On Wednesday 14th December 2022 we welcome Edward Byrne to the Cathedral for our final organ recital of the year. In this edition of ‘Notes from an Organist’ we discover more about his time at Westminster Abbey, what to expect from his recital, and how Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer will be involved!
Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
My name’s Edward Byrne and I’m organ scholar and a music undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford. The organ’s always been an important part of my life. Some of my earliest memories are page turning for my Grandad and in the process becoming amazed by all the repertoire he introduced me to. At the age of 9 I joined Westminster Abbey Choir School where I was a chorister in the world-renowned choir. While of course I loved all the singing, the highlight was always hearing Peter Holder, Daniel Cook and the other organists being let loose and making as much noise as possible in the voluntaries! After leaving Westminster Abbey, I started playing the organ at the age of 13 after many years of begging my parents to let me start! Since then I’ve been Organ Scholar in some wonderful churches and choral music foundations. Firstly at St Mary’s Church, Nottingham during my GCSE and A Level years, then a gap year full of incredible opportunities working at Worcester Cathedral before starting my current job as Organ Scholar of Magdalen College, Oxford.
You have an organ scholarship at Magdalen College Oxford – what has that been like?
It’s been an incredibly positive and action-packed first term for me in Oxford! At Magdalen we have 7 services a week which means there’s plenty of playing to keep me busy while also trying to write some essays for my degree at the university! My job also includes a lot of chorister training, most frequently with the probationers (beginner choristers). This is an incredibly rewarding job as we have the chance to give them their earliest musical education and see them improve day after day! Most excitingly however is the thought of next term. In January 2023 the brand new Eule organ will be unveiled and put through its paces over the coming months and years!
What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
The theme for my recital is Christmas! So people can look forward to a festive recital with a good variety of musical styles, from German Baroque to Modern French, and from Waltz to Rock and Roll…!
Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
It’s tricky to put it down to one thing, but I love how many different sounds you can get out of certain organs. As a visiting recitalist my favourite thing to do is to try and find my favourite sounds on an organ and see how much variety I can get out of the instrument I’m playing… That, and also the power of being able to play loudly!
Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
My answer to this question will change quite a lot between now and the recital but at the moment I’m really enjoying the Variations sur un Noël basque by Jean Bouvard. I first came across this piece years ago from a recording played by the composer’s grandson, Michel Bouvard on the glorious Cavaillé-Coll in St Sernin, Toulouse. The Basque carol “Jahon handiak” is a really beautiful melody and the variations really enhance the beauty of the original Noël.
Are you playing any particularly festive pieces in your recital?
Yes! This is the one time this year I get to play some of my favourite Christmas pieces which I’m not allowed to play after evensong! So, I look forward to bringing the sounds of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Sleigh Ride into Bradford Cathedral!
Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
A festive and fun varied programme, so there’ll be a piece for everyone to enjoy!
You can join us on Wednesday 14th December at 1pm for Edward Byrne’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. You can also find out more about the Magdalen College Choir on their website, or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
You can discover more about our organ recital season on our dedicated page.