MUSIC IS A DRIVE YOU CAN'T RESIST
A CONVERSATION WITH EDWARD TAYLOR
Edward Taylor joined Solway Singers as its new Musical Director in January 2022. This is his first christmas term conducting us, and as we approach the end of his first year with us, we caught up with him to find out a bit more about his musical life and what makes him tick.
Despite music having been an enormously important part of his life from a young age, Edward toyed with the idea of being a rally driver or a pilot - or of taking the sensible option of following in his father’s footsteps and entering the Civil Service – but ultimately he ‘needed’ to do music, a drive and desire with which many musicians and wannabe musicians will be familiar.
Edward grew up immersed in music: his grandfather was an organist and his mother went to the Royal College of Music, and later combined music with a nursing career. BBC Radio 3 was constantly on in the car, and as a child Edward learnt piano and was also a chorister at Ely Cathedral.
He was impressed by the power of the organ: certainly hearing some of the major works of the organ repertoire live, reverberating into the heights of a cathedral, would impress on anyone how much more there is to the organ than as an accompaniment to Sunday hymns. It was as a chorister that Edward had his first opportunities to play the organ, playing for his first choral evensong at the age of just 13 and then later, at senior school, playing for the school chapel choir.
Although he was talented and lucky enough to be involved with music from a young age, Edward is very conscious that not everybody has those opportunities, and that some families don’t even know where to start when it comes to providing a musical education for their children, including opportunities for scholarships or bursaries, or even knowing what to start listening to from the enormous and varied musical repertoire available.
As a result Edward is a keen musical educator, and in addition to Solway Singers he takes two other adult choirs (Penrith Singers and Dumfries Choral Society) as well as several children’s choirs, including the Carlisle Cantate and some school choirs. He says "at the start of term you ask how many children enjoy singing, and maybe 5 will put up their hands; by the end of term most of them will". Edward clearly gets a huge amount of satisfaction from introducing children to music and encouraging their musical development.
Although he is a cathedral organist and his upbringing means that sacred music is a large part of his life, Edward directs pop music with his children’s choirs, other than Carlisle Cantate who do a mix and who sang Africa by Toto in Carlisle Cathedral. It’s perhaps too easy to forget that once our churches and cathedrals were the centres of community life, rather than being the sometimes separated and perhaps intimidating spaces they can be nowadays: churches would have had dancing and secular music performed in them as well as sacred music.
Edward’s enthusiasm for organ music resulted in him starting his own YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/c/edwardtaylororganist. He says that as a professional musician you have to ‘put yourself out there’ but also that he enjoys promoting music which has maybe fallen out of the main repertoire and not been heard for a long time. An example is the Litanies by Alain, a piece which he originally studied at the Strasbourg Conservatoire in France with Parisian organist, Christophe Mantoux.
Edward also learns a new organ piece every day to keep himself open to new music: he says that sometimes they might only be Grade 4, but it’s the experience of keeping trying new pieces which keeps music interesting.
Carlisle is lucky to have this hugely experienced and talented organist and musical director in its midst; but what would be his top tips for any budding musicians?
“You need the will; you have to want to do it, and there’s a lot of practice needed. There can be long days but when it gets to last thing on a Friday and you really don’t want to teach, and then your pupil has practised and plays brilliantly, it’s a great feeling. In terms of experience, try to understand music from different perspectives, such as both singing and accompanying; and learn from watching conductors, however terrifying. You can learn a lot by just being part of a rehearsal.”
Photograph credits: Alan Sawyer