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George Throup - Organ

Interview

1. You started piano lessons at the age of five, who was your teacher?.

My piano teacher was Ann Tinkler. At first I had a joint lesson with a friend, having fifteen minutes each. Ann was fantastic, towards the end of my time having piano lessons it really began to feel like an undergraduate kind of lesson. We would discuss different areas of the music as well as doing technical work which was amazing and gave me great experience for what was to come at conservatoire level. She also studied at the Royal College of Music and this was great inspiration for me to work hard to get there.

2. Is your family musical?

My Grandmother was always singing in choirs and choral societies and was attending her church choir on Sunday’s. She loved singing and was a real support when I auditioned for St Alban’s Cathedral Choir in 2007. My Uncle and his wife are musicians in America - he a pianist and organist and she a pianist and cellist. My Uncle plays the organ in a huge Catholic Church in Austin and they both have a huge number of students which they teach during the week. Finally, my mother is also very musical. She teaches piano twice a week to four or five students and was also a real support over the years. So yes, I suppose my family is rather musical!

3. You started organ lessons with Andrew Lucas in 2015. How do you recall this master and those times?

My time with Andrew Lucas was extraordinary and I couldn’t be more grateful for all the support he gave me over the 9 years I was fortunate to learn/work with him. Our working relationship really began in 2008 when I joined the Cathedral Choir as a small eight year old boy, he being the Master of Music. What he taught me as a young treble was invaluable and I always looked up to him with great admiration - in fact, I still do! As my organ teacher, I owe a tremendous amount to him. I was fortunate to have lessons in his home, on a house organ which was built by Peter Collins for Peter Hurford who was a great friend and colleague of Andrew. It was really him who planted the idea of the Royal College of Music into my head and without his guidance and support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I owe him a great and I am still looking for ways to repay him!

4. You were appointed Organ Scholar at St Michael’s Church, St Albans in 2016. How did this period and environment allow you to develop?

St Michael’s was a fantastic place for me to grow and develop my accompaniment and conducting skills. The choir was not professional but still had a very good standard. It was made up of parishioners who had a love of singing and this environment, in turn, created a high standard of music making. Accompanying is a totally different skill than playing solo repertoire, and the nurturing and loving environment of St Michael’s gave me a really comfortable place to learn this skill. Conducting wise, I really had my first ever chance of that at the Church. I had guidance from the Director of Music and it turned out to be great fun. I learnt a lot over those few years.

5. You are continuing your studies at the Royal College of Music with David Graham. How is this progressing?

It is going fantastically well! I absolute adore the place and the musical life within in it. David Graham is a great teacher and really knows how to get the best out of my playing. The college organists are extremely fortunate that we have access to many different organs around London. For example, I have my weekly lesson this term in Christ Church, Chelsea. This is great because the organ is built by a Dutch firm and it is great for teaching Bach, to take one example. Further to that, a few years ago, the College had a brand new organ built in the concert hall. It is quite possibly the finest organ in the UK. The opportunity to practice on such prestigious instruments is something you’d get at no other institution in Britain.

6. Do you think it is unfortunate organ music is popularly only viewed through the prism of church based music and do you think the potentials of its inherent richness is often overlooked in orchestral settings?

This is actually a point I am very passionate about. I don’t think it is unfortunate that the organ is only viewed through the prism of church music as that’s where its heritage lies. However, I do think that the organ has to be further expanded out into other places and this is already being done. The concert hall organ is ever growing in popularity. Each month we see more and more solo organ concerts being put on in different musical buildings. The richness of the instrument is most definitely looked over in orchestral settings which is slightly ironic, considering the organ is made up of orchestral sounds! I want to promote the organ outside of the Church more and this is something I hope to achieve over the next few years.

7. How often do your practice?

Generally, I do four to five hours of practice a day. But time doesn’t always afford me that luxury, so sometimes it can be as little as two. I also struggle with concentration so have to break my practice down into small chunks to really get the best from what I am doing.

8. What advice would you give to young musicians at the start of their journey?

Don’t be afraid! The musical world can seem extremely daunting, especially now. I must admit, I am still a little daunted at the thought of becoming a professional musician. But this is way I’m so grateful to have the support of Talent Unlimited because it gives you a feeling of comfort and help. Everybody will have an individual path and some will find success quicker than others, but the main thing is to never give up and just work hard until you achieve your goals. Some goals will never be achieved and some which you never thought you’d achieve you will! So be strong and do what you love!

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submission November 2020