What instruments do you play?
I began studying the piano and violin at a young age, and it was the piano that truly kindled my interest in music. The piano is a terrific medium for any musician as it allows the development of an advanced harmonic understanding more easily than other monophonic instruments. My study of the organ began aged 11; inspired largely by the famous French organ tradition, I was given many wonderful opportunities to perform at magnificent Cathedrals such as those of St Paul’s, Wells, Chichester, and many more. Enthused by these early experiences – and wonderful teachers – I have devoted a great deal of time to my organ studies in recent years.
Which performers do you particularly admire?
In keeping with my enthusiasm for the French organ tradition, I admire Pierre Cochereau for his thrilling and deeply musical playing and, of course, his fabulous improvisations. Both Olivier Latry (currently ‘Organiste Titulaire’ of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris) and Marie-Claire Alain I admire, in particular for their playing of Bach. On this side of the Channel, artists such as Peter Hurford and Margaret Phillips have produced wonderful recordings of Bach, notable for their ability to combine technical precision with great levels of expression. As for the piano? I admire many of the great names – Horowitz, Argerich (especially for her Prokofiev), and more recently, Ukrainian pianist and YouTube phenomenon, Valentina Lisitsa.
Any favourite composers?
Certainly! Beethoven (for all his music), Rachmaninoff – the first three piano concertos, the three symphonies, and all his solo piano works are supremely expressive, then Vierne, Widor, Dupré, and Messiaen – all for their spectacular organ music, and Vierne in particular for his choral music. Bach, of course, for founding western music as we know it… The list is endless!
And you’ve done some composing too?
I’ve completed quite a portfolio of compositions for piano, as well as choral and organ music. I am now working on several orchestral pieces, including a piano concerto to perform in the spring – it is in composing for orchestra that being a string player is especially beneficial! Recently, as well as many choral pieces, I have composed incidental music for one of the School’s plays – Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’, which was tremendously good fun!
What exactly did you have to do for the Oxford scholarship?
There were a total of three interviews (with music professors and directors of music). Some were technical, some philosophical, but all felt very much like pleasant conversations! Then there were two auditions, consisting of playing of pre-prepared repertoire, sight reading, transposition, four part score reading, and improvisation. Finally, I conducted a short choir practice with a small choir of choral scholars which went exceptionally well, following which I was offered the scholarship (and a place at the university).
How has being at Worth School helped you?
I have been blessed throughout my musical life with fabulous teachers. Mr Oakley has been very supportive ever since I arrived at Worth School and has devoted much of his time to furthering my musical development. Janet McCleery – my first organ teacher when I arrived at Worth School – was tremendously supportive and a fantastic mentor. [Worth Abbey organist] D’Arcy Trinkwon, my current teacher, is a truly inspirational teacher and one of the finest players in the country. With great expertise in the French repertoire (although by no means exclusively), he is an extremely good teacher for me, and we have great fun in lessons! I am also grateful to Warren Mailley-Smith – my piano teacher of seven years, – and Jonathan Truscott – my violin teacher of the same time, who together have greatly influenced my musical development. In addition, having somewhere like the Abbey Church in which to play on a regular basis gives me a rare opportunity to play in an acoustic rivalling or surpassing that of many Cathedrals in size.