Wayne Marshall

The virtuoso organist talks to us as he prepares to play the mighty Willis organ at the Royal Albert Hall on 21 October

Wayne Marshall

What are you going to be playing in your concert? 


It’s really important to play entertaining music in a venue such as the Royal Albert Hall, so I’m playing a huge variety of music. In the first half I’ll be playing symphonic music Widor’s Symphony No. 6, which is one of my favourites. I’m also going to play the Roger Ducasse Pastorale which is one of my all time favourites too – it’s not that well known, but it’s a huge, romantic, colourful piece. In the second half I’m playing transcriptions that I’ve written myself: Strauss’s overture to Die Fledermaus and the overture to Bernstein’s Wonderful Town. And I’m going to end the concert with an improvisation as well – that’s something I do a lot of.

How do you attract new audiences to organ recitals?

The thing about an organ recital is that you’ve got to keep it interesting. You’re there to entertain the audience. I hate those recitals that make their way up through the centuries – I really can’t stand those. The thing about the organ is that it’s like an orchestra. So you have to vary the sound throughout your recital and showcase different bits of the organ, as a symphony would do with different parts of the orchestra. I also like to talk to the audience – it’s very important to do that, I think. Not everyone in the audience will have been to an organ recital before.

Do you have an opinion about how to talk to your listeners?

Well I think it’s important to introduce the piece in a very simple way – nothing too intellectual or academic. My first priority is to entertain people. You have to be at their level and talk to them in a way that they’ll understand. And then, of course, you have to communicate that music to them as well. The really important thing is to play the right pieces so that they might come again to an organ recital. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

How do you go about arranging pieces like the overtures to Die Fledermaus or Bernstein’s Wonderful Town?

I improvise a lot of it and I have the piano and orchestral score and I make it interesting by adding harmonies here and making it right for the instrument. That’s the important thing – it has to sound right for the organ. You have to use your imagination and think about what important about the transcription and bear in mind what the composer wants the audience to hear too. And it has to be comfortable for the hands and the feet too.


For details of the programme and to buy tickets to Wayne Marshall’s recital on 21 October at 7:45pm, click here or visit http://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/wayne-marshall/default.aspx