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Martin Setchell - concert organist

Updated on October 2, 2012

Organ concerts made fun!

Time was, people flocked to hear grand organs played. Often standing room only and late-comers to the concerts could expect to be disappointed. Then somehow, the emphasis shifted a little, and organ concerts or recitals became a dreaded concept! Perhaps people imagined having to sit through hours of the sort of sounds that Aunty Min would make, thumping away at her old harmonium. Often a turn off for potential audiences was the thought that they would have to perch for hours on a cold, hard church pew, with a wind whistling around their nether regions. No mention of fun here, even if the music was vaguely approachable.

A new generation of organists have come on the scene, determined to show people that the music itself is still as good as ever (and always has been!) but the presentation, the personable approach, the concert quality of the music and the rapport with the audience has changed the scene for the pipe organ .

Make no mistake: the organ can be the grandest, largest, most mind-blowing instrument in the universe; it can also dance, sing, laugh, giggle and do almost anything asked of it - in the right hands. Martin Setchell has such hands, as audiences around the world will know. From Japan to Christchurch in New Zealand, from Wiesbaden in Germany to Shanghai in China, from Singapore to Edinburgh, Martin has brought his own special kind of music, that sets out to say: let's have fun, let's allow the music to be its own master and make us listen to it again as if we are newborn babies.

A concert by Martin is a journey into a rainbow world of sound - from the masters such as Bach and Buxtehude to orchestral arrangements and cheeky little modern numbers, Martin brings the orchestral sounds in a box down from the loft to the audience.

Martin Setchell's choral music on Youtube

Martin Setchell's 3 Piece Suite
Martin Setchell's 3 Piece Suite

Martin's Two Suites

published by Fagus

Quite apart from sounding absolutely splendid, it is not actually too difficult, once you get that rhythm going, (your publisher played it - to gasps of astonishment last Christmas) and it really does make an exhilarating concluding voluntary for a Christmas service. A pdf of the first three pages is attached, and you can hear Martin playing the piece at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar2qLbEwVA4 on the Rieger organ in the Christchurch Town Hall (now sadly unusable at the moment after the serious earthquake).

Go to http://www.fagus-music.com/ to contact the publishers.

Michael Barone on Pipedreams interviews Martin

In December Michael Barone, host of the widely popular Pipedreams broadcast by American Public Media in Minnesota, interviewed Martin briefly as part of the Piped reams wrap-up show for the year "An Organist's Yearbook".

Michael asked Martin what it was like coping with the loss of so many pipe organs in Christchurch after the devastating earthquakes that have ripped through the city since September 2010. Martin also talked about the state of the organ in the Town hall of which he is the curator, and the hopes of the organ world for the future in Christchurch. Listen to the two interviews which are linked from the Pipedreams website (Click on the picture of the organ here) and listen to Michael's wonderful programme of music for the end of the year.

Listen here

Martin Setchell's organ music on YouTube

Martin's MP3 downloads

Martin writes....

Audiences behaving badly

"Please would you now ensure your cell-phones and other portable electronic devices are turned off as these may interfere with the performers' concentration and other people's enjoyment"

Could this become the pre-performance parallel to the airlines' pre-flight announcement? A similar request was made before Andras Schiff began his town hall piano recital here. No doubt the organisers had in mind the fact that the Hungarian virtuoso had stormed off the stage of the Usher Hall during his latest Edinburgh Festival performance in protest against audience noise intrusion.

As a regular performer and audience-member I have every sympathy with him. I can still vividly recall the shock to concentration when at the quietest moment of Debussy's Clair de Lune during one of my town hall organ concerts, a cellphone not only rang loudly, but its owner proceeded to answer it and indulge in audible conversation. It's so bad in the cellular jungle of Hong Kong that performance venues, libraries, and hospitals are considering installing mobile-phone jamming systems.

Forgetting to turn off cellphones, pagers, and beeping watches is the most recent additions to a long-established catalogue of audience bad behaviour. Today's audiences are certainly more civilised than, for example, their 18th century counterparts in Italian opera houses who thought nothing of eating, drinking, card-playing, and even brawling during a performance. Haydn reputedly inserted the sudden loud chord in the soft slow movement of his Surprise symphony to discourage the female members of his audience from dozing off, and probably snoring.

But other irritants abound. Coughing, throat-clearing, sneezing, and nose-blowing can get so chronic that many a performance should be retitled 'The Coughing Cantata' or 'The Sound of Mucus'. No longer do patrons really try to hold that niggling excretion until the end of a movement or a natural break in the dialogue. That first cough always elicits an echo chorus of sympathy. Are these people genuinely suffering uncontrollable muscular reactions? If so, perhaps they should consider not attending in the first place. Are they expressing boredom, or disapproval of the performance? Do they have an egocentric desire to draw attention to themselves? Performance venues are responding imaginatively in case more ardent listeners decide to give live performances a miss, and the coughers end up affecting the coffers. At Birmingham's Symphony Hall, for example, patrons have been issued with free cough-lozenges since 1993. Fortunately they have waxed wrappers, (the sweets, that is) because that crinkle-crackle of paper is another common interruption.

Casual conversation during live performance is totally unforgivable. If you're spellbound by maestro X the last thing you want to hear is "Don't you think he's looking older, dear?" (not even in a stage-whisper) from Aunt Daisy in the row behind. When a New York theatre-goer chided his neighbour for it, her husband, seated alongside, counter-attacked. Perhaps 'stage-rage' will be the inevitable successor of road-rage and air-rage?

I suggest there are reasons for modern audiences behaving badly in theatres, concert-halls, and opera houses. TV, CD and now DVD represent marvellous technology, but because they carry on regardless while we eat or talk, we forget that live performers can't do the same. Open-air concerts provide great entertainment for the masses, but do people unwittingly transfer their conventions to the indoor venue? The aural wall-paper of musack everywhere from lift, to shopping-mall, to answerphone encourages the concept of music as 'aural wallpaper' meant as a pleasant background to something more important, rather than art needing 100 per cent concentration. Perhaps we have become so conscious of our rights as individuals that we are forgetting our communal responsibilities.

Think about it: when did you last hear the musicians or the actors cough or stop to answer their cellphone?

And don't say Mimi coughing in La Boheme.

Music scores by Martin Setchell on Amazon

Let me know what you think of my lens - even though it is still in the early stages of building.

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    • Churchmouse LM profile image
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      Churchmouse LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for your comment!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I didn't know Martin Setchell until I stumbled upon this lens. Great music! Liked. :)