On Wednesday 19th June we welcome our very own Pete Gunstone for our eighth 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 coming from a family of organists; honouring the upcoming birthday of Philip Wilby (who once worked at Bradford Cathedral); and presenting a paper at the Cathedral Music Trust conference.

Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
I come from a family of organists: my great-grandmother, great-aunt, great-uncle, uncle, and aunt were/are all organists. I was bitten by the bug at the age of 15, played in my local church, was Organ Scholar at Leeds Parish Church during my undergraduate degree, and then worked freelance following two years’ postgraduate study at the Royal Northern College of Music.

What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
The programme is grounded in Vierne’s epic Third Symphony for organ, which explores a wide range of the instrument’s habitual and more unusual tonal colours. The first piece honours the upcoming 75th birthday of the English composer, Philip Wilby, one-time Assistant Organist of this Cathedral, when Geoff Weaver was the Organist.

Phil tutored and encouraged me whilst I was reading music in the University of Leeds and I have admired his musical output ever since. His ‘Toccata and Interlude’ is from A Passion/Mass for our Times which, if I recall correctly, was first performed in Liverpool Cathedral in 1997 by the singers and wind band of Sefton Music Service.

Phil’s music often makes good and varied use of the available space, and I think that the Toccata and Interlude were composed to be played during a procession or some other movement.

The second piece is a musical exposition of what it means to be ‘in Christ’. The context is the death of a Christian, and the journey to be with Christ for ever. The audience will hear two voices moving in parallel – one representing Christ, one representing the Christian – around which there are two other voices, rather like the cries of the angels.

Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
It’s variety and power. For me, as a teenager and now, it was and is the equivalent of a Fender Stratocaster, a well-supplied pedalboard of effects, and a Marshall stack!

Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
The Vierne. It is a journey through storm, calm, cheekiness, lushness and splendour.

This season’s theme is ‘The French Connection (Post-Revolution France)’. How are you reflecting this in your programme?
The Vierne, although not from the immediate post-revolution French repertoire, owes itself to the pioneering spirit of the Enlightenment.

What are your hopes or plans musically for 2024?
To get through this organ recital!

It’s been just over a year since your installation at Bradford Cathedral – how have you found your first year in the post?
It is challenging but immensely rewarding to hold two varied and demanding portfolios (worship and safeguarding).

You are presenting a paper at the Cathedral Music Trust conference in September. Could you tell us a little bit about the paper? Are you looking forward to the presentation and conference?
The paper is called ‘Diverse People Inhabiting Praise Together’. This riffs off a gathering convened by the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission earlier this year in order to explore how diverse musical traditions can exist together in places like cathedrals. Here at Bradford, we have a fantastic Cathedral-style Choral Tradition. Yet, when we gather the Diocese together, we’re gathering people for whom that tradition is not their habitual cultural worshipping experience. So, how can we best introduce that to them, and how can we introduce something of what they know to help them feel at home here

Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
It’s a bit like art restoration. I know that the pieces are in there, somewhere, but it’s been a slow and painstaking process to reassemble my ability to play them!

You can join us on Wednesday 19th June at 1pm to hear Pete’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm.

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

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