Ten Diverse Composers Create Portico Organ Preludes

Portico Preludes Are Revealed Following Funding From The Arts Council

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Portico Preludes Are Revealed Following Funding From The Arts Council

A few months ago, ten brave composers stepped forward, each agreeing to create a short introductory piece of music – a prelude – for the refurbished church organ at the Portico of Ards in Portaferry.

Thanks to funding from the Stability and Renewal Programme of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Portico Arts and Heritage Centre announced the ambitious initiative  ‘The Portico Preludes’ earlier this year.

The refurbished Portico Organ.

Taking inspiration from Bach’s ‘Little Organ Book’, Portico commissioned ten pieces from a diverse range of composers: Scott Flanigan, Deirdre Gribbin, Piers Hellawell, Linley Hamilton, Philip Hammond, Ruth McGinley, Michael McHale, Una McLaughlin, Matthew Owens and Stevie Scullion. Simon Johnston, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, is the Music Editor.

Portico Chair Neil McClure, said: “Whilst many composers have written individually for the organ, we are not aware of any other volume of organ music where composers from classical, jazz, pop and, of course, organ backgrounds have come together to write a series of ‘preludes’ – short pieces of music based on a favourite hymn tune. We are very grateful to the Arts Council for their generosity in making this uniquely exciting project a reality”.  

Maria McAlister, Development Officer for Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The Arts Council is delighted to support Portico through our Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations, a vital funding scheme designed to help organisations respond to the negative impact of the Covid-19 crisis by helping to stabilise them financially.

Portico Preludes is hugely exciting and the team at Portico has gathered some of the finest musicians and composers from Northern Ireland together for this inspirational project. Congratulations to all involved.”

The Portico in Portaferry.

The ten new pieces will be revealed to the public in a concert on Saturday 4 December at 2pm when organists Matthew Owens and Simon Johnson will play all ten preludes. 

This event will include a tribute by Dr Joe McKee to the late David McElderry of Wells Kennedy Partnership in Lisburn, who were responsible for the complete rebuild of the magnificent organ during Portico’s £1.6m restoration in 2015. Neil McClure said, “David was a great friend of Portico and is sadly missed. He left us an incredible legacy in this instrument and we are delighted to dedicate this collection of music to his memory.”

Simon Johnson, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral and previously organist at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, will present an organ recital the evening before on Friday 3 December. His programme features Bach, Brahms and Messiaen.

These events will be delivered both as a livestream and as in person events. To find out more please visit porticoards.com