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Contact the Organ Curator, Martin Setchell, here

The Christchurch
Town Hall organ



reviews of the second Bonbons CD,
"Bonbons for Organ 2" are here

Welcome to the website of the Rieger
pipeorgan home
in the Christchurch Town Hall,
New Zealand


Review by Dr Brian Hick in The Organ, vol 80, no 316. (UK)

It took twenty five years to raise the money for this three manual and pedal Rieger which was finally installed in 1997. Martin Setchell was brought up in Blackpool before moving to New Zealand and the Tower Ballroom is never far away from this recording. That remark should not, however, be taken as either snobbish or adversely critical, for the performer's position and training via Cochereau, Alain and Hurford is impeccable. The more important point is a desire to appeal to a popular audience with the highest quality given to instantly recognisable pieces. Renaud's Toccata sit comfortably alongside Nola and the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. The organist includes his own compositions in the form of a brief Three Piece Suite, with a trumpet tune, a light scherzo and a very fine Toccata on Joy to the World which could easily rival the more familiar Widor if taken up in the right circles!

I loved the Bach parody Alles was du Bist - All the Things you are by Nalle out of Jerome Kern. The CD also includes pieces by Faure, Bovet and Gounod.
This really is ideal for the music lovers who like a good tune but don't think they like organ music - and we need to convert from scratch! - BH

Review by Paul Hale in the "Organists' Review" (UK)
May edition
(reviewed in context with 2 other organ cds)
"Popular? Organ-music? Well yes and no.! What a variety of wonders are here paraded under that banner. Let me say first of all the playing is of the highest rank - rhythmical, accurate, musical, colourfully and imaginatively registered - all that one could desire. The organs,too, are of both interest and supreme quality. ...we have an already famous 1997 Rieger - blessed with more warmth and breadth than one might expect - in a large New Zealand concert hall ...

... the experienced Martin Setchell ...makes what looks at first glance to be something of a mish-mash into a balanced and richly varied programme, where the more sickly bon-bons (and we all know what happens if we consume too many of them in one sitting) are interspersed with some more savoury morsels. I don't propose to go through the programme piece by piece, but I would say that Blackpool-born Setchell's early influence (Reginald Dixon - who else?) plus his later diligence in acquiring a state-of-the-art technique and an impressive breadth of true keyboard musicianship stand him - and the listener - in good stead here. He shows us how this new Rieger sounds altogether warmer than many of their organs, less "tight" in the reeds, more relaxed in the flutes and broader in the principal choruses. His own arrangements and compositions are worthy of a Lemare and his fingerwork (listen to that ever-busy bumble-bee) as neat and fleet as Bach's feet are supposed to have been. And that's saying something. Bon-bons? C'est vraiment bon. Yum-yum!"
Reviewed by Benjamin Chee on the
Review of Bonbons for Organ
Who says that organ music can't be fun? Despite Norman del Mar's admonition that the King of the Instruments possesses "many contexts which can give the listener an uncomfortable jolt" in his treatise Anatomy of the Orchestra, this CD begs to makes an entirely different case for the organ.

Performing on the magnificent Rieger instrument at the Christchurch Town Hall, organist/curator/arranger Martin Setchell (left) presents a cornucopia of delightful pieces, both original and transcribed, for his chosen instrument. The packaging, which includes caricatures by Al Nisbet and cartoons, all but points this product in the direction of new and young listeners - but there is much here for all to enjoy ("all", of course, inclusive of anyone from eight to eighty years young.)

This album has been loosely arranged into various sections, such as works grouped together by thematic content (Creatures Great and Small) or composer (Fauré Favourites), with standalone items slotted in-between to bridge musically from one section to another. The opening item, Albert Renaud's oft-neglected Toccata in D minor is a rousing number, with the clever use of reeds in the registration.

One of the most intriguing sections must be Beautiful Women, consisting of three disparate items: Handel's (Arrival of) the Queen of Sheba, Mozart's Elvira Madigan - the slow movement from Piano Concerto No.21 - and Felix Arndt's Nola. Elvira is a clever transcription that works delightfully, and one of many revelations to be had. Purists might well shudder at what pipes and bellows might do to the brittle filigree of Mozart, but the important thing here is how much of the spirit of the original Setchell captures.

Setchell also takes this opportunity to demonstrate his compositional talents - apart from the transcriptions, that is - with a natty three-movement suite comprising of a Trumpet Tune, Scherzo and Toccata on Joy to the World. The first section finds Setchell parodying 18th century styles (can you say Prokofiev's Classical Symphony), the Scherzo fraught with whole-tonal wit and the concluding piece de resistance is a brilliant exercise in atonality and harmony: over the intricacies of fluent fingerwork, the counterpoint of Joy to the World is hammered out on the pedals. It would prove an interesting listening exercise for younger audiences........

Read the rest of the review here, on the inkpot website

Reviewed by Basil Ramsey on the
Music and Vision Daily website
Reviews of both organ Cds . . .

Christchurch in New Zealand has an excellent 1997 Rieger organ in its Town Hall, and an organist with a technique to match. Most importantly, the two make good music together. Furthermore, a situation like this requires a musical balance, Bach one moment and Sousa the next.

-- MORE from the review

Reviewed by Dr Simon Jenner, on the Music Web UK website
"Perhaps this CD is a second spin-off from Setchell's NZ concert FM broadcasts. This disc is more funkily produced than the first with a grinning Setchell thrusting his head between the pipes, and drooling as he plays elsewhere, various animals protruding from the august orifices of the pipes. Three years on from the first disc (reviewed elsewhere on this site), he plays a popular programme beautifully, and the Rieger organ, recorded close, makes an impressive, clean, but warm sound.

Setchell has really discovered some excellent French pieces, as he says of the first item, Albert Renaud's (1855-1924): Toccata in d minor, it really deserves to be known alongside the most famous of French organ works. A driving, darker work than Widor's F major fun, and like much else of Widor, neglected. Setchell then moves to popular arrangements of Sheba and Elvira Madigan. The playing, like the reeds, for Sheba is truly sparky and gently cantabile by turn. "

Marvellous organ nostalgia
that will cause pain
and envy in Auckland

Rod Biss, Sunday Star Times
ORGAN music is good for you. It's fun, even funny, and you don't need to go to church to hear it. There's no mistaking the message of Martin Setchell's new CD with its title, Bonbons, and its garish, quasi Mad magazine cartoon cover. Please buy me, invite the neighbours in, turn the volume up, and relax.
It will even win some nostalgia points if you're old enough to remember Reginald Dixon whose records of polite pops, easy classics and dance-along waltzes played on the organ of the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool cropped up on the old ZB stations as frequently, it seemed, as Bing Crosby, Paul Robeson and Victor Silvester.
So you know what to expect. There's Sousa's Washington Post March and the Grand March from Aida which will really test your speakers.
There's old favourite Nola, and those pieces the piano teacher tempted you with, The Cuckoo, The Swan, The Flight of the Bumblebee and a clever fugue on the Pink Panther theme. There isn't any Bach, but there are two amazing parodies, the choral prelude on Alles was du bist - better known as All the Things You Are - will have Bach aficionados laughing all the way to the organ loft.
Setchell, a senior lecturer in music at Canterbury University, and organ curator at the Christchurch Convention Centre is an Englishman, born in Blackpool, who received his early music education and some tuition from Reginald Dixon.
Perhaps that explains his undoubted flair with this light-hearted repertoire and the elan with which he brings it all off. But the star of the show - and I'm sure Setchell would agree - is the organ itself.
The instrument was built by Rieger of Austria and was opened in 1997. The three manual organ with 42 speaking stops is the only Reiger organ in New Zealand, and is considered - at least in Christchurch - to be the most significant installation in the country for several decades.
The variety of pieces which Setchell plays on this CD gives him an opportunity to show off what the organ can do, and one hears the rich and beautiful variety of solo stops, the power of the full organ, and the marvellous richness of the reeds.
What Setchell probably didn't consider was the pain and envy this CD will cause in Auckland. When first the Auckland Town Hall was restored to its Edwardian glory, and then the Civic Theatre was returned to its art deco world of fantasy, in both cases it seemed as though there was no limit to what the council would spend on our behalf. But there was.
Strangely and sadly restoration stopped before the town hall's organ was restored, and the Civic's Wurlitzer organ, with all its bells and whistles, was never repurchased and put back. The Edge organ subcommittee is still agonising over what to do in the town hall; leave it as it is, restore it to what it was, build a completely new one, or build a new one in the style of the old organ. But we must not expect a Rieger. Up here we'll just have to make do with Setchell's Bonbons.
"Setchell .... delivers with polish and panache and garnished with the Rieger organ's renowned wide range of sonorities, especially the reed colours."

- Ian Dando, the Christchurch Star, February 28th

Bonbons for Organ. Martin Setchell at the Christchurch Town Hall Rieger organ. Atoll 600. - reviewed by Ian Dando, Christchurch Star.

This is a timid man's introduction designed "For those who find Bach too fuguey, There is always boogie-woogie." But instead of Ogden Nash's suggestion of boogie, Setchell does give the light listener plenty of fun and humour in this spirited recital.

We laugh at the audacity of Bovet turning The Pink Panther into an august baroque fugue. Gags such as Cole Porter turning up in the middle of Bachian counterpoint (track 10) or Happy Birthday cleverly counterpointed with Bach's Sleepers Awake (track 9) is vintage spoof of the PDQ Bach style. Setchell even plays amusing games with Handel's Joy to the World in the third movement of his own light and instantly palatable Three Piece Suite. Humour of a more subtle and lasting kind can be found in the final track - Bovet's Hamburger Totentanz. This is one of the best together with Renaud's exhilarating Toccata in D minor which opens the recital.

Setchell plays many arrangements. Some such as Fauré's Sicilienne suit the organ admirably but Sousa's Washington Post March strays a bit too far from its brass band origins for my taste. His agile fingers whirr cleanly through Flight of the Bumble Bee but in far less time than 4.40 stated on the track listing. You will even hear a few TV favourites such as Gounod's sardonic Funeral March for a Marionette used in Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

If light listeners look mainly for catchy tunes, Setchell delivers them aplenty in 22 tracks played with polish and panache and garnished with the Rieger organ's renowned wide range of sonorities,especially the reed colours. Recording has a fine concert hall reality but is also clean and focused. Recommended.

- Ian Dando, Christchurch Star.

- Rick Scoggin, Rick's Reviews

A few weeks ago we got an email from New Zealand asking us to review a CD Bonbons for Organ, by organist Martin Setchell. This CD was recorded in November, 2000 and is newly released by Atoll. I started listening to a number of these and pretty soon my two boys were next to me and on some of the lighter pieces grinning and keeping time to the tempo. After they were done listening, my wife concluded this was a "fun" CD. It is a very fun CD of generally lighter music, and Mr.Setchell's enthusiasm for the music and the organ shines through. My son noted that it didn't sound "too bright" as some organ CDs do on the higher end. The sound is wonderfully big and yet clear and precise with good definition. There is a picture of this huge pipe organ which was installed in 1997 after 25 years of "community fund raising." It is huge with the organist playing it appearing smaller than a postage stamp in the center of the instrument. This always brings a gasp when I show people this picture in the notes.

There are 22 selections. For the lighter selections, I thought "Nola" and "The Washington Post March" were highlights. But there is also some Faure, Verdi and two powerful late romantic somewhat Straussian pieces by Renaud and Dubois that I truly enjoyed. I am not an organ music connoisseur, though I do listen to "Pipe Dreams" on our classical music station. My whole family enjoyed this CD and my family rated this an A-.

David Sell, Christchurch Press:

"Here is about as catholic a collection of organ music as you are likely to find. As the title suggests, it tends towards the lighter side of the repertoire, with more than a sprinkling of fun and humour, as in the two Bach parodies. Beautiful Women includes in the same bracket Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, and Felix Arndt's Nola.Then there are the Four Creatures Great and Small which, among Daquin's The Cuckoo, Saint Saens' The Swan and the ubiquitous Flight of the Bumble Bee, is a Fugue on the Pink Panther by Guy Bovet. Interspersed among these are such pieces as the superbly French Toccata in D minor by Renaud, and Fiat Lux by Dubois, Sousa`s Washington Post March, and the Grand March from Aida.

Martin Setchell brings to his playing his own collection of teachers and influences, not least, from the town where he himself grew up, Reginald Dixon, of Tower Ballroom, Blackpool, fame. French organist Marie- Claire Alain and English cathedral organist Peter Hurford round out the range of styles that quickly succeed each other in this issue." - David Sell - Christchurch Press