Bridgewater Sinfonia, Berkhamsted

Christopher Bowers-Broadbent

Poulenc – Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani – 6 June 2009

Christopher Bowers-Broadbent is an organist and composer whose playing career has taken him far and wide. He has appeared on many CDs, in particular those for ECM with the Hilliard Ensemble (in music by Arvo Pärt, with whom he has worked closely for 20 years), and his solo albums Trivium (Pärt/Glass/Maxwell Davies), O Domina nostra (Górecki/Bryars) and Le Mystère de la Saint Trinité (Messiaen’s great meditative cycle), and more recent ones with Harmonia Mundi; these have brought him widespread recognition.

His earliest musical education was as a Chorister in the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. After a formal education at Berkhamsted School he went on to study both organ and composition at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he himself subsequently became Professor of Organ, from 1973 to 1992, and a Fellow. He gave his first major recitals in the St Albans International Organ Festival in 1969 and at the Royal Festival Hall in 1971, and first appeared as a soloist in the Proms in 1972. He was appointed Organist and Choirmaster of Gray’s Inn Chapel in 1983, and has also been Organist of the West London Synagogue, with rare ecumenical aplomb, since 1973.

Apart from his busy playing schedule he never ceases to compose music of all genres; some recent ones include a 35-minute orchestral piece A ship bound for Tarshish (based on the ‘Book of Jonah’, – one of many collaborations with painter Elizabeth Hannaford), The Song at the Sea for organ, strings and timpani, (premiered in North Germany in 2002, and performed in Norway in 2004), and 7Words (an organ solo in seven movements commissioned by the Leipzig Gewandhaus). He has written three short operas, the last of which, The Last Man, was performed in Gray’s Inn Hall, London, in 2003. He has just completed 2 short pieces for the German vocal group ‘Singer Pur’, and a commission from the Estonian Chamber Choir (the completion of his 7Words piece for Choir and Organ) which was given its premiere in Estonia last year. He is now working on a fourth opera, to a libretto with a legal theme by a Gray’s Inn barrister.