How did you get into singing/playing the organ?
Through my Dad mainly. He conducted a local choir and played the organ at our village church. At first I was mostly only interested in being on stage; I joined the local amateur operatic society (at which my Dad was also a performer and occasional musical director) aged 14 and cut my theatrical teeth performing Gilbert and Sullivan, something I still do regularly nearly 20 years later!
What’s been your best or most enjoyable singing/playing experience to date?
My experiences with the National Youth Choir will always be special to me. From performing Bach’s motets at his own church in Leipzig to just sitting around at the end of a long day and randomly breaking into perfect 4-part harmony when a song comes on the TV, it’s a truly unique environment! I think the most special experience I had in my time was at the 21st anniversary gala concert in Birmingham Symphony Hall. The first piece was Zadok the Priest by Handel, performed by the combined, 700-strong choirs (including an alumni choir), accompanied on the organ by David Hill, Director of the Bach Choir (his daughter was a member of the choir at the time). I was picky enough to be stood almost right in the middle of the choir, and the noise of the first chord when it hit is something I will never forget.
What are you up to now?
After 10 years working in education, as a music teacher and later Head of Department, I have recently changed careers. I am now a Civil Servant working in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and advise on home ownership policy. I still perform whenever I can.
Do you have a favourite piece of choral music? Why that one?
Mozart’s Requiem. I studied Mozart quite a lot at University; his music had a quality that I really don’t think is matched by anyone else – managing to be simultaneously simple and complex, comical and emotional, subtle and extravagant. I feel the requiem epitomises this – it is a work that can be enjoyed on so many levels. There is a degree of emotional engagement with the composer that was completely new in the 1790s; more than a decade before Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ symphony and more than half-century before this became the norm, Mozart was displaying his own emotional instability and fear of the unknown in a very tangible way. His melodies, as always, enhance the beauty of the text (which, in liturgical music, is too often ignored even by great composers) but the setting and accompaniment lay bare his underlying fear of what he must have known was his own inevitable demise. It is the only piece of music I know that I don’t think could be improved in any way.