Organ recital at St Michael’s Abbey

winged figure, St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough

winged figure, St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough

An example of serendipity: My lovely friend Sian and I went for a walk Sunday afternoon to Farnborough Abbey and stumbled upon an organ recital.

We were wandering around the grounds of Farnborough Abbey, heard music coming from the church, a neo-Gothic monstrosity, well suited to the set of a horror movie. We quietly walked inside, thinking there was a service on, intending to sit at the back and not disturb anyone.

As we walked in we were surprised to find the church full, but what really surprised us was the music coming from the organ. It was weird, surreal even, there was this music suited to a Hammer horror film, and no priest presiding. What was happening we thought, is this the dramatic music for a grand entrance by the priest? It took a while for it to dawn upon us that we had stumbled upon an organ recital which had probably not long started.

We stayed until the end, then had a brief chat with the organist Neil Wright. He was appointed in 2001 as the Organist of the Cavaillé-Coll organ at the Abbey. He is also a founder of the Annual Festival of New Organ Music in London.

The music was not really my cup of tea, late Victorian and seemed to tally with the date of the church. Personally I would have preferred Bach or Handel.

What struck us both was an amazing winged figure high above the altar, illuminated by a spotlight. Who or what we did not know. Possibly the Archangel Michael? [see Angels]

There is to be a series of organ recitals at the Abbey on the first Sunday of the month 3pm, starting on Sunday 2 May 2010 and running through until October 2010.

I had been to a harpsichord recital a few years ago in the crypt. The only publicity a little notice pinned to the gatepost. For this recital there was nothing as we had passed by only the previous Sunday.

On that day sharp-eyed Sian had spotted three scallop shells at the entrance to the abbey grounds. We both had the same thought, the waymark used for Camino de Santiago, the medieval pilgrim’s route Paulo Coelho followed on a quest for his sword and which he describes in The Pilgrimage. Our curiosity was aroused further when we learnt that this was used by the founder of the Abbey and that she was Spanish.

Sitting during the concert a thought wandered through my mind that this would be an ideal venue for Paulo Coelho to give a talk.

St Michael’s is a Benedictine Order and we hope to return in the near future to look around and talk to the Abbot. The Abbey is located in Farnborough, only a short trip from London by train and within a few minutes walk of Farnborough Station.

Saint Michael’s Abbey sits atop of a hill overlooking Farnborough. It was founded in 1883 by the Empress Eugenie and completed in 1888. The Abbey is a working abbey with a community of Benedictine Monks. Within the abbey crypt are the tombs of Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugenie. Their son, Prince Imperial, is also entombed within the abbey crypt. Occasional music recitals take place at the Abbey. Farnborough Abbey has recently republished a series of guides to Farnborough and the surrounding area.

Synchronicity: Sunday evening Paul Coelho reported that the Quest of the Sword was over!

Two CDs are available featuring the Abbey Cavaillé-Coll organ: Le Tombeau d’Eugénie (2003) and La Organiste (2008).

Also see

A warrior of light is never predictable


Quest of the Sword

A Christmas Tale

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One Response to “Organ recital at St Michael’s Abbey”

  1. The Quest of the Sword is over! « Keithpp's Blog Says:

    […] Blog Just another weblog « To see a world in a grain of sand Organ recital at St Michael’s Abbey […]

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