superb selection of the world’s most famous organ music gave the pupils an inspirational and an educational experience. The concert also covered aspects of Key Stage 2 music, science, and literacy.” 1300 school children attended 1300 school children attended! For Carolyn Moss, Head of Prep at St Margaret’s School, Gosfield in Essex, it was the cross-curricular experience that was particularly useful. “We had picked it up in science for the Year 5s, and also introduced it into history and music. They hear the organ at the local church during carol concerts, but never as an instrument on its own.” The show’s sponsors, the Suffolk Organists’ Association (SOA), were thrilled with the take-up by so many schools, and by the local media, who sent out radio journalists, reporters and photographers. “We successfully showed that the organ is an immensely versatile instrument, in that you can play anything and everything on it, from the Beatles to Bach,” said SOA President, Roger Pulham. But the final note comes from Raul Ismaili, in Year 5 at Whitehouse Primary School, Ipswich, who has already been to the Royal Albert Hall. “It was fascinating, especially when he told us how the organ works. I would like to play the organ.” Cathy Shelbourne