On Wednesday 18th October we welcome our very own Graham Thorpe and Anthony Gray to the console for a very special performance of organ duets. In this edition of ‘Notes from an Organist’ we discover more about them and the recital including the promise of bad puns, how the organ is able to move people emotionally, and ensuring they have plenty of elbow room!
Could you introduce yourselves, how you got into music / become organists and your musical journey to where you are today?
Anthony – “Both of us came to organ music through slightly different routes! I came to church music principally through my father’s work (as many of you will know…!) as well as through being a chorister at Blackburn Cathedral.”
Graham – “I come from a musical family, where organ music was always played in the house on an LP (some of which I still have!). My Dad used to turn pages for Dave Rogers during his all-night practice sessions at Doncaster Parish Church (now Minster). It was almost inevitable that I would end up doing something musical, and in the end I turned out as an organist…”
What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
Anthony – “Lots of notes”
Graham – “Some of them the correct ones”
Anthony – “Bad puns”
Graham – “Mild attempts at humour”
Anthony – “In all seriousness, a wide selection of musical genres, including duets from the organ as well as a suite of pieces originally written for two pianos, which we will be arranging as we go for organ and piano”
Graham – “Entertainment for the right sort of person”
Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
Graham – “Because it means I don’t have to spend all of my time in front of the computer”
Anthony – “Because I think it’s some of the best repertoire written for any instrument”
Graham – “Also, it’s part of what I do, I love the music and it has so many transferable contexts as well as the power to move people in so many different ways, whether in a liturgical or non-liturgical context”
Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
Anthony – “My particular favourite is the Richard Rodney Bennet ‘Four Piece Suite’ which takes a variety of lighter styles including Blues, Ragtime and ‘Tempo di Hard Rock’ and combines them into a wonderful little suite for two pianos. It’s going to be a fascinating experience putting this together with one of us playing the organ!”
Graham – “I’ll let you know afterwards…”
This recital season we are celebrating ‘Fanfares and Fireworks – Celebrating the Return of the Organ’. How are you weaving that theme into your recital?
Graham – “It’s certainly going to be a firework the mere prospect of both of us playing the organ, for a start!”
Anthony – “The final item in the programme will certainly fulfil this brief”
You’ve both had chance to play on the organ since the works finished – how have you found the sound, and how exciting is it to play it now?
Anthony – “There is so much more colour in the Swell division, which makes accompaniment of the choir a much more pleasant and rich experience, both for the listener and for the organist! The Great pipework having been cleaned seems to have dusted off some of the peculiarities of the soundworld too, as well as hopefully psychologically dusting off some of the organists’ musical habits…”
Graham – “For the first time for me, it sounds like a Cathedral Organ! The sound is much less driven, it’s rich and no longer shouts at you. There’s a huge amount of beauty in the new colours, and I haven’t yet decided what my favourite improvement is. It’s currently between the re-cast Mixture, the new 16’ flute and the strings. Let me know afterwards!”
You are playing a special set of duets. What are the challenges of performing together?
Anthony – “Making sure you have enough elbow room…”
Graham – Ensuring you like the person you’re playing with”
Anthony – “Trying to not make communication between the two of you seem distracting to the audiences’ experience of the recitals. This will be especially interesting when I am downstairs on the piano, and Graham is upstairs in the organ loft.”
Are the pieces you play specially arranged for duets, or do you have to adapt the pieces?
Anthony – “The biggest piece in the programme is the Litazie Sonata for organ duet, which is specially written for two players on one console. This was the final piece he wrote before he died (in fact on the eve of his death) and is littered with plainsong references to Easter (a theme we then pick up on in the Rutter piece), but is really well crafted for two people sharing one console.”
Graham – “The Rodney Bennet piece will have to be specially adapted as we go, but playing one part on the organ will enable us to find a different quality to a lot of the jazzy material”
Graham – You have recently started as our new Director of Music – how has that been for you?
“I am really enjoying working with the new team at the Cathedral, especially the newly formed music department. Taking overall responsibility for the tuition of the choristers and preparation of all the music for services is a big responsibility, but one that I am relishing. I am also taking pleasure in refining the art of delegation…!”
Anthony – You have recently started as our new Assistant Director of Music – how has that been for you?
“It has been wonderful to be back as part of the Bradford Cathedral community again! Having been the organ scholar here for two and a half years in my teens, returning as one of the two principal musicians in the department is a wonderful experience. I’m hugely enjoying getting to know the newly-refurbished organ as well as working with the choristers on much more of a regular basis, having been involved ‘ad hoc’ doing some piano and organ teaching and tuition.”
Anthony – You are an organist, conductor and pianist – which do you prefer and why?
“I think the relationship between all these things is by its nature interdependent, and one complements the other greatly. For example, as a composer, this makes my ear for textures and lines in choir rehearsals more adept, and then as an organist, hopefully I am able to imagine registration in interesting ways”
Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
Anthony – “Like something you’ve never experienced before, or will experience again”
Graham – “As entertaining for the performers as hopefully for the audience”
You can join us on Wednesday 18th October 2023 at 1pm to hear Graham and Anthony’s organ duets, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. You can find out more about Anthony on his website or Twitter account.
You can discover more about our organ recital season on our dedicated page