The affection in which David Saint is held was warmly exemplified here with a packed audience at St Chad’s Cathedral not only celebrating his now 37 years as organist and director of music, but also marking his forthcoming retirement as Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire.
This was a joyous occasion, beginning with Alleluya Psallat by Peter Aston, snappy in rhythm, and delivered with sensitive dynamic response by the Birmingham Conservatoire Chorus under director Duncan Fielden.
Fielden contributed his own Super Flumina Babylonis, premiered here for Saint’s retirement, and confidently given by the Chorus, its gorgeous sequences melting lyrically into the heart.
Either side of this came organist Saint himself, with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C (wonderful balancing of registrations, imperious pedals rightly to the fore, finger-exhausting figuration breathtakingly accomplished) and Durufle’s Prelude and Fugue on the name d’Alain.
One great organist-composer’s tribute to another so tragically killed in the Second World War, this drew a wonderful range of touch from Saint, building towards a tremendous conclusion.
And this ushered in more Durufle, his wonderful Faure-inspired Requiem (what better role-model?), the fresh young voices here adding to the seraphic pathos of the work (Helen Cooper singing a wonderful Pie Jesu – with such telling lower notes – alongside Saint in the organ-gallery). Fielden had rehearsed his forces meticulously, and the result was totally moving.