On Wednesday 26th June we welcome Francesca Massey from London for the penultimate 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 performing for the first time in the Netherlands; being a founder member of the City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus; and how to make a great compilation of organ music.

Could you introduce yourself, how you got into music / become an organist and your musical journey to where you are today?
I started learning the organ aged 12 at my local church in the West Midlands. I did a gap-year scholarship at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, before studying music at Cambridge and the RNCM, and then held various cathedral posts (Peterborough, Durham and Rochester), before embarking on a freelance career in 2022.

What can people expect from your recital at Bradford Cathedral?
A wealth of great tunes, which hopefully showcase the capabilities of the organ!

Why do you enjoy playing the organ?
I particularly love that no two organs are the same, and that you essentially have a whole symphony orchestra at your disposal, with the potential to colour the music and play complicated counterpoint in a way that no other instrument can.

Do you have a particular favourite piece out of those you are playing?
I am fond of them all, but the Elgar Sonata is particularly wonderful, and rightly sits as a pinnacle of the English organ literature (even though it is more orchestral than organistic, idiomatically!)

This season’s theme is ‘The French Connection (Post-Revolution France)’. How are you reflecting this in your programme?
I will be playing two contrasting French pieces: Saint-Saëns Fantaisie in E flat, with its playful opening section and jolly march, and Dupré’s Crucifixion from the Symphonie-Passion, which is highly evocative and extremely poignant.

What are your hopes or plans musically for 2024?
I have many exciting concerts coming up, including my first performance in the Netherlands! I have also recently taken over as MD of two different Choral Societies in Kent, as well as having many varied teaching and examining engagements to look forward to!

You were a founder member of the City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus. What was that like to be involved in?
It was amazing, and it was that experience which made me want to pursue a career in music. We regularly performed with the likes of Sir Simon Rattle and CBSO, the Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado et al, in fabulous concert halls all over Europe. I think I took it all for granted as a teenager!

You have held positions in several cathedrals – what is special about cathedrals when it comes to performing music?
It is humbling to think of the generations of musicians who have made music in those spaces, and the wonderful acoustics, of course. The peace and tranquility of the building when practising by yourself (with perhaps just the bodies of various historically important figures lying nearby!), is quite magical to experience.

You have released several organ music CDs – what makes for a good programme of music for these?
It depends on the criteria: when it’s for an organ which has hardly been recorded, you’ll want a varied programme which will showcase its versatility and play to its strengths. I always try to find pieces that haven’t been featured much before, which I think deserve to be better-known. Otherwise, music which speaks personally to you: – one of my CDs is of the complete works of Maurice Duruflé, as I believe every piece of his is utter perfection (and crucially all fits perfectly onto 1 CD!)

You have a Cavapoo called Rusty. What’s a Cavapoo like as a pet?
Cavapoos are wonderful characters and affectionate companions. They are incredibly adaptable, and will be equally happy going for a long hike, or spending the day on the sofa! They are also (usually) non-shedding, so a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want dog hair all over the place!

Finally, how would you sum up your upcoming recital at Bradford Cathedral?
No better way to spend your lunch hour!

You can join us on Wednesday 26th June at 1pm to hear Francesca’s organ recital, with an optional £4 buffet lunch beforehand at 12:30pm. You can find out more about them on their website or on Facebook.

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

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