British musician performs on Conference Center organ

Though not quite 5 years old, the Conference Center organ has now been played in recital by one of Britain's foremost organists and choral conductors, Stephen Cleobury.

Organist and director of music at King's College, Cambridge, and chief conductor of the BBC singers, Mr. Cleobury performed Friday, Jan. 7, in the spacious hall, and returned Sunday morning, Jan. 9, as guest conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during its nationwide broadcast.

His visit to Salt Lake City stemmed from an association he formed with Tabernacle Choir musical director Craig D. Jessop three summers ago when they shared the podium at England's Lincoln Cathedral for a choral festival.

"He did the first half of the program, and I did the second," Brother Jessop recalled. "That's the first time I had met him, although I've been a great fan of his.

"He's been at King's for 20 years and, to me, it's one of the greatest choirs in all the world, the King's College Choir. The choir was established in the 1600s." With about 30 voices, the choir at King's is composed of boys and male undergraduate college students.

"I like working with choirs of all shapes and sizes," Mr. Cleo-bury said in comments to news reporters the afternoon prior to his organ recital. He noted that the BBC group consists of 24 professional singers, and he also leads a symphony chorus of about 200 singers at the university.

Regarding the opportunity to lead the Tabernacle Choir, he said, "I'm hugely excited by this prospect because, of course, the choir here is so very famous, and so for me to come and be involved in a performance with them is a great thrill."

In a typically understated British fashion, he said of the Conference Center venue, "Well, it's a large space, isn't it? I've played in some of our halls at home — Symphony Hall in Birmingham and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester — but this is on a completely different scale.

"The instrument has to be large to fill this space. . . . It seems to me that despite the size, there is a kind of intimacy about it. I thought that about the organ. I thought maybe the organ would be firing on all cylinders all the time, and that's not true. It's got some beautiful, soft sounds on it as well as the loud ones."

For his performance, he selected five pieces calculated to showcase the instrument's tonal variety and capability, a sort of "British sandwich," as he termed it because he began and ended with works by British composers Herbert Howells ("Rhapsody No. 3 in C-sharp Minor") and Edward Elgar ("Sonata No. 2"). In between were Cesar Franck's "Choral No. 3 in A Minor"; Franz Liszt's "Variations on 'Weinen, klagen, sorgen, sagen,' used by Bach in one of his cantatas; and "Claire de lune" by Louis Vierne.

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