The roll of honour on display in the Canterbury Cathedral records the organists since just before 1407. There are 31 in the list that spans over 600 years. For those holding early office the list records the date of their death, the first being John Moundfeld, a monk who died in 1407. Presumably in these very early years the musician died in office. The concept of retirement not perhaps acknowledged at that time.
There is a gap in the record between 1499 and 1534 when for the first time we are advised of the year of appointment as well as the year they ceased in the role.
The list does not contain names of wider musical fame unlike some posts that were held by Byrd, Purcell and Gibbons. Orlando Gibbons however is buried in Canterbury and there is a fine memorial to him on the nave north wall.
Watch Jonathan Kingston play this hymn tune “Song 1” by Orlando Gibbons.
Organist Samuel Porter is recorded as a pupil of the better known composer of his day Maurice Greene. And with my limited historical musical knowledge it is only the name of Maurice Greene that strikes a better known historical note.
In more recent times the current organist and director of music David Flood and his predecessor Allan Wicks have achieved high profile in this post, David now entering his 31st year in the job. This makes him by my reckoning the 5th longest serving in the role but he has a way to go to take the crown that belongs to Samuel Porter who served 46 years from 1757 to 1803.
Another Canterbury musician achieving considerable fame in his lifetime was Alfred Deller. Alfred perhaps more than most was responsible for reviving the fashion for the male counter tenor voice and the renaissance music associated with it.
Deller was a member of the Canterbury choir from 1940 to 1947 and died as recently as 1979. Happily this means there are many recordings of him. If you are not familiar with his voice you have missed one of the great artists of the last century. Take a minute to look and listen to the typical performance below.
One of the past organists whose name caught my eye was William Henry Longhurst but for a quite an unrelated reason. Years ago I met the great golfer, author and commentator Henry Longhurst. Surely he could not also have fitted in being the Cathedral organist as well. Sadly not. He long preceded the Henry I met but perhaps on day it might come to pass!
You can read more about how we installed our Regent Classic Organ at Canterbury Cathedral while the pipe organ is being refurbished over the next 18-24 months.