On Wednesday 16th November 2022 we welcome John Robinson from Blackburn for the next of this season’s organ recitals. Here we find out more about him from being a choral director in America, celebrating anniversaries during COVID, and what piece lifts him up into a ‘more colourful plane of consciousness’!
Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
That’s quite a question! I’m never entirely sure how all the factors came together, but I was in a parish church choir aged 6, then became a cathedral chorister. In the background I was always playing the piano, and then the organ when my treble voice changed. I then followed a very traditional route of organ scholarships (at Canterbury cathedral and St. John’s College Cambridge) before becoming a Cathedral Assistant. I then worked for 9 years in Boston USA as a choral director, before returning to the UK in 2019 to be Director of Music at Blackburn Cathedral, where I am today.
What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
Given I spend much of my time working with choirs ( or more realistically engaging in endless admin tasks 😉 ) I try only to play organ music I actually like playing, as life is too short, and so I hope that anyone attending the recital will catch some of my enthusiasm for the music. I’ve never played at Bradford before, and so I’m excited to hear new sounds. Every organ is so incredibly different, and so often one hears music in a new way when working with a new instrument.
Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
I really enjoy playing Bach, as he brings out something physically satisfying about the instrument which few other composers create. I like playing the organ specifically, as there’s something rock-like and ‘objective’ about the way one has to interpret music, quite unlike the intimacy of the piano. In some ways, the organ isn’t ‘me’ as an instrument, and so I like the way it draws me into expressive avenues I wouldn’t normally consider.
Earlier in the year you released ‘Laus Deo: Celebrating 50 Years of Blackburn Cathedral Organ’ – how did that come about?
We had planned to celebrate this anniversary with a special service, but when COVID struck, all of that was off the table, and so we had to find another way to mark the anniversary. The recording seemed like a good way to go, and had sponsorship from our ‘Blackburn Cathedral Choirs association’ as well as from a number of individual donors. The concept was interesting, as I went from looking at important years in the history of our Cathedral, to seeing what music that prompted.
Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
I really enjoy playing Duruflé, as it always lifts me up onto a more colourful plane of consciousness.
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?
I’m not playing anything too difficult owing to time-constraints, but I look forward to hearing what the piece in question sounds like.
Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
I would sum it up for me as an exciting outing to a new instrument, and a Cathedral about which I’ve heard so much in recent months. I’m very excited to visit.
You can join us on Wednesday 16th November at 1pm for John Robinson’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. You can find out more about John on Twitter or his YouTube channel.
You can discover more about our organ recital season on our dedicated page.