Cumbrian Society of Organists

Review : The Organ Music of Percy Whitlock : 28 January 2017

Fifteen members and friends braved a pretty miserable winter’s afternoon to discover a little more about Percy Whitlock (1903-46) who, despite his short life, made an important contribution to the organ repertoire.

As assistant to Charles Hylton Stewart at Rochester Cathedral, Whitlock was immersed in the Anglican choral tradition and from 1930-35 he was organist of St. Stephen’s, Bournemouth. From 1932 until his death he was also organist of the Bournemouth Pavilion and much of his organ music was written with the four-manual Compton organ in mind, rather than a church instrument.

Whitlock’s principal published organ music comprises (with date of composition):

Movements from all of these were played, serving to illustrate the skill, craftsmanship and invention of the composer. We also noted the influence of other composers, especially Delius and Rachmaninov, but also Vierne, Elgar, Bach, Schumann and Mendelssohn. The best of Whitlock’s music is characterised by what might be termed an English wit and whimsy.

An informative booklet was given to everyone who attended, including photographs of the composer and detailed information about each of the pieces played.

Hopefully, those who came were left with the conviction that Whitlock is a composer whose music may not be particularly easy but is extremely worthwhile and enjoyable both to play and to enjoy.