What do you do for a living?
I’m Assistant Director of Music at Gloucester Cathedral, Director of Saint Cecilia Singers and Accompanist to Gloucester Choral Society. As a ‘Three Choirs Festival’ ADoM, I’m involved each year with the Festival as an accompanist and am Festival Organist in the Gloucester years. I try and keep my freelance concert work going in amongst all of that too.
Have you lived in Gloucestershire all your life?
It feels like it! In a good way, of course. I was born in Portsmouth and grew up in Guildford. I then spent 2007-2012 in London, doing my degree at the Royal College of Music, and being Organ Scholar of Southwark Cathedral, which I merged with part-time piano/organ teaching jobs at Sevenoaks School and the City of London School. I then moved to be Organ Scholar of Winchester Cathedral, before being snapped up by Gloucester in 2014.
Where is your favourite place in Gloucestershire?
A tricky question – we in Gloucester are so lucky to be so near the Cotswolds, the Forest of Dean and the Welsh border. Perhaps Chosen Hill, as you can see most of Gloucestershire - on a clear day you can see Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury all at once.
Which bit of the building at Gloucester Cathedral do you love the most?
Obviously, it will have to be the organ loft, but not just because it’s my ‘office’! You get an equally brilliant view of both the Nave and of the Quire (and the Great East Window). Also, because Sir Herbert Brewer is buried by the loft door, which gives me a huge sense of personal perspective when I step in and step out of the organ loft.
If you had to name your favourite choral piece, what might it be and why?
There are so many: but my all-time favourite piece (not just as a choral work), must be Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’. I could write an entire book about why I love it so much – but I would say my favourite extract of the piece would be the duet between Gerontius and the Angel towards the beginning of Part 2. The word Dream is used well in the title, let’s say.
Is there a choral piece that you would love to conduct, but haven’t yet?
In terms of something that I could conduct for a choir of 25-30 singers (i.e. SCS), I would love to conduct the Rachmaninov ‘All-Night Vigil’. It’s simultaneously both indulgent and sincere, and both intimate and impressive, with a harmonic language to make you want to eat cake.
What has been your favourite moment or event during your time with the Saint Cecilia Singers?
Conducting SCS in Parry’s complete ‘Songs of Farewell’ in Gloucester Cathedral Quire (Parry’s ‘home’ cathedral) during the 2018 centenary celebrations organised by Gloucester Choral Society.
Where in the world would you most like to visit, but haven’t?
Alaska. Failing that, anywhere else with beer, mountains and very few people.
If you could read only two books from now on, which ones would they be?
Michael Ondaatje’s ‘The English Patient’ – I love the 1996 film, but the book is full of beautiful language and imagery, so it’s no wonder the film was so special.
Anthony Capella’s novel ‘The Food of Love’ – set in Rome and full of scrummy Italian food recipes.
Which four figures from the past would you like to have at your dinner table?
Sir Edward Elgar – my favourite composer, and a worthy facial-hair competitor.
Oscar Wilde – ‘we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’.
Winston Churchill – a dangerously similar diet.
Noel Coward – like Churchill, a great manipulator of language and wit.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Music, joint in importance with my lunch break.
What other hobbies do you enjoy outside of music?
I’m a big film enthusiast, and am a devoted Manchester United supporter, despite not having a Northern bone in my body. My wonderful long-suffering girlfriend is incredibly nice when it comes to watching Man United games with me, but I usually bribe her with a Deliveroo Five Guys on match-days, just to make sure it’s still OK.
What are you most looking forward to after lockdown eases?
I’m looking forward to life getting back to normal, but perhaps at a slower pace. I’ve never been able to make peace with why life must be so cluttered all the time. Less philosophically, though, perhaps the simple luxury of a beer on a sunny day with my closest friends and colleagues wouldn’t go amiss.