Some of church music’s foremost luminaries are coming together next Sunday (13 May) to launch The Maxwell Fernie Trust. Dame Malvina Major and organist Douglas Mews are among those who will perform in a concert to highlight the new trust set up to support and encourage the tradition of Gregorian chant and Latin sacred polyphic music which Maxwell Fernie fostered.
Broadcaster Graeme Thompson will present the free concert which includes the St Mary of the Angels Choir led by Robert Oliver and accompanied by NZSO principal trumpeter Mark Carter. Organ performances from Wellington City Organist Douglas Mews, Michael Fulcher and Roy Tankersley on the newly-restored St Mary’s organ will evoke the memory of Max’s own performances.
Maxwell Fernie was born in Wellington in 1910 and rose to prominence as an eminent organist, a well respected teacher of keyboard and voice, and an expert on polyphonic music of the 16th and 17th centuries. He studied with distinction at the Royal Academy of Music before taking up an appointment as organist of Westminster Cathedral.
He returned to New Zealand in 1958 to be director of music at St Mary of the Angels, Wellington, a position he held until his death in 1999.
Max was Wellington City’s organist from 1974 onward and a recognised authority on Gregorian Chant and 16th Century Polyphony, founding and directing the Schola Polyphonica choir. His love for the organ eventually led him to become involved in organ construction and tonal design, with his advice and services being sought throughout New Zealand.
During his lifetime he was well known as a recitalist and broadcaster, particularly for his interpretation of Bach and for his extemporisations. He was awarded the OBE in 1974 in recognition of his services to music, and in 1989 received the papal award Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
The Maxwell Fernie Trust hopes to continue Max’s legacy by awarding scholarships to students of the pipe organ, choral music and conducting.
The free concert on Sunday 13 May will feature music by JS Bach, Handel and Franck, and Gregorian Chant. It is open to the public, begins at 6.30pm and will last a little over an hour.