On Wednesday 25th January 2023 we welcome Joseph Beech from Durham to the Cathedral for our next organ recital of 2023. In this edition of ‘Notes from an Organist’ we discover more about his musical journey, how he’s playing almost a century’s music, and how he enjoys ‘playing the building’.
Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
Hello everyone! I am really looking forward to my first visit to Bradford and to playing the Cathedral Organ for you. Like most organists, I suspect, my route came through being a chorister, in my case at St Wulfram’s Church in Grantham. I was desperate to learn the piano as a young child, and I suppose the organ felt like a natural transition after singing in the choir – I’ve never looked back. I suspect my choice of career came as a bit of a surprise to my family, who don’t play any instruments or come from a churchgoing background…!
What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
All of the music included in my programme was composed within a 97-year period. This highlights the variety in the organ repertoire, in this case over a relatively short length of time. The somewhat maligned Harris Sonata is retrospective in its style, and combines a tightly-worked classical sonata structure with impressionistic colours, and all wrapped up in an Anglican cassock and surplice! The smaller pieces by Roxanna Panufnik and William Bolcom infuse Gregorian chant and a Gospel worship song respectively with interesting textures and contemporary harmonic spice. After the calm and serenity of Bolcom’s prelude, Percy Grainger’s flamboyant Handel in the Strand will certainly be a cheerful way to end the programme!
Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
Pipe organs are usually housed in impressive buildings, be that a church or concert hall. For me, much of the thrill of playing the organ is the sense of ‘playing the building’ rather than just an instrument. The way in which pipe organs relate to the stone and wood around them is utterly unique.
Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
I think the answer to that question would change depending on what mood I was in when asked! I find the Harris the most engaging to play, for its structure and architecture.
This recital season we are celebrating music written by female composers. Which piece(s) have you selected, and why did you choose it / them?
I am pleased to have chosen to include the Kyrie cum jubilo by the fantastic composer Roxanna Panufnik. The timeless plainsong melody reminds me of my time working at the London Oratory, and also of Maurice Duruflé’s wonderful setting of the Mass based on the same melody.
Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
A selection of mostly unknown, but hopefully interesting and appealing music! I am really looking forward to my visit, and hope you all enjoy it too.
You can join us on Wednesday 25th January at 1pm for Joseph Beech’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm.
You can discover more about our organ recital season on our dedicated page.