The organ was completed in spring of 1891, and on 18th May that year, Whit Monday, the inaugural concert took place. The programme comprised classical organ works, as well as secular and religious songs popular at the time. Of particular note in the programme is "The Blenheim Fantasia" (Opus 117 in D Minor) composed by Anglo/Dutch musician and composer Edouard Silas (1827-1909). He wrote the piece in 1891 especially for the occasion, and dedicated it to Lillian, the then Duchess of Marloborough. The piece has very contrasting themes and textures, in order to show off the scope of the new organ. Whilst it is quite fun to play, it is not a musical classic, and has sadly not enjoyed the musical limelight over the last century!  To hear a little extract click on the Blenheim Logo below

1. Organ Solo "The Blenheim Fantasia" Edouard Silas

Played by Prof. J. F. Bridge

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Click on the logo to Hear the Blenheim Fantasia by Silas

2. Song "O du mein holder Abendstern (Tannhauser) Richard Wagner

Sung by W. Plunkett-Greene

3 Organ Solo "Rigaudon" Sully

Played by Prof J. F. Bridge

4. Song "The Lost Chord" Sir A. Sullivan

Sung by Mrs Ronalds, acc. by the composer

5. Organ Solo "Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C" J. S. Bach

Played by Prof J. F. Bridge

6. Song "Come Gentle Sleep" (Ivanhoe) Sir A. Sullivan

Sung by Mr. Joseph O’Mara, acc. By the composer

7. Song "Chant des Pelerins (Tannhauser) Richard Wagner

Sung by Mrs Ronalds, acc. Sir A. Sullivan

8. Song "O for the Wings of a Dove" Mendelssohn

Sung by Mrs Ronalds, acc. Sir A. Sullivan

9. Song "Jess Macfarlane" Scottish Trad.

Sung by Mr. Plunkett-Greene

10. Song "The Minstrel Boy" Irish Trad.

Sung by Sung by Mr. Joseph O’Mara

 

There was an "open-requests session" after the formal programme, and other pieces by Lemmens, Handel, Merkel and Silas were played.

Two weeks after the concert the Oxford Times wrote:

"Mr Willis has built a truly magnificent organ for the Duke of Marlborough, which was "opened" by Professor Bridge on Monday the 18th last. There was a large house party, but the great gathering which was originally intended was postponed on account of the severe illness of the Dowager Duchess. Mr Edward Lloyd was unable to sing from the effects of a cold, but his place was taken by Mr O’Mara, of the Royal English Opera, Mr Plunkett Greene singing alto. The instrument was formally inaugurated with a fantasia entitled "Blenheim" composed for the occasion by Mr Silas. This is a very fine specimen of Mr Silas’ well-known powers as an organ writer, and met with much approval. Selections from Bach, Handel, Lemmens etc., completed the programme. The Long Gallery in which the organ stands, is about 183 ft in length, and lofty in proportion. The 32s tell well, and indeed the whole organ is one of the most perfect specimens of Mr Willis’ work. Few private houses contain such a complete organ as is to be found at Blenheim. Mr F Cunningham Woods, MA, organist at Exeter College, is appointed private organist to the Duke of Marlborough. Mr Woods was a student at the National Training School before going to Oxford, and has had for his instructors Sir John Stainer and Dr Bridge. The organ possesses four manuals and nearly seventy stops."

 

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Sir Arthur Sullivan,   who featured in the Inaugural Concert.