David Briggs

Concert Organist and Composer

Organ Solo

Berceuse for Organ (2006)

Written in celebration of Ronald Gates' 80th birthday and commissioned by his many students and friends. A moving work in Cochereau-esque style - full of garlic, snails and red wine...
(7 mins)

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Chorale Variations: Lobe den Herren (2010)

Commissioned by John Cannon, Concert Organist, Colorado, USA

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Concert Variations on 'Nicaea' (2014)

(10 mins)

International Concert Organist Daryl Robinson commissioned this work in 2014 in honor of his mother. Watch his magnificent performance on the 2014 Nichols & Simpson organ at St. Monica Catholic Church in Dallas, TX.  Recorded live, April 2015. http://www.darylrobinson.com

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Daryl Robinson says:

'This work was commissioned to honor my mom, Jody Robinson, for her dedication/support of my musical career and is based on one of her favorite hymn tunes! The 2014 Nichols & Simpson Organbuilders instrument at St. Monica/Dallas is a truly grand instrument, making it the perfect vehicle to showcase everything from harmonic flutes, a Trio with Cymbelstern, a Cochereau-inspired Adagio on the Dulcets and 2' Solo Flute, a 6-voice Canon on the Cremona and Vox Humana, and finally a Toccata on full organ!'

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Elegy (2004)

Commissioned in celebration of the 80th Birthday of Patrick Bell, Cookham Dean, UK - in French Romantic style.
(6 mins)

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Fantaisie (2005)

A vibrant work based on poetry by Kahlil Gibran and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Inspired by the organ of Notre-Dame de Paris - recorded on Chestnut Music CD 001
(12 mins)
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Fantaisie, composed in December 2004 and premiered in Notre-Dame de Paris on 23 January 2005 was written with the aim of providing a celebration in music of friendship, relationships, the significance of human interactions and a reflection on the way life may be shaped & enriched by all human encounter (even by those experiences which may have been painful at the time ).

Based on texts taken from Tennyson & Kahlil Gibran it is Tryptique in structure commencing with an Introduction on the tutti which depicts the words from Tennyson’s "Ulysses"
" I am a part of all that I have met
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro
Gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move."

An alla-marcia Ostinato from pp to fff (similar to the first of the Alain 'Trois Dances' ) develops this theme, defining the constant progression through life, gaining from and building on all experiences, but always moving forward.

The Adagio, rich in harmonies (on the 8’ foundation stops) though lush at first, grows ever more bitter-sweet and is not without torment before reaching some resolution. This illustrates Gibran’s brutally honest treatise on "Love" from "The Prophet"
"When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep…

And when he speaks to you, believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden…..

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you."

Love is not easy…..in order to experience the true intensity we must also accept the attendant pain.

The Scherzo/ Saltarello is a very rhythmic "moto perpetuo", full of contrasts. Sudden interjections on the tutti depict spontaneous laughter. This is Gibran’s Prophet talking on "Friendship"
"For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born & shared, with joy that is unacclaimed……And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, & sharing of pleasures."
Suddenly this subsides before leading to a big crescendo which, again, following Gibran on "Love" provides a sense of calm & resolution, leading from…
" To wake at dawn with a winged heart & give thanks for another day of loving"
" To return home at eventide with a prayer for the beloved in your heart & a song of praise upon your lips"

The final sustained C Major chord reinforces the feeling of ultimate resolution at the conclusion of a work of vibrant, intense energy interspersed with deep emotion & sensitivity.
(Programme note: Jo Prior)

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Fantasia on Mendelssohn (2010)

Commissioned in celebration of Mark Laubach's 25th anniversary as Organist of St Stephen's Episcopal Church, Wilkes-Barre, PA

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Four Concert Etudes (2005)

Commissioned by Seattle-based Concert Organist Douglas Cleveland
Octaves - Accordes Alternees - Sarabande avec Double-Pedale - Tierces

If you are feeling intrepid, and like the idea of losing some weight without signing
up for the Gym...
(12 mins)
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From Doug Cleveland: "I gave the world premiere of the Etudes on October 9, 2006 at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. It was a co-sponsored event with the National Convention of the American Institute of Organbuilders. The audience rose to their feet on the last chord of the final movement! People really loved the excitement and freshness of your compositional style. Thanks again for contributing such a high quality piece to the organ repertoire.

I have played the Etudes at several other venues this season:

Minato Mirei Concert Hall in Yokohama, Japan
St. Alban's Anglican in Tokyo, Japan (Japan premiere)
St. Paul's Cathedral in Des Moines, Iowa
The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

I will be playing them at First Presbyterian in Naples, Florida on March 18th, 2007."

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Hommage a Marcel Dupre (2009)

(Three Preludes and Fugues - D major, F minor and E major)
Commissioned by Dr and Mrs John Prior

(27 mins)
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First performances:
AGO Region 1 Convention, Boston, MA – 3rd July 2009 (Church of the Advent)
Three Choirs Festival, Hereford, UK – 12th August, 2009 (Hereford Cathedral)

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Le Tombeau de Duruflé (2009)

Premièred at the re-opening concert of the Willis/Harrison Organ in Cirencester Parish Church
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Veni Creator Spiritus, Rorate Caeli, Ave Maria, Adeste Fidelis, Hodie Christus Natus est, Puer natus est nobis, Omnes de Saba venient, Attende Domine, Pange lingua, Ecce lignum crucis, Christus vincit

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Marche Episcopale (1999)

recorded on Chestnut Music CD 001...
(6 mins)
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Marche Episcopale was commissioned by the Incorporated Association of Organists (UK) in 2000 for inclusion in their publication 'The Millennium Organ Book'.

Imagine the scenario: a brilliant, cold morning in rural France. A great Gothic Cathedral, a riotous panoply of sound emanating from the north bell tower, the nave crammed with hundreds of worshippers and on-lookers. Sunlight, streaming in through the medieval glass, illuminates the social bubble. Clouds of incense waft towards the vaulting high above. It’s 10.41 am and the annual 'Messe Episcopale' is already eleven minutes late starting. Chaos reigns at the west end as the servers, priests and visiting bishops wonder frantically who has the information sheet about the order of procession.
High up in the Organ tribune. Monsieur le Fèvre, the Titulaire des Grandes Orgues peers into the tiny shaving mirror, screwed precariously onto the C18th organ case and waits for the first glimpse of the processional cross. He calms his nerves with one more half-smoked Gitanne and applies another squirt of expensive French cologne. Gradually, like a human tidal wave, everybody stands and the conversation level increases. Maitre le Fèvre rushes to the organ bench, trips on the step, and manically dives towards the red 'tutti general' button on his futuristic (if somewhat dishevelled and electrically precarious) 5 manual console. The Grand-Orgue is suddenly ready for takeoff and begins to roar its way up the nave from underneath the mediaeval rose window.
The whole magnificent gothic structure is now flooded with sound….

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Mosaique: Sonata for Organ Duet (2008)

Commissioned for the Midas Touch (Roger Sayer and Charles Matthews, Organ Duo)
(20 mins)

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Organ Concerto (2005)

Commissioned by Blackburn Cathedral, in celebration of their newly rebuilt organ in 2006. Scoring: Strings, Timpani, Side Drum, Glockenspiel, Harp, Orga

Performers: Northern Chamber Orchestra, dir Richard Tanner, Greg Morris (Organ)

Not yet available as PDF, but hard copies available on request.

As featured on Chestnut Music CD 002 (available from shopping cart)

(21 mins)
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My own love affair with the Blackburn Cathedral Organ began in December 1976 when I had the thrill of giving my first public organ concert on the instrument. As a 14- year old, I vividly recall the electrifying effect of this instrument's unbounded tonal vivacity. In 2000 I was honoured to be appointed by the Dean and Chapter as the consultant for the restoration and enlargement of this unique organ. Part of my involvement was to write a new Concerto in its honour - this was premiered in Blackburn in June 2006, with Greg Morris as soloist with the Northern Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Richard Tanner. The work is in three movements and scored for Strings, Glockenspiel, Timpani, Harp and Side Drum. The first movement begins, mysterioso, with an extended introduction, based on the second subject of the main Allegro (which hovers around a tritone C - F sharp) punctuated by a repeated 12/8 pulsating figuration in the harp. Suddenly the organ enters, fortissimmo, with the first subject material, powerfully declamed on the tutti. The rest of the movement (basically cast in the form of a Sonata-Allegro) sees these two themes being freely tussled around and eventually combined. The second movement, a Passacaglia based in the Dorian mode, dedicated to my mother Jane, represents the emotional core of the work. Comprising a set of contrasting yet complimentary variations, there is a sense of growth towards a highly chromatic and emotionally-charged climactic central section for sostenuto divisi Strings, perhaps somewhat reminiscent of the Symphonic Metamorphosen of Richard Strauss. The 'denouement' features a dialogue between the Viola Solo and the 'Bourdons/Flutes Harmoniques' of the Organ solo, over a tonic pedal to the accompaniment of Pizzicato Strings, in direct hommage to the great Organ Concerto of Francis Poulenc. The difference here is that the solo viola plays my Passacaglia theme, the music is in E major (as opposed to G minor) and that Poulenc's pizzicato figure rises over two octaves whereas mine rises an octave and then falls to the original pitch! I also hope he would be pleased with the lush 12-part E major string chord at 6:22. The last movement commences with an Introduction in direct hommage to Pierre Cochereau (Improvisations on 'Frère Jacques', 1970). The rhythmic main Allegro theme is also based on Cochereau ('Final' from the Versets pour Vèpres, 1962), but again dressed up in a Poulencian soundscape. Percussion and martellato string writing adds a sense of rhythmic vitality and articulation. The second subject of the first movement makes its presence felt (in a quasi-cyclical fashion) and two-thirds of the way through the movement the atmosphere completely relaxes with a string based section which is reminiscent of the film music of John Williams, with swirling harp glissandi and rich harmonies for the divided strings. From that moment on there is a big push towards the final climax, via various structural and rhythmic procedures, including a transformation into 9/8 time (rather akin to the end of Dupré's 'Triptique' for organ). Thereby the work quickly reaches its culmination in a vibrant G major. "Readers will not be surprised to hear the strong influence of Cochereau in the Concerto – it is a challenging but rewarding piece at whose heart is a romantically intense Passacaglia. I do hope we can hear it live very soon again in this country". (The Organ, Feb 2007)

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Organ Symphony 'Missa pro defunctis' (2004)

on Gregorian Themes from the 'Missa pro defunctis' this 40-minute, seven-movement work was commissioned by Stephen Farr, Organist of Guildford Cathedral and premiered by him at St David's Cathedral on 3 June 2004 and subsequently recorded at Blackburn for
(40 mins)
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"Most organ enthusiasts know David Briggs as one of today's finest organ virtuosos and improvisers, but this release proves beyond a doubt that he's also a great composer for that instrument as well… the great, French church musician Maurice Duruflé was working on a suite for organ based on the plainsong Missa pro defunctis when he got a commission for his now, world famous requiem (later dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy). At that point he abandoned the suite and incorporated what he had done into the new composition. Duruflé was a truly remarkable composer and anyone familiar with his music would have to agree that it's a shame he wrote as little as he did. Farr must have felt that way and his fascination with the thought of a lost Durufle work prompted him to ask Briggs for a "homage" piece honoring it. Well, he came through in "grand orgue" fashion! His seven movement "Missa pro defunctis" symphony is a masterpiece, and right in keeping with the many, romantic, French composer-organists he's championed at the keyboard for so many years. The spirits of Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, Marcel Dupré, Pierre Cochereau, and of course Maurice himself, all waft through this opus; but, in the grand scheme of things it's a unique Briggs creation." (Bob McQuiston, Tower Records)

"Symphony 'Missa pro defunctis,' a work commissioned by the performer ... as an 'hommage' . . . to Duruflé. This Symphony defies verbal description and simply has to be heard". (The American Organist, March 2007)

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Passacaglia Chromatique for Organ (2020)

A commission for the AGO National conference in Atlanta

(8 mins)

Download full pdf copy for £20.00


Sortie on In Dulci Jubilo (2008)

Commissioned by Peter Stevens, Organ Scholar of King's College, Cambridge
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Premiered after the Broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, 2008 and broadcast live, worldwide.

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The Legend of St Nikolaus (2009)

Commissioned by the Organ Society at Bergen-Entkeim, near Frankfurt

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Toccata for St Matthew's Day (2008)

Commissioned by Sebastian Thompson, Organist of St Matthew's Church, Northampton
(7 mins)

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Trio Sonata (2004)

recorded on Chestnut Music CD 001...

(10 mins)
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The three-movement 'Trio Sonata' was composed in June 2005 and was commissioned by Jo Prior for her husband, John. In the binary form first movement the spirit of J S Bach is not far away, although there are some French C20th harmonic influences. The slow movement is perhaps like some mysterious séance between Bach and Charles Tournemire, one of the most spiritual and mystic of French impressionist organist/composers. In the middle Bach places his musical signature (the B-A-C-H motif) on the table, as proof that it really is him! The third movement is a fast and nervy 'moto perpetuo', with a modal cantus firmus played in the pedals. The Sesquilteras and Septiemes add a certain lemony tang…. Towards the end the texture thins and the music resolves in a somewhat comic fashion.

"If any organist is looking for a new encore piece to wow the audience I suggest the Presto from David’s 2005 Trio Sonata – they’ll love the articulation!" (The Organ Magazine, Feb 2007)

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Variations on Greensleeves (2005)

Colourful reworkings of the ever-popular English Folk Tune - also recorded on Chestnut Music CD 001

(10 mins)
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Variations on Greensleeves was composed in January 2005. It was commissioned by the well-known Glaswegian Organist, Gordon Frier, to play on his 3-manual house organ, built by Peter Collins. I wrote it with that instrument in mind, but also that it should work on far larger instruments, like Gloucester, for instance.

The theme is announced on a gentle 8’ 2 2/3’ combination and accompanied by lush harmonies, in the style of my teacher in Paris, the late Jean Langlais. The first variation, a lightweight Intermezzo, to be played on the 8’4’ flutes, 'avec charme', is intended to be the equivalent of a refined appetiser (probably a salad…) -- somewhat sparse yet delicately formed! Nice if you like that kind of thing. By contrast, the second variation is a 'Récit de Cromorne', in which the theme weaves its way around the 'chamuleau' region (i.e. in the tenor) and is bathed in melancholy. There are a few naughty blues harmonies as well. The third variation is a restless 'Agitato' on the 16’8’4’ Foundations, using motifs extracted from the original theme. Next is a 'Récit sur la Voix Humaine', where the Cantus Firmus is embellished by emotional, French-inspired harmonies on all the 8ft flutes, coupled together and resonating with each other. Controlled use of added-note dissonance adds a touch of spice to the sound palette. The final variation commences as an energetic fugato and soon builds towards a statement of the Greensleeves theme on the tutti, to the accompaniment of a cascading pedal carillon.

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Variations on Laudes Spirituali (2004)

recorded on Chestnut Music CD 001... including a novel 'Trio a la J S Bach'
(10 mins)
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The Variations on Laudes Spirituali were written in Gloucester in 2004 in order to celebrate Mr. Alan Frost’s elevation to the position of Master of the Worshipful Company of Actuaries. The work is co-dedicated to Catherine Ennis, the Organist of St Lawrence-Jewry in the City of London, who gave the premiere in September of that year. The theme is originally a rarely-heard Victorian hymn tune, subsequently taken on by the Company to accompany their ceremonial song. In this version there is a theme followed by six contrasting variations:

- Theme stated on the Swell Cornet, accompanied modally in a quasi-Langlais-esque style.
- Variation 1 – a virtuosic 'Fileuse' on the Flûtes 8’.
- Variation 2 – Fonds 16’8’4’ – agitato, treating cells from the theme sequentially, sometimes in the inner voices.
- Variation 3 – Trio. The theme is heard as a 'Cantus Firmus' on the pedal reeds 8’4’ and is surrounded by a neo-baroque imitative texture, on contrasting Cornets, as heard sometimes in the organ works of Bach.
- Variation 4 – Adagio. A wash of modal/added note harmonies on the Swell Undulants enrich the modally-adapted theme, played as a resonant 'Cantus Firmus', on 4’ foundations on the Pedal.
- Variation 5 – Intermezzo. A brief moment of humour – this very terse scherzetto hints only at the harmonic structure of the original theme. Registration is piquant and lightweight.
- Variation 6 – Tutti. First a 'maestoso' harmonisation, a la Marcel Dupré, and then a sortie, ending in a delayed and very powerful cadence into (maybe unexpectedly?) C major.

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Variations on Veni Creator for Organ Duet (2005)

Commissioned by Elizabeth and Raymond Chenault and will be premiered by them at the AGO Convention in Atlanta, July 2007

(10 mins)

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