For the past couple of years, we have been lucky enough to have as our accompanist the current organ scholar at Truro Cathedral, a position that is recruited annually. Having given the most recent incumbent, James Orford, a couple of weeks to settle in, we caught up with him to talk music making, moving to Cornwall and Mozart.
At only 18, James already has a selection of letters after his name (DipABRSM ARCO) and an impressive resumé. Ready…? Before he arrived in Truro he was organ scholar at Dulwich College for four years, as well as assistant organist at St Mark’s Church, Bromley, positions that have taken him – both as organist and singer – to many cathedrals around the UK and Ireland, including Salisbury, Hereford, St Paul’s and Westminster. He has also performed twice at the Royal Festival Hall: once as part of the London Organ Day in February 2013 and then, a month later, as the organist in a joint-schools performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony. An accomplished tenor, too, he last year toured with Dulwich College Chapel Choir around key sites in and around Paris, including the Eglise de la Trinité, the American Cathedral and Chartres Cathedral, and within weeks of arriving in Truro was stepping in to perform with the cathedral choir when they have ended up a man down.
Life seems good at his new digs right by Truro Cathedral. He has an enviably easy commute to work, which also means he can practise into the early hours if he so wishes – and of course he does wish, even sheepishly admitting that he probably is too hard on himself sometimes. However, the combination of immersing himself within cathedral life and the odd surfing foray to Porthtowan and Perranporth at least means that he hasn’t had the chance to miss home yet or the hustle and bustle of London.
Within the few weeks James has been rehearsing with Truro Choral Society, he has hugely impressed the singers and our Music Director with his agility at the keyboard and his knowledge, so it wasn’t surprising to hear that he first chose to sit down at a piano as soon as he could walk to the stool. His move to the organ didn’t come until the ripe old age of 11, although his fascination with the instrument started much earlier: he remembers sitting in his pushchair in front of the one at his local church in Bromley and being entranced by the noise that was coming out around him, the three huge keyboards and all the pedals. It was the beginning of a love that would lead to him receiving his ARCO Diploma last summer, achieving high marks in his performance exam, and we imagine, much more in the future – applications to study at the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music next year have already gone out [Update: he has been awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music!].
James has previously held accompanist positions with four ensembles, including Lewisham Choral Society and Ashtead Singers, so it’s easy to understand how he seemed so comfortable straightaway with a large choir such as ours. He has enjoyed our friendly welcome and the pleasant atmosphere at our rehearsals, and is looking forward to our forthcoming programme for 2014/15, commenting that he is “in love with the Spirituals” that we have planned for our Christmas concerts. His eyes also light up when he mentions his “musical god”, Bach, but when the subject of Mozart comes up he hesitates… “I feel he didn’t always live up to the immense potential that he had, potential that is evident in pieces such as the Coronation Mass and others – C Minor Mass, Jupiter Symphony… I have reservations that he may just have sometimes been churning pieces out because he had to.”
We look forward to hearing more from James over the next year and imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more about him after his time spent in Truro.