On Thursday 12th July, I shall be playing the cathedral’s Father Willis organ during the choir’s concert broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and in so doing undertaking undoubtedly the biggest challenge of my career to date. The Requiem is not just Maurice Duruflé’s foremost work, but also one of the most difficult organ accompaniments written during the last century. In some ways, it is unhelpful to think about the challenge in those terms (!) but I have also found this useful as a way of preparing myself for how it will feel on the day.
Luckily, I have already got my hands dirty as far as playing the organ on the radio is concerned thanks to regular broadcasts with my previous ensemble, the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge who sang their Advent Carol Service live on Radio 3 each year. That service always includes a brand new commissioned work that nobody will have heard before, so there was security for me to know that only a handful of (admittedly quite important and distinguished) people would know if I had made the odd mistake! I do not have that luxury with this project. The organ writing in Duruflé’s Requiem is as iconic as the choral writing, and I shan’t have many places to hide.
I do have one obvious thing on my side: the Father Willis organ itself. The music fits our instrument perfectly, I could not hope to have a more ideal musical machine in this country for the job. The more I practise the difficult passages, the more second nature they become, and the more the organ does the work for me. Traditionally for me, nerves come from having not prepared well enough, and that will definitely not be the case in two weeks’ time. However, I can’t help but be very excited to play this piece on this ‘flagship’ platform, to represent my colleagues in other cathedrals and to play my part in promoting the Anglican choral tradition.
Joseph will be playing Duruflé Requiem at Truro Cathedral Choir's 'Only in Sleep' Concert on Thursday 12 July, a piece which forms the second half of the concert. More information