At the organ of Southwell Minster

At the organ of Southwell Minster


Having been fortunate enough to have a 3 manual Willis organ in the Great Hall at Merchant Taylors’ School, John started to learn the organ at the age of 14 and had many opportunities to play at school, as well as at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in the City of London and at St Paul’s Cathedral. His enthusiasm for organ building and design was fired by a visit to Denmark in 1973 to play some of the famous organs heard on recordings of the time. In his last year at school John gained the ARCO diploma and was soloist in a performance of Poulenc’s organ concerto. Lessons with Jonathan Varcoe and Douglas Hawkridge helped him to gain an organ scholarship to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and he continued his studies there with Glyn Jenkins.

At Cambridge there were many opportunities for recitals, and accompanying choirs on cathedral visits, as well as enjoying the diversity of organ types in the college chapels. At this time John became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. Following Cambridge a year’s intensive organ study at the Royal Academy of Music was combined with being Assistant Organist at St James’ Church, Sussex Gardens, where the 4 manual organ recently rebuilt by Walkers provided an excellent recital and practice facility.

In subsequent teaching posts John continued to enjoy the luxury of fine organs, with 3 manual organs by Willis and Harrison at Felsted School and Cheltenham College respectively. Recitals included a tour to Sweden in 1979, playing some of the finest instruments there. Over the years John has given recitals in a number of prestigious places in this country and abroad. Highlights have included Ely Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, recitals in Sochi and Göttingen (Cheltenham’s twin towns in Russia and Germany), and performing Naji Hakim’s Sonata for trumpet and organ. John is the organ soloist on a Chandos CD (CHAN 10543) of the film music of Mischa Spoliansky, released in 2009, in which he plays the Toccatina on the organ of Cheltenham College Chapel.

As organist at All Saints’ Church, Cheltenham (the church where Gustav Holst sang in the choir as a boy when his father was organist) John gave and arranged recitals by visiting organists on the fine 4 manual William Hill organ (1887).

As an accompanist John has played for many church choirs and choral societies, developing a reputation for his musicianship and reliability. Particular highlights have been regular visits to St Paul’s Cathedral with the choir of Christ Church, Cheltenham, Evensongs for various choirs at Gloucester Cathedral, and accompanying the annual carol concert at St Lawrence’s Church, Lechlade. He has played on several occasions for Philomusica of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, most recently on a tour to Bruges in 2006.