The Royal College of Organists kindly invited me along to their annual Conferment of Diplomas ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. Their highest qualifications, the ARCO and FRCO, are widely regarded as the most testing of all music exams. As well as being asked, obviously, for top-notch performance of tricky organ repertoire, candidates have to manage keyboard skills (multiple limbs required) as well as written papers, fugues etc, and even aural tests, presumably to an Olympic standard.
At the ceremony, I was agog to meet the successful graduates, and to see what kind of person could possibly possess all these attributes at once. I learned that for many professionals in this field, organ-playing is the last thing on their minds; they spend much of their day recruiting, training and conducting church/cathedral choirs, with all the admin constantly surrounding such activities. These talented people seemed grounded and practical – it’s an area of music which mostly has nothing to do with showbiz.
I felt genuinely honoured to receive the RCO Medal, alongside two delightful keyboardists, Daniel Roth and Davitt Moroney; and to have some of my music included in an imaginative concluding recital by Anne Page. Anne performed my first ever organ piece, Wild Mossy Mountains, written for Michael Bonaventure several decades ago. Somehow it’s become one of my ‘hit tunes’ (relatively speaking) and so often the performances, as here, take place in interesting or dramatic surroundings. I can’t stress enough to fellow composers what a good idea it is to write some organ music from time to time.