Profile: Tim Stewart, organist

Tim is performing as part of the Cathedral’s regular Lunchtime Concert series in the spectacular setting of the Cathedral Nave on Tuesday 20 June.     

What are you looking most forward to when performing at this concert?

I am very much looking forward to opening the recital with the Rhapsody in C-sharp minor by Herbert Howells. It’s a very dramatic piece and is one which I hope captures the listeners from the very start.
Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

I would say that my organ teacher, Katherine Dienes-Williams, has been a huge influence on my musical career as she always pushed me, which has helped me to become the musician I am today, but has also helped me to achieve things such as this organ scholarship at Chichester.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

My time as organ scholar at Chichester Cathedral has offered the greatest challenges of my career so far, as there is always so much to do. To keep on top of everything, whilst always maintaining the highest standard of performance has been difficult at times, but also incredibly rewarding.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

I think that the greatest pleasure of collaborating with other musicians is when the different musical strengths and opinions of all different types of musicians come together to create a wonderful sound: there is nothing better than creating something as a team. But also, the opportunity to go to the pub after a performance is always a good laugh.

The challenges for me include the different musical opinions. Being able to perform something slightly different to the way one would usually perform can be slightly challenging at times, but in the end, being able to collaborate with different musicians is a hugely important skill.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

There isn’t one composer in particular. However, I especially love J.S. Bach because he is a composer whose music always makes me feel something. I would like to think I am still building personal connections with different composers all the time as I develop as a musician myself.

Which works do you think you are able to perform best, and why?

I think I perform the music I love the best i.e., music by J.S. Bach, Duruflé and Vierne.

Which performances are you most proud of?

I recently played a recital at Guildford Cathedral which I put in a lot of work for, and so I was able to truly enjoy the whole experience which made me very proud. As well as this, I feel extremely proud every time I accompany the Chichester Cathedral Choir: it’s a ‘pinch me’ moment!

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

A couple of memorable experiences as a listener for me would include hearing Westminster Abbey choir and its organ for the first time in a choral evensong. When I was 13 years old I went to an organ recital by Robert Quinney and William Whitehead at the Royal Albert Hall. And as a performer I played an organ recital in the Abbey of Saint-Sauveur, Redon, France.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Develop your own methods of practising and learn how to enjoy the difficult processes in development. Never forget why you started. Try not to always compare yourself to others, but always compare yourself to the musician you were yesterday.

How would you define success as a musician?

Success as a musician for me is to be able to communicate exactly what you want to say through your instrument. And to be able to play in a way that speaks to people no matter who they are.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

In 5 years’ time I would like to be doing an organ scholarship in London, perhaps at Westminster Abbey, and I’d love to be doing organ recitals domestically and also hopefully abroad.

What do you enjoy doing most?

When it comes to performing in my role at Chichester, it has to be Psalm playing. Being able to use the organ to colour the text is really rewarding when done successfully. And when you have a choir as good as Chichester Cathedral’s to accompany, there is no better pleasure.   I am also performing at Portsmouth Cathedral on 14 September, and it would be great to see you there!

About Tim

Tim began his musical training aged 6 in singing and piano.  He started organ lessons aged 12 with Gillian Lloyd at the URC in Guildford.  As a chorister at Holy Trinity, Guildford under Martin Holford, he was introduced to the organ’s qualities and potential and was also particularly inspired by hearing Widor’s Toccata whilst on a choir tour to Norwich Cathedral in 2015.

Tim was appointed to the post of organist at All Saints’ Church, Dummer, Hants and St Giles Ashtead whilst also assisting with organ playing at Holy Trinity and URC churches in Guildford.

As well as gaining distinctions in grade 8 piano and organ, he has won the Junior section of the London Organ competition (2019) and various first prizes for organ at the Godalming Performing Arts Festival in 2019 and 2020.

Timothy has given recitals at Oakham Church (2019) and St Mary’s, Guildford and was also invited to play at l’Abbaye Saint-Sauveur in Redon, France (2020). He is becoming increasingly in demand as a recitalist with future recital engagements including Portsmouth, Clare College, Cambridge and Chichester Cathedral.

Tim is currently the organ Scholar of Chichester Cathedral where he assists the Organists in the smooth running of the music department and sharing the playing for the 8 weekly services that take place at the Cathedral. Timothy continues to take lessons with Katherine Dienes-Williams. After his time at Chichester Cathedral, he will begin a 4 year course at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire studying for a BMus in organ performance. After this, he hopes to pursue organ scholarships at London cathedrals such as Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral.

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