On Wednesday 10th May 2023 we welcome Matthew Kelley from Chelmsford to the Cathedral at our next recital of the 2023 summer season. In this edition of ‘Notes from an Organist’ we discover more about him and the recital, including how he will play a newly written Coronation March; singing in front of royalty at the Diamond Jubilee; and composing his own music.
Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
Hello, I am Matthew Kelley, an organist and composer from Worcester, currently working as the Graham Rogers Organ Scholar at Chelmsford Cathedral. I started in music as a Chorister singing in Worcester Cathedral Choir, and was inspired enough by my work there to begin learning the organ. It remains my primary instrument, and I’ve continued to work as an Organ Scholar/Musical Director ever since in places such as Great Malvern, Guildford, Durham University, and now at Chelmsford.
What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
People will hopefully enjoy a fairly exciting and diverse recital, encompassing both the royal theme as well as some more general pieces that should give me a chance to show off the fine organ you have at Bradford. Some of the royal works are a nod to my home in Worcestershire – I will open with a Coronation March, written for this year by Piers Maxim (Director of Music at Great Malvern Priory), and end with an arrangement of Sir Edward Elgar’s Imperial March, written in Worcester to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. In between those pieces, there’s a chance to indulge in the organ’s sounds and timbres through works like Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata No. 5 and Dan Locklair’s brilliant suite Rubrics, written especially to take advantage of the full breadth of an organ such as this.
Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
I’ve always enjoyed how much the instrument offers you as a player – from the countless combinations of stops and sounds to the individual characteristics of each instrument you meet at a particular venue; no organ is the same as another! At the same time, there’s also something very special about leading a service within a church/cathedral, with the whole congregation singing along to hymns and mass settings. Being part of that worship and atmosphere in this way is a very special thing.
Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
I’m a big fan of the organ suite Rubrics, written by Dan Locklair in 1988. Each of the titles for each movement are generated from instructions within The Book of Common Prayer, producing a vibrant and diverse array of themes within this music. I’m looking forward to making the most of this piece on the Bradford organ, as well as in other pieces.
This recital season we are celebrating ‘music for royal occasions’. Have you ever met any royalty and / or played for them?
The closest I have ever got to royalty is during the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, singing within Worcester Cathedral Choir. We sung a short afternoon concert at the cathedral with Her Late Majesty and Prince Philip present. I hope I’ll get similar luck in front of royalty as an organist in the future!
You are the Organ Scholar at Chelmsford Cathedral – how is that going?
It’s been a fantastic experience working at Chelmsford – both as Organ Scholar and as Acting Assistant Organist for the past couple of terms. We’ve certainly been kept busy with the events of the past year – from the death of Her Late Majesty in September, right through to busy Christmas and Easter periods. It’s been a joy to be part of cathedral music in this way.
Earlier in the year you got to perform the organ part within Saint-Saëns’ 3rd Symphony – what was that like to play?
It was extremely satisfying! I’ve dreamt of playing that piece ever since I started learning the organ, and playing with an orchestra for the first time did not disappoint.
You have also composed and had pieces commissioned. Do you have any pieces that stand out as favourites?
There are plenty of my own pieces that I am proud of, but possibly most of a short choral anthem called Morning Thoughts, based on a poem by James Montgomery. It’s available through the RSCM Press, if anyone is interested!
You are a keen cyclist and sailor – but which do you enjoy most and why?
I’d say sailing has always been something very special, having grown into it all through my childhood through family holidays in South-West England, and the multi-tasking skills involved that suit my organ work as well. I hope to keep up both in the future though!
Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
A celebration of music for royal occasions, past and present, as well as a more general celebration of the cathedral organ at Bradford!
You can join us on Wednesday 10th May at 1pm for Matthew Kelley’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. You can listen to some of his music on his Soundcloud page, and find out more about him on Twitter.
You can discover more about our organ recital season on our dedicated page