On Wednesday 12th June we welcome Jonathan Allsopp from Southwell Minster for our seventh 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 being inspired by an improvising school organist; performing music at St. Paul’s Cathedral; and going on a choir tour to Canada.

Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
I’m the Assistant Director of Music at Southwell Minster, the Cathedral for the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, and have been here for almost five years. My first musical experiences were starting to learn the piano and violin at a relatively early age. I never took either too seriously, and around the age of 12, I stopped having regular music lessons. A few years later, the school I went to for secondary school had a school organist, who was a phenomenal improviser. Hearing him improvise us out of school assemblies clearly clicked something in me, and I started organ lessons when I was 15, and the rest is history. Since I left school, I’ve held organ scholarships at the cathedrals of Hereford, Durham and Westminster, before coming to Southwell in 2019.

What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
aWhen Anthony mentioned the theme of ‘The French Connection’, I decided to take him at his word, and give an overview of the music of two of the figureheads of French romantic organ music.

Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
The fact that no two organs are the same. It means that whenever I come to a new instrument, either to accompany on or to give a concert, it feels like you’re a child in a candy shop, exploring all these new sounds and figuring out how they relate to each other, and what the possibilities are.

Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
Widor’s Symphonie romane is one of my Desert Island pieces. Having written his first eight symphonies in an increasingly grand and large-scale way, his final two symphonies (the Gothique and the Romane) reflect Widor’s new-found love of plainsong, and as a result include some of his most beautiful music; the Choral that I will be playing is so stunning, I had it played before my wedding!

This season’s theme is ‘The French Connection (Post-Revolution France)’. How are you reflecting this in your programme?
My programme explores music by two greats of the French symphonic tradition: Charles-Marie Widor and César Franck. Widor’s 7th and 10th symphonies were written only 14 years apart, but are very different in style. Franck’s Pastorale take on the style it says on the tin, and his Third Choral, his final composed work, is very much his epitaph, and reflects his emotional involvement with one of his students, Augusta Holmes, to whom the work was dedicated.

What are your hopes or plans musically for 2024?
When you read this, I will have recently performed Messiaen’s Messe de la Pentecôte at St Paul’s Cathedral in the context of a Eucharist, the way in which the piece was conceived, and is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while! Outside of organ music, I’ve been recently appointed as Music Director of the Derbyshire Singers from September, and am very much looking forward to getting stuck into some choral society-style repertoire with this wonderful choir.

You are the Assistant Director of Music at Southwell Minster. How has your time been there, and have there been any particular highlights?
Typically, I only had six month in my role before the COVID pandemic hit, so it’s not been completely smooth sailing! However it’s a wonderful place to work, and the community and music department are both hugely welcoming. A real highlight was directing the Cathedral Choir for our Easter Day Eucharist in 2023, broadcast live on BBC One, an experience I will never forget!

You’ve organised several choir tours – has there been a particular country that you’ve most enjoyed visiting?
I took my Durham chapel choir on tour to Canada in 2017, and I have subsequently been itching to return! Canadians are wonderfully welcoming people, and the country has some breathtaking scenery; I’m very excited that my wife, two friends and I will be driving around the Rockies in an RV for a couple of weeks in the summer!

You have given first performances of works by Francis Jackson, Roxanna Panufnik, and David Loxley-Blount. What was it like to have that honour?
Giving first performances of new compositions is always an exciting process, as you get to have the first go at interpreting it! It was a particular joy to premiere Francis Jackson’s contribution to the Orgelbüchlein Project in 2016; I visited Francis at his home in Yorkshire to play to him and to talk about the piece, and it was a real privilege to have met him before he died in 2022 at the amazing age of 104!

Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
A programme showcasing two masters of their compositional craft, and showcasing Bradford’s fabulous cathedral organ.

You can join us on Wednesday 12th June at 1pm to hear Jonathan’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. You can find out more about him on Twitter.

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

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