I began learning the organ whilst I was a chorister at York Minster, studying under John Scott Whiteley. I had played the piano from a young age, so it was probably inevitable that I became fascinated by the organ music I heard every day.
I was fortunate to win a music scholarship to Eton College, where I continued my organ studies under Alastair Sampson. The school has a very strong tradition of preparing pupils for organ scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and David Goode, himself a former music scholar, is now Head of Keyboard there. I accompanied the choir regularly at Eton, playing on the historic 4-manual William Hill organ in College Chapel, and also learning on the schools other organs which include a 1773 Mittenreither organ, restored by Flentrop. On leaving Eton in 2001 I was appointed Organ Scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, where I began in 2003 after a year spent as Organ Scholar at Worcester Cathedral and then at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
At King’s I worked with Stephen Cleobury and also had many opportunities to direct the world-famous choir, and to play the wonderful chapel organ daily. I learnt a huge amount during my time at King’s, most importantly discipline in preparing music and learning to cope with the inevitable nerves. Perhaps the most nervous I’ve ever been in a concert was playing ‘In ducli jubilo’ during a concert with the choir in the Basilica of St Paul, MN – playing the west gallery organ, but from the sanctuary console – live on the radio! In addition to touring the US, I performed in concerts the choir gave in world-famous venues such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
After graduating from King’s in 2006 I took up an assistant post at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where I played for many high profile services, including several royal occasions. I also accompanied the Cathedral Choir for its visit to the 2008 AGO National Convention. The St Paul’s organ is very different to the King’s organ, but is equally colourful and versatile. Its large array of solo reeds – to be used in moderation – can also make for an exhilarating experience! During my time at St Paul’s the organ was completely refurbished, and with the newly-added mobile console it is interesting for the player to hear a different perspective.
Since September 2008 I hae been Assistant Master of the Music at St Albans Cathedral, where I play the organ for the daily choral services and direct the Abbey Girls Choir. The Cathedral organ (designed by Peter Hurford and Ralph Downes) is unusual for English cathedral instruments as it is built on neo-classical principles. However it is amazingly versatile, serving all the major schools of organ repertoire extremely well – it’s possible to achieve both a well-balanced trio sonata registration and a true ‘English Cathedral’ sound. It is a very rewarding instrument to play, as each rank speaks with great clarity. I hope you enjoy this recording, which is the first recording of the instrument since its 2007-9 rebuild, and which was a pleasure to make. I’m greatly indebted to Joe Vitacco for his support of the project.
Click here to purchase Tom Winpenny’s recording on the Harrison & Harrison Organ at St. Albans Cathedral