Sacred Organ Music Recently Composed by Frederick Stocken

by David Clayton on December 15, 2011

St Michael the Archangel Based in London,  Frederick Stocken is a composer who is creating modern compositions in the classical tradition. By this, I mean that he creates works that seek to follow traditional principles of harmony and with a melodic richness and complexity appropriate to it – ie his work is neither dissonant nor minimalist. I first became aware of him when he spoke to Joanna Bogle’s Catholic Cultural Group in London about the principles of beauty in musical composition. What struck me particular was his approach to understanding the principles of the tradition in which he is working, so that he apply them in modern era. Much of what he articulated became the inspiration for my own approach to resurrecting a culture of beauty with a focus on art.

Shortly after I met him I heard his First Symphony premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I am used to the concert program in which they lure the paying customers in by playing something familiar from the classical repertoire, perhaps Beethoven or Mozart, and then inflict upon the paying customers the premier of a modern piece that is so horribly dissonant and you hope you never have to hear again. It is so predictable, that whenever I see the phrase ‘World Premier’ in the program I wonder if it is just put after the interlude to raise drinks receipts by encouraging people stay on in the bar a bit longer rather than listen to the clashing chords. i have even heard Catholic composers talk about their aim of producing beautiful music and drawing people to God, and then when you hear the music, it is difficult to distinguish it from any other modernism. Frederick’s work is not throw-back or pastiche, but unlike all the others, he is at least prepared to allow the tradition to guide him what he does and you can hear it immediately in his work.

Anyway, make your mind up. Here is a recording of the third movement of his organ composition St Michael the Archangel. It was recorded

For those who might be within striking distance of Leed in England, he is speaking at the cathedral there on January 4th. The title is: Sing a New Song to the Lord? Musical reflections on the sacred and the secular, tradition and modernity.

Here is an article I wrote about Frederick’s music and his approach to composing, it is called Dispelling the 12-tone Blues.

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Emily M. Meixner December 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Thank you for posting this, David! I am a student of sacred music with a concentration in organ. It is always fascinating in this day and age to discover a composer who writes in the more traditional style of tonal harmony, and I appreciate it immensely. While I will admit that my taste leans toward more traditional styles, I do appreciate a good healthy dose of Olivier Messiaen, a 20th c. French organist, composer, and a devout Roman Catholic. Plus his organ music is so much fun to play!

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