Nick Miller has been St John’s organ scholar for nearly two years now. We asked him the all the important questions about life with Betty in W2.
Nicky & Betty at Advent Carols playing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries…
1. What were your first impressions of Betty on meeting her?
Of an elegant and voluptuous grand old dame whose pedigree is irrefutable, but whose youthful beauty is in course of fading and requires ever more hard work to maintain a facade of respectability. I also noticed that at least one note on each manual doesn’t work, so you quickly have to figure out which keys you can and can’t play in on each of them.
2. What do you think are her most attractive features?
Betty is beautiful in so many ways. I mostly love the way she can build so gently and smoothly from a single tiny string sound all the way up to ‘Full Organ’ and back again. When she’s belting out hymns she is beautiful, but it’s in the contrast between this and her gorgeous softer sounds that her true glory is found.
3. What is your favourite organ stop?
The 4′ Wald Flute on the Great Organ. So delicious.
4. What are you looking forward to most with her restoration?
Being able to hold big chords (by that I suppose I mean more than four notes) without the thirds dropping out and making me sound like a muppet.
5. Who is your organist hero?
The nineteenth century scouse organist-composer William Faulkes, who played at St Margaret’s Anfield for about forty years, is a big inspiration for me. He’s also my favourite thing about Anfield.
6. What is your favourite piece of organ music?
Cesar Franck’s Piece Héroique from the Trois Pieces (1878). It’s the first ‘big’ voluntary I remember hearing in Liverpool Cathedral as a kid, and it blew my tiny mind.
7. What is your favourite coffee place in W2?
Markus Coffee, Connaught Street. What a place.
8. Victoria or Duke of Kendal?
Kendal for lunches and singsongs, Victoria for ale.
9. What’s your favourite music we’ve done at St John’s since you’ve been here?
The overture to the Ride of the Valkyries, Wagner. We re-orchestrated it for 12-piece orchestra and organ, and it made for an incredible opening procession at Advent Carols last year.
10. What do you think organ music adds to the Christian religion?
A sense of the sublime. And just occasionally the ridiculous.