On Wednesday 8th May we welcome our very own Anthony Gray for our fourth organ recital of the 2024 summer season. In this edition of ‘Notes from an Organist’ we discover more about them, and what to expect from their recital, including how the organ is the king of instruments; lots of exciting plans for 2024; and playing a brand-new piece written by Dr Niki Zohdi.

Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
I’ve been Assistant Director of Music here at the Cathedral since September last year, and have thoroughly enjoyed overseeing this year’s recital series alongside Graham.

What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
I’m playing an eclectic collection of pieces for my recital this term, including a world premiere, written especially for the occasion!

Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
The organ is undeniably the king of instruments, and I most enjoy the variety of colours, textures and styles a single instrument is able to achieve.

Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
I have been meaning to learn the Duruflé ‘Prelude, Adagio and Choral Varié’ for some time now, and it is great to be giving this fabulous piece its first full public outing! The most exciting part of this programme however will be the brand-new piece written for me by Dr Niki Zohdi. Niki teaches composition at Leeds University, and we were choristers together at Blackburn Cathedral. At the time of writing, I haven’t yet seen the score, but know it will be wonderful!

This season’s theme is ‘The French Connection (Post-Revolution France)’. How are you reflecting this in your programme?
There are two specifically French pieces in this programme. The first is a short but very lovely Prelude and Fugue written for harmonium by Marie Prestat. Born in 1862, she was a pupil of Cesar Franck and was the first woman to receive five first prizes during her studies at the Paris Conservatoire. The other is the large-scale exploration of the plainchant ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ in the form of a Prelude, Adagio and Choral Variations. I have also included a very lovely little piece by Lennox Berkeley, who studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger (as many of the great composers of the 20th century did) as well as with Maurice Ravel.

What are your hopes or plans musically for 2024?
I have lots of exciting concerts lined up throughout the remainder of 2024, including a summer jazz concert, a celebration of the work of Philip Wilby, the annual Carols and Brass and the annual Messiah, all with Halifax Choral Society. I’ll be collaborating with choir members in several concerts, including playing for Skipton Choral Society this weekend, conducted by Robert Webb, and Charlie Murray (long-time singer in the Cathedral Choir!) and I are looking forward to giving a recital together at Wakefield Cathedral in October.

After taking the Cathedral Choir on tour at the end of the month, I’ll then be heading to Southwark Cathedral to hear a major new piece of mine premiered by Simon Hogan, before something completely different (!) the following week as I will be playing for a week-long run of the Pirates of Penzance in Knaresborough! I’ll also be playing at St David’s Cathedral for a week for the first time across the summer, and giving an organ recital as part of the Leeds Town Hall series in October.

Have you got any exciting non-work plans for the summer?
Mainly lying down after a hectic season! I’ll be hoping to get some work done on the house and in the garden.

Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
A main course of wonderful French music, paired with a sorbet of Berkeley, and a side of Zohdi.

You can join us on Wednesday 8th May 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, X / Twitter account, Instagram page, or YouTube channel.

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

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