On Wednesday 29th March 2023 we welcome Nicholas Morris of Cambridge to the Cathedral for our next organ recital of 2023. In this edition of ‘Notes from an Organist’ we discover more about being a chorister in Westminster Abbey; playing the organ in Passiontide; and having an interest in ‘new music’.
Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
I come from a musical family. While an undergraduate, my father was the organist of a church in North Wales. Although he didn’t pursue a career in music, his work as an ecclesiastical lawyer meant that he spent a lot of his professional life around priests and organists!
My grandfather was a professional musician, combining his role as music editor at Oxford University Press with that of Organist of St George’s Hanover Square – where I can be found playing the organ myself most Sundays! My great-grandmother Enid Morris, who studied at The Leipzig Conservatoire before the First World War, was an organ pupil of Dr G. R. Sinclair at Hereford Cathedral, and we also know that my great-great-grandfather was an organist.
I was fascinated by the organ at Westminster Abbey (where I was a chorister), and started organ lessons as soon as I was tall enough. After school, I took up the Organ Scholarship at Queens’ College, Cambridge – and after postgraduate study at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire combined various posts in Cambridge, Birmingham and London with a freelance career.
What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
The programme is intended to be suitable for Passiontide – but that doesn’t mean it is entirely restrained – some of the most passionate music for the organ is written for penitential seasons – and I hope my programme will demonstrate the versatility of the organ in Bradford.
Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
There’s so much variety – both in the repertoire and the instruments! I enjoy travelling and one of the privileges of being an organist is ‘out-of-hours’ access to some stunning buildings. They can take on entirely different characters when you are the only person in building.
Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
Good question! I think Bach’s B minor prelude is one of his finest and I always love playing it, but I often find that the answer to that question depends on the character of the instrument itself – so ask me again after the recital!
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’m playing Sounding Heaven and Earth by Cecilia McDowall. It’s a thrilling and extremely original piece that’s unlike much else in the repertoire and a very original response to Prayer, the sonnet by George Herbert.
You have a particular interest in ‘new music’ – what are your personal favourite pieces to either listen to or play?
The McDowall mentioned above is a particular favourite to play. I’ve also enjoyed exploring (both as a listener and player) the pieces commissioned as part of the extraordinary Orgelbüchlein Project curated by William Whitehead – more details can be found on their website.
Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
A varied sequence for Passiontide, exploring a number of moods and styles.
You can join us on Wednesday 29th March at 1pm for Nicholas Morris’ organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. You can find out more about Nicholas on his website, or follow him on Twitter.
You can discover more about our organ recital season on our dedicated page