Sean Montgomery on accompanying the choir, progressive rock in churches and playing something for everyone at the next Organ Recital

Sean Montgomery

Sean Montgomery is our guest organist at the Wednesday@One Organ Recital on Wednesday 9th October, where he’ll be playing pieces by Bach, Ravanello, Whitlock and Durufle.

We spoke to Sean as he was fresh from playing an organ recital in Pontefract where he was road testing the programme for Bradford.

You’re based in Hebden Bridge; is that a good place to live?

I think it’s great.  I moved here from the south five or six years ago. I think it is a fantastic place and I’m happy to be considered an honorary Northerner!

Could you talk us through why you picked the pieces you have for your recital?

It’s going to be a balanced programme with something for everyone. There are three short pieces from an English composer called Percy Whitlock which are all based on folk tunes, and very accessible, a suite of four pieces by an Italian composer called Ravanello which may well be unfamiliar even to the organists in the audience, plus a couple of pieces by JS Bach and Durufle that are more established in the organ repertoire. I hope organists and non-organists alike come to the recital, learn something new and can say ‘I really enjoyed that music’.

You previously spent time at Salisbury Cathedral and played many times here before – what is it like playing the organ in a cathedral?

Thrilling but also quite varied. On Wednesday, I will be giving an organ recital at Bradford Cathedral. I also regularly deputise at Bradford which involves accompanying the choir – completely different to playing a recital. When accompanying the choir you’re often not able to use the full resources of the organ as you are in an accompanying role, whereas in a recital you can pull out all the stops, as it were! I think playing the organ for a big congregation is extremely thrilling, especially in a big building with a congregation that sings well – that’s quite an experience.

When playing in a cathedral, the organ is often a substantial instrument as opposed to a parish church, which means you have more at your disposal, not just in terms of volume or power but more in terms of tone, colour and just all-round flexibility of what you can do with the instrument.

You have a passion for electronic music – does that complement your organ work?

My working week is all based around electronic music which means regularly working with bands, and commercial pop musicians.  At the weekend, it’s classical organ music. Nine times out of ten they are quite separate but occasionally they come together. In another life I occasionally play for a progressive rock band called The Enid who were very popular in the seventies and still have a cult following today. When they tour and they’re in a venue with a pipe organ, I play with them. I’ve done some spectacular gigs including Birmingham Symphony Hall, which involved not just the band and the hall organ, but the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as well!  

Finally, if you could pick one piece you most enjoy either playing or listening to, what would it be?

That’s an incredibly tough question to answer, but in an attempt to answer it, I’ll try and narrow it down to a composer or genre. I’m quite a big fan of 20th century organ music and in particular, even though it’s not in this recital, Hindemith, who wrote some very significant music for organ in the 1930s.

Join Sean Montgomery at the Bradford Cathedral Wednesday@One Organ Recital from 1pm on Wednesday 9th October, with a buffet lunch available from 12:30pm. For more information on all the upcoming organ recitals, and many other events, please visit our website at bradfordcathedral.org.

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