Organist Stephen Holder tunes up for National Arts Festival

Organist Stephen Holder will perform at the arts festival
Organist Stephen Holder will perform at the arts festival
Image: Supplied

Makhanda organist Stephen Holder returns to Spiritfest in 2019 with a recital Hymns Without Words at the National Arts Festival.

Holder began his musical life in the Western Cape and spent his high school years in Grahamstown where he learnt to play the organ.

Thereafter he was organist and choirmaster at several churches and, until recently, he was music teacher at Kingswood College in Makhanda as well as the chapel organist.

He retired at the end of 2018.

The organ music genre of Hymns Without Words as well as the chorale variation set, featured often during the Baroque period in Europe, especially in Germany.

The genre was already a long-established tradition by the time J S Bach came to write his own chorale variations.

The genre is made up of two traditions, the organ chorale prelude and the secular keyboard variation set.

The genre features contemporary composers.

Holder’s recital will feature music from Claude Balbastre (1724-1799), Bach, George Dyson (1883-1964), Knut Nystedt (1915-2014) and Willem Tanke (1959- ).

Holder notes that “the chorale variation set is a multimovement work in which a chorale [hymn] melody is treated in different ways.

“The melody itself is not usually varied, although it might be decorated; and references to the verses of the hymn text are not always obvious.”

The choral melody which is evident in the chorale variation set is used in the Christian liturgical practices thus used in the church, which makes the genre of music a more accessible and attractive set.

“It could be described as a musical discourse on a familiar theme; different ways of seeing the same thing; a remix according to context,” Holder says.

● Holder’s organ recital is at Commemoration Methodist Church in Makhanda on Tuesday July 2 at 1pm.