Southwell Minster

The Minster Choir in the Quire at Southwell (photo: Chris Knapton)

Southwell Minster is such a stunningly beautiful place that it proved a daily inspiration to me throughout my time there as Cathedral Organist and Rector Chori (1989-2016). Pre­paring the cathedral choirs for the daily choral services was at the heart of my work—as it is for every cathedral organist. What the public cannot see is the vast amount of preparation needed to ensure that ‘the show goes on’.

At Southwell I worked constantly on chorister, lay-clerk and organ scholar recruitment, welfare and training, funding, publicity, planning and promotion of recordings, broad­casts, concerts and overseas tours. Every few years, there was the extra excitement of something unique such as Southwell chorister Ben Inman being selected by Universal for The Choirboys—whose first CD reached ‘platinum’ sales at the end of 2007, or the world premiere of our now widely-performed commission—Paul Patterson’s Southwell Millennium Mass.

BBC choral evensong rehearsal, April 2011
‘The Southwell broadcast was very fine…a model of how it should be done.’ (BBC producer Stephen Shipley)

Maintaining the cathedral’s organs (four pipe organs) and pianos (four grands and two uprights) in perfect condition was always important, as was daily work in our vast choir library of some 30,000 copies, all stapled into colour-coded covers, boxed and indexed. Type-setting music, designing and checking special orders of service and concert programmes are all part of the daily work for the three organists. Liaison with the Minster School in its spectacular new £37 million home was another aspect of our richly varied day.

Working in cathedral music and also advising at parish level on behalf of the RSCM has helped make me acutely aware of the needs and aspirations of these liturgical estab­lishments, enriching and informing the organ consultative endeavours on which I am now embarked full-time.

Visit the Southwell Minster website.