On Wednesday 19th October 2022 our very own Graham Thorpe is here for the next of this season’s organ recitals. Here we find out more his journey to Bradford Cathedral, how the organ is a transformative instrument, and how a piece he’s playing captures the mood… of cats!
Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
This is my fourth year as Assistant Director of Music at Bradford Cathedral. I came to the role having just completed my BMus and MMus in London at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music respectively. In addition to my studies, I worked as a freelance musician in London, as well as holding organ scholarships at churches including the Brompton Oratory and St Michael’s, Cornhill. I thoroughly enjoyed the day-to-day variety of the freelance lifestyle, and working with so many different and interesting musicians and people across London.
I took up the piano aged six, shortly followed by the trombone. I remember organ music being played on LP at home, and seeing my grandfather play the organ at a local parish church. From then I was hooked by the idea of playing the organ at a cathedral. I took up the organ at secondary school, studied at Chetham’s School of Music for my sixth form, before taking up the organ scholarship at Guildford Cathedral. My two years in Guildford were the musical making of me, and set me up for my studies and career.
What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
I hope, an interesting and varied programme that has something for everyone. I have balanced repertoire that has been written in the last ten years with pieces that are part of the organist’s standard music shelf
Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
The power…! And the colours, the musicality, the repertoire. It’s an instrument that accompanies singers and instruments, as well as being a wonderful solo instrument. The organ can completely transform a space into something living, where perhaps before it might be cold and quiet.
Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
I have really taken to Anthony Gray’s setting of An Wasserflüssen Babylon, despite the technical challenges of playing it – it has a persistent, undulating beauty, and an energy that draws you from the first note to the last. The Cat Suite is adorable; four beautifully crafted, very listenable portraits that really capture the character of cats. And of course, Louis Vierne’s famous Carillon de Westminster is a marvellous romp and great fun to play and to hear.
Each recital this season includes a piece from The Orgelbüchlein Project – what was it like learning this piece / why did you pick that particular piece?
The organ is such a good instrument for new music. I have chosen two pieces from The Orgelbüchlein Project – one, a bold introductory piece, the other, reflective and quiet. It’s partly about exploring new pieces that interest me, but also about creating a well-balanced programme.
Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
It feels like it’s the heart of the job. We get so bogged down not doing music, that each recital is a focal point for me, an opportunity to learn new repertoire, and to prepare a programme to a really high standard. I love meeting and talking with the recital audience every week.
You can join us on Wednesday 19th October at 1pm for Graham Thorpe’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. Please note: there isn’t an organ recital on the 26th October due to half-term, but the recital series continues on the 2nd November.
You can discover more about our organ recital season on our dedicated page.