Matthew Foster

Bursary Recipient in 2019. Apply for your bursary here

The week I spent at Oundle is one I will not be forgetting any time soon. Not only did I learn lots about my playing, the instrument and its repertoire but I also made friendships and bonds I can see lasting throughout my life. Having completed the Pulling Out The Stops (POTS) course last year, there were a couple of familiar faces however there were many people I had not met before. Each and every one of these students and teachers I met were so friendly and easy to get along with (helped along by our shared interest in the organ!)

 My first activity was a masterclass given by Martin Baker at Titchmarsh church. All of the students in my group took their turns to play their pieces to him and each received feedback and advice on how to better their playing. This feedback was not only beneficial for the individual but was also useful to others too! This was the case for all of the masterclasses given by the course tutors throughout the week, each of them providing different ways in which to improve upon our pieces and keyboard skills. Each of these masterclasses were held in the different churches of Oundle and its surrounding areas, giving us opportunities to play on many varying styles of organ. The ability to understand how to use different types of instrument to the best of their abilities is a crucial skill as an organist, so having the chance to play so many throughout the week was a luxury! Particular highlights include the organs of Oundle School chapel, John Miley’s home and those of Trinity College, Trinity Hall College and Jesus College Cambridge.

Aside from our masterclasses there were rehearsals each day for a student choir, lead by Richard Pinel and Martin Baker. One of my favourite things about this was picking up tips from experts on how to take a choir rehearsal, spotting mistakes and finding ways to resolve them. Students that showed an interest were also able to try conducting the choir, with feedback on this given by the group and the leader of the session. Although I didn’t conduct, the advice given to others will certainly come in handy when I take rehearsals and conduct my choir in Northampton. The choir performed a Genevan psalm in a recital given by Anne Page and also in a Sunday eucharist service at Fotheringhay church. This service was one of my favourite parts of the course as we were able to put into practice all that we had learnt throughout the week, leading the congregation in worship. After the eucharist service there was a student recital. A handful of students, myself included, were chosen by the tutors to perform a wide variety of music spanning many hundred years and covering several genres. This was a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the work I had put in throughout the week in the masterclasses and in my personal practice (on the Viscount organs and school chapel organ). I may have felt nervous to perform, but knowing the audience of organists, tutors and parents were willing me on was certainly comforting. Hearing the other students inspired me to try new styles of organ music and (as I am only two years into playing) gave me something to aim for.  It is essential that courses such as this exist as it is the only way young organists can come together with a shared passion and learn from each other. Being an organist is a rather lonely business. Whereas a violinist would have fellow organists in an orchestra or chamber group to socialise with, organists do not have this luxury. If we are to encourage the next generation of organists, courses such as this must continue to run. As an aspiring organist myself, this course has put in place and strengthened the knowledge and abilities I will rely upon on a daily basis.

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