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The Big Bach Walk 2018

Bach signature BBW WEBWednesday 4 - Friday 13 July

William Whitehead organ & guests

In 1705, the 20 year old Johann Sebastian Bach walked 250 miles each way from Arnstadt to Lübeck to meet the great organist and composer, Dieterich Buxtehude, and hear him play. The Oundle International Festival commemorates this with an annual Bach Walk to hear two concerts before and after a convivial pub supper. This will take place as usual on Tuesday 10 July.

This year we are celebrating the completion of Bach’s Orgelbüchlein (“Little Organ Book”) with The Big Bach Walk from Towcester, in the south west of Northamptonshire, to Peterborough Cathedral, a distance of over 70 miles. Over the course of 10 days, the organist and curator of The Orgelbüchlein Project, William Whitehead, will walk a route, which largely follows the Nene Valley Way, playing short concerts, shared with local musicians, at each of his stopping points.

The Orgelbüchlein Project is a major international composition project to complete Bach’s intended collection. His manuscript has 118 missing pieces, ghostly gaps with only the title penned by Bach. Composers from around the world have filled these gaps with pieces based on Bach’s intended chorale melody. The completed work is a new masterpiece.

You are invited to join William on all or part of his journey, or simply turn up and enjoy a free concert (except Tuesday 10 July) which will feature Bach’s own compositions from the Orgelbüchlein, a selection of the commissioned pieces including three world premieres commissioned by the Oundle International Festival, and works by other composers influenced by Bach.

The walking routes are available to view and download at www.oundlefestival.org.uk. Please note that walkers accompany William at their own risk. We advise that you wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the conditions on the days you walk, and carry water, food and sun protection. Most of the route is on public footpaths and large sections of the Nene Valley Way, but some short sections involve walking on roads: please remain aware and take care at all times.


Wed 4th July 1.00pm-1.30pm St Lawrence Church, Chantry Lane, Towcester NN12 6YY
Thur 5th July 1.10pm-1.55pm All Saints Church, George Row, Northampton NN1 1DF
Fri 6th July 11.00am- 11.15am St Mary’s Church, Meadow Lane, Little Houghton NN7 1AB
Sat 7th July 4.00pm-4.45pm St Mary’s Church, Church Hill, Finedon NN9 5NR
Mon 9th July 4.00pm4.45pm St Mary’s Church, Church Street, Titchmarsh NN14 3DB
Tues 10th July 7.00pm-7.40pm
10.00pm-10.30pm
St Andrew’s Church, Cotterstock
Oundle School Chapel

(The annual Bach Walk - click HERE for more info)
Wed 11th July 4.00pm-4.45pm St Mary’s Church, Church Street, Warmington PE8 6TE
Fri 13th July 3.00pm-3.45pm

Peterborough Cathedral, Minster Precincts, Peterborough PE1 1XS

Peterborough Celebrates WEB

Peterborough Cathedral, which this year celebrates its 900th anniversary 


Wednesday 4 July 1.00pm - 1.30pm St Lawrence Church, Chantry Lane, Towcester NN12 6YYSt Lawrence Towcester WEB

William Whitehead & Stephen Barber organ

St Lawrence Church’s ecclesiastical heritage may well relate back to Roman times as St Lawrence was patron saint of the Roman legions. The building was reconstructed in the perpendicular style 1480–85 when the church tower was added. Permission to quarry stone for this restoration from Whittlewood Forest was granted by Edward IV and later confirmed by Richard III on his way towards Leicestershire and his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

The Big Bach Walk opens with the first chorale from Orgelbüchlein and the traditional first entry in any Lutheran hymnal: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. Other Orgelbüchlein chorales take us through the church year, and we include music by local musicians, Stephen Barber and Robert Page. The world premiere of Alec Roth’s Sei gegrüsset will be heard at this recital, played on the mighty 1886 William Hill organ.

Walking route: Towcester to Northampton - 12.6 miles - View route

2.00pm Start: St Lawrence Church
3.45pm Refreshment stop: The Royal Oak, Blisworth (5.78 miles)
4.15pm Depart: The Royal Oak, Blisworth
5.45pm Break point: Blackwood Hodge Bridge (+ 4.44 miles)
6.00pm Depart: Blackwood Hodge Bridge
7.00pm Finish: The Wig & Pen, 19 St Giles Street, Northampton NN1 1JA (+2.38 miles)


Thursday 5 July, 1.10pm-1.55pm - All Saints Church, George Row, Northampton NN1 1DFNorthampton organ WEB

William Whitehead organ

The original church was twice the length of the present building: only the tower & crypt under the chancel survived the1675 Great Fire of Northampton. The Portico design is a copy of the Inigo Jones portico of Old St. Pauls, London with a statue of King Charles II adorning the parapet. The Memorial, or Lady Chapel was the last substantial addition to the building, added in the 1920s in memory of those who lost their lives in the World War I.

Rubbing shoulders with Bach in this recital will be music by Bach’s patron, Prince Johan Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, Charles Villiers Stanford (his Toccata in D minor) and Orgelbüchlein Project pieces by Nigel Allcoat, Stephen Hough and Ronny Krippner. The world premiere at this concert will be by Irish composer, Gerald Barry, who will set the chorale Aus tiefer Not.

Walking route: Northampton to Little Houghton - 4.37 miles - View route

2.30pm Start: All Saints Church
3.45pm Finish: Four Pears Pub, 28 Bedford Road, Little Houghton, NN7 1AB


Friday 6 July, 11.00am-11.15am - St Mary’s Church, Meadow Lane, Little Houghton NN7 1ABLittle Houghton organ WEB

William Whitehead organ

Dating from around 1100, the church was substantially rebuilt in the Gothic style in 1873-74, when the nave was heightened, with clerestory, and the north aisle added. The tower arch, heavily restored during the Victorian rebuilding, and the chancel arch together with an adjacent, smaller arch in the south wall of the chancel, are the only parts that remain of the early thirteenth century work.

The Big Bach Walk encounters a gem of a historic organ at Little Houghton. One of William Hill’s early masterpieces, the organ was built in 1846 and originally stood in a church in Small Heath, Birmingham. Following an earlier workshop session with local primary school children, William Whitehead will demonstrate some of the beautiful colours of this historic instrument in a mini-recital before setting off on the next stage of his walk.

Walking Route: Little Houghton to Wellingborough - 11 miles - View Route

11.30am Start: St Mary’s Church, Little Houghton
1.00pm Refreshment stop: White Mills Marina (4.9 miles)
2.00pm Depart: White Mills Marina
3.15pm Refreshment stop: The Stag’s Head, Great Doddington (+3.07 miles)
3.45pm Depart: The Stag’s Head
5.00pm Finish: St Mary’s Church, 177 Knox Road, Wellingborough NN8 1PX (+3.03 miles)


Saturday 7 July, 4.00pm-4.45pm - St Mary’s Church, Church Hill, Finedon NN9 5NRFinedon organ WEB

William Whitehead & Arthur Vickery organ

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, is a mid-14th-century church with an aisled and cloistered nave of four bays. St Mary’s is, by hundreds of years, older than any other building in Finedon. The ironstone gravestone that now stands near the font, which bears a carving of a cross within a circle, is thought by some to be Saxon, therefore it seems probable that there was a Saxon church here.

At Finedon we encounter the oldest organ on the Big Bach Walk: the 1717 Father Smith organ, originating from St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Celebrating both the old and the new, this recital also features a world premiere by Soosan Lolavar - Der du bist drei in Einigkeit, which will extend the sound palette of the organ using electronics. Orgelbüchlein Project pieces by Christopher Fox and James Francis Brown will also be heard, the latter modelled after Gerald Finzi’s style. Arthur Vickery, local organist, now an organ scholar at Oxford University, will play music by Bach and Buxtehude.

Walking Route: Wellingborough to Finedon (4.12 miles) - View route

10.00am Start: St Mary’s Church, 177 Knox Road, Wellingborough NN8 1PX
11.30am Finish: St Mary’s Church, Church Hill, Finedon, NN9 5NR


Sunday 8 July - No concert

Walking Route: Finedon to Titchmarsh (11 miles) - View route

11.00 am Start: St Mary’s Church, Church Hill, Finedon, NN9 5NR
12.45pm Lunch stop: Watermill Tearooms, Woodford Mill (5.23 miles)
2.00pm Depart: Watermill Tearooms
4.00pm Finish: The Wheatsheaf, 1 North Street, Titchmarsh NN14 3DH (+5.77 miles)


Monday 9 July, 4pm-4.45pm - St Mary’s Church, Church Street, Titchmarsh NN14 3DBTitchmarsh church WEB

William Whitehead & Gerard Brooks, organ

St Mary’s is remarkable for its magnificent tower, its long and lofty clerestory, its spacious chancel, and for its light and uncluttered interior. It also houses a collection of unique and interesting wall monuments. The remains of a 12thC doorway in the chancel are the only relic of an earlier Norman building, and the subsequent centuries have each made their distinctive architectural contribution. The building assumed its present appearance when the tower, clerestory and porch were added in the 15thC, and the present perpendicular style windows were inserted.

The fine T C Lewis organ of Titchmarsh will resound in this concert, to music by Bach (of course!), Gerard Brooks, Grayston Ives, Peter Planyavsky and others. The world premiere at this venue will be by Andrew Keeling (his piece is based on reggae rhythms, and imitates the sound of a mechanical organ).

Walking Route: Titchmarsh to Oundle – 7.1 miles - View route

5.15pm Start: St Mary’s Church, Titchmarsh
7.30pm Arrive: The Ship Inn, 20 West Street, Oundle, PE8 4EF


Tuesday 10 July - Guided Walking Route: Oundle/Cotterstock/Oundle - View routeOundle School Chapel WEB

For full information and tickets click HERE

5.45pm Depart: Oundle School Chapel
7.00pm Concert: St Andrew’s Church, Cotterstock
7.45pm Depart: St Andrews’s Church
9.00pm Supper break
10.00pm Concert: Oundle School Chapel

William Whitehead & Henry Fairs organ; John Mark Ainsley tenor

Part the Big Bach Walk, we invite you to join us on our annual, shorter (2 miles each way) and more gentle stroll between Cotterstock and Oundle. We are delighted to welcome the great British tenor, John Mark Ainsley, who joins William Whitehead in Cotterstock for this special evening. John Mark, who has appeared with all of the world's great orchestras and opera companies, will sing some arias and chorales by Bach, and the ever-popular Bist du bei mir, once thought to be by Bach. This is sure to be a very special evening and early booking is strongly advised. Supper tickets include a delicious two-course meal (food only) at Dexters.

Small but beautiful is the organ of Cotterstock church! Music by Bach will sit alongside music from the Orgelbüchlein Project by Organist of Westminster Abbey, James O’Donnell and jazz musician Zac Gvirtzmann. Tenor John Mark Ainsley intersperses the musical journey with some of Bach’s songs drawn from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook.

The flagship organ of Oundle School Chapel, built by the Danish firm Frobenius and Sons, suits the music of Bach like no other on this walk. The signature tune of Orgelbüchlein, O Mensch bewein, is heard in this concert, alongside Orgelbüchlein Project pieces by Francis Grier and Jacques van Oortmerssen. Chorales will be sung by students on the Oundle for Organists’ course.


Wednesday 11 July, 4.00pm-4.45pm - St Mary’s Church, Church Street, Warmington PE8 6TEwarmington organ WEB

William Whitehead organ; Rachel Byrt viola

The church as a whole is a glorious example of mid 13th century English gothic architecture. The rood screen is largely original although here, and on the adjacent pulpit, the medieval decoration has been restored. When you would expect to see soaring stone vaults here you find a late gothic wooden roof instead which is like an upturned boat.

Hindemith’s beautiful Trauermusik and Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel form the centrepieces of this concert in which viola player, Rachel Byrt, is welcomed to the Big Bach Walk. The crisply neoclassical organ by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer will also be used for music by Alex Campkin and Jon Laukvik.

Walking Route: Oundle to Warmington - 3.64 miles - View route

11.30am Start: Oundle Festival Office, 4 New Street, Oundle PE8 4ED
1.00pm Finish: The Red Lion, Peterborough Road, Warmington

Walking Route: Warmington to Elton - 2.26 miles - View route

5.15pm Start: St Mary’s Church, Warmington
6.00pm Finish: The Crown Inn, 8 Duck Street, Elton PE8 6RQ


Thursday 12 July - No concert

Walking Route: Elton to Peterborough – 10.24 miles - View route

Please note there are no refreshment points in this section

10.00am Start: All Saints Church, Overend, Elton, PE8 6RU
11.00am Break point: Water Newton Lock, Water Newton (2.86 miles)
11.15am Continue
1.00pm Lunch break: Orton Lock (+5.23 miles)
2.00pm Continue
3.00pm Finish: Peterborough Cathedral (+2.15 miles)


Friday 13 July, 3.00pm-3.45pm - Peterborough Cathedral, Minster Precincts, Peterborough PE1 1XSPboro Cathedral Organ WEB

William Whitehead & Steven Grahl organ

With one of the most dramatic West Fronts in the country, an extraordinary creation of medieval architecture, it would be easy for the interior to be an anticlimax, but it is not. The Romanesque interior is little altered since its completion 900 years ago and the whole building has recently undergone cleaning and restoration following the dramatic fire of November 2001.

The Big Bach Walk began with a Hill organ, and we end with one, too. Peterborough’s mighty instrument will thunder forth in music by Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Hakim, and Gabriel Jackson. The world premiere of Edward Higginbottom’s Gen Himmel aufgefahren ist will be played, bringing the journey to a spectacular conclusion.


The Orgelbüchlein Project runs in Partnership with the European Commission Representation for the UK.

European Commission WEB

 For information about other organ recitals throughout the year, visit organrecitals.com