On Wednesday 29th November we welcome our very own Assistant Director of Music Anthony Gray for our next organ recital. In this edition of ‘Notes from an Organist’ we discover more about him, and what to expect from his recital, including showcasing new music; looking forward to 2024’s choir tour; and preparing for a bit of down time after the busy-ness of Advent and Christmas!

Could you introduce yourself and give us a bit of an update on how your first few months have been as Assistant Director of Music?
I’ve really enjoyed getting to grips with my new role as Assistant Director of Music at the Cathedral. Many people will know me from occasionally deputising on the organ or singing in the choir over the past few years (or even going as far back as being Organ Scholar here 10+ years ago!) but it’s great to be part of the music department on a much more regular basis. It’s been good to get to know the choristers properly in the past few months, and to work with the choirs on all sorts of music, as well as getting to know the refreshed Cathedral organ after its summer hiatus.

What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
I’ve tried to design a programme with some music people will know, and some people definitely won’t! I always like to try and showcase new music in recital programmes, and for this recital, I’ve chosen two pieces written by friends from my time at university in Cambridge. Both Pia Rose Scattergood and Jack Oades were commissioned by Choir and Organ magazine to write music as part of their celebration of new organ music, and the two pieces I have included are a fabulous exploration of the colours of the organ. There is also music by Bach, Bridge, and Elgar, as well as a lovely piece by our Music Department Administrator’s (Daisy Widdicombe’s) grandfather, and a look forward to our concert with the Black Dyke Band with a closing extravaganza by Iain Farrington.

How have you found the sound of the newly refurbished organ?
The newly refurbished organ is a joy to play! It makes accompanying much more of an enjoyable and easy experience. It also speaks with a clarity and direction which is new.

Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
Jack Oades’ Rorate Caeli Desuper is a large-scale exploration of the famous chant for Advent Sunday (as we’re nearly there!) in the style of Tournemire. It has all of the bravado and grandeur of a big French improvisation, but with more of a gently diatonic 21st century tonal language. It’s a great example of a hybrid of styles making something new, as there’s also clear elements of Leighton and others in there too. I have really enjoyed learning this piece especially for this recital!

This recital season we are celebrating ‘Fanfares and Fireworks – Celebrating the Return of the Organ’. How are you weaving that theme into your recital?
There are plenty of big moments in the programme! I would say both the opening and closing pieces of the programme fit this bill especially. Bach’s Great Fantasia in G Minor scurries about frantically, and is contrasted with gentle lilting passages. Iain Farrington’s Voices of the World, which was commissioned for the Coronation, utilises folk melodies from around the Commonwealth and puts them into something a medley, in typical Farrington style with outrageous harmony, dancing, exuberant motifs, and all-round great fun!

As we approach the end of the year, what are your hopes for 2024, and any highlights coming up that you’re particularly looking forward to?

I’m especially looking forward to the choir’s tour in 2024, where we will be going to Northumberland. 2024 will also the premiere of an organ-cycle I have been writing for a good friend of mine, Simon Hogan, who is the Assistant Director of Music at Southwark Cathedral. 

For you, what makes a good organ recital?

I think there has to be something for everyone. I like introducing new music to audiences in a way which might be surrounded with pieces on which a composer might have taken influence, or which complement particular styles well. It’s always a good idea to put some Bach in there too…!

Have you got any organ recitals coming up at other churches / cathedrals?

I confess I haven’t properly formed a picture of my diary for 2024 yet! I have a plethora of things coming up this side of Christmas, including conducting Halifax Choral Society alongside the Black Dyke Band on Saturday, directing the Messiah (with amazing soloists!) on 15th December, playing Nativitas (Philip Moore’s fabulous meditation on the Nativity) both here at Bradford and at Leeds Minster, playing for the concert with the Black Dyke Band here at the Cathedral, as well as the usual feast of carol services, concerts and other events both here and at St Wilfrid, Harrogate. If anyone needs me between Christmas and New Year, I’ll be lying down in a dark room…

Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
A kaleidoscope of styles, colours and ideas!

You can join us on Wednesday 29th November 2023 at 1pm to hear Anthony’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. You can find out more about Anthony on his website, Twitter, or Instagram.

You can discover more about our organ recital season on our dedicated page

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