On Wednesday 8th February 2023 we welcome our very own Graham Thorpe to the Cathedral for our next organ recital of 2023. In this edition of ‘Notes from an Organist’ we discover more about his new role in the Cathedral for the next two months; why he loves playing the organ; and what to expect from his time playing our guest instrument – the Wingfield organ!
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 at Bradford Cathedral, currently I am privileged to be Acting Director of Music during Alex Berry’s study leave. I’m enjoying the increased responsibility and time directing the choir, as well as working with Ed Jones who has kindly agreed to assist while Alex is away.
I always wanted to be an organist, and really, was drawn to cathedral music during my sixth form at Chetham’s School of Music. As a Junior Organ Scholar at Manchester Cathedral, I attended many of the chorister rehearsals and daily cathedral services, sitting in the organ loft and turning pages, which was inspirational.
I cut my teeth at Guildford Cathedral as Organ Scholar – having never even played a psalm before, before spending six years in London studying and freelancing. From there I moved to Bradford.
What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
I hope an entertaining, informative 45 minutes or so, with a programme that’s unique.
Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
Clearly, my God-complex…! The organist is all powerful… or so we like to believe! Seriously, I love the challenge of liturgical accompaniment. The way the organ can colour, move and direct the feel of a service is what makes me tick. It’s always a challenge to see how imaginative I can be, to enable people to experience something more from a service.
Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
As ever, I have tried to choose a programme with a proportion of music I haven’t played before. This week’s new repertoire is Hakim’s Fantasia on Adeste Fidelis (Happy Christmas everyone!), an exciting French romp on ‘O come, all ye faithful’. I think my particular favourite is Whitlock’s Folk Tune, however. Such a simple melody, so hauntingly beautiful, and again, new to my repertoire.
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 have chosen Judith Bingham’s Ancient Sunlight. This is a musical portrayal of Giotto’s three paintings in Scrovegni Chapel of Padua depicting the early life of the Virgin Mary. It’s a piece in three movements; a prelude, aria and toccata, entitled ‘Infancy’, ‘Betrothal’ and ‘Annunciation’. It was first performed in 2003 by Thomas Trotter, and explores the colours of the organ.
Are you looking forward to playing the Wingfield Organ, and what will it bring to your set / the piece you’re playing on it?
I love playing early instruments – today I am performing a piece of Byrd, based on the rising scale. The sound of the Wingfield organ is so pure and clear, and very beautiful to listen to. Because it’s pumped by hand, the wind has a steadiness to it that you don’t get from an electric blower. The tone is therefore more even, perhaps almost imperceptibly. Although it is a small organ, and the sound is very beautiful, it’s hugely loud when you’re sat right behind it to play!
Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
I think, balanced, with music that is unlikely to have been heard before, contrasted with core repertoire. A recital to challenge, but ultimately entertain the listener.
You can join us on Wednesday 8th February at 1pm for Graham Thorpe’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