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The man behind the music

AMANDA SALTER talks to Newbury organist Steve Bowey

Trish Lee

Trish Lee


01635 886663

Steve Bowey organist

REGULAR Newbury concertgoers will have heard Steve Bowey play the organ and piano with rare virtuosic quality. But what do we really know of the person behind that quiet reserve? For 2019, Steve has been approached to revamp the junior choir at Shaw. AMANDA SALTER recently sat down with Steve one evening to find out more.

HOW did Steve Bowey’s musical journey begin? Steve recalls himself at six, wanting to be in on the action, as his parents were themselves learning to play the piano. He quickly outshone both mum and dad, their support nonetheless laying the foundation for his swift progress.

Another pivotal moment was Steve’s first visit to the organ loft at church as a nine-year-old chorister. The excitement and wonder at seeing the pipes and workings had him instantly hooked.
Starting with a simplified arrangement of one hymn (The Lord’s My Shepherd), he was soon playing the organ for entire church services.

Recognising Steve’s exceptional gift, his teacher submitted him for his first organ exam at Grade 7. Always one to relish a challenge, Steve passed with distinction. He gained full marks for his Bach piece, cementing a lifelong love affair with Bach’s music. Aged 18, he played for Evensong in St Paul’s
Cathedral, and has since worked with visiting choirs in at least 10 other
cathedrals as organist or conductor.

In 2011, Steve realised a longstanding ambition – to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. The FRCO award is the highest accolade for an organist, and is conferred only to those who attain excellence in many areas – from harmonisation to improvisation; performance as well as music history. One ambition that remains is to play at Westminster Cathedral, where he once heard the entire works of Messiaen performed – and obtained Messiaen’s autograph.

When pressed, Steve admits to a probable tally of more than 100 concerts, in addition to giving private lessons and accompanying countless rehearsals. Schools, churches, and choirs have all benefited from his extraordinary musicality. His passion for teaching is clear as he describes the reward of seeing people improve and progress.

Family life is also a source of quiet pride. Steve speaks affectionately of his wife Rachel and two daughters, who are all musical. When not at home or at work, he can be found tending his
allotment, which won Best Plot in 2018.

What next, then? For 2019, Steve has been approached to revamp the junior choir at Shaw. “Everyone should sing,” he declares. “It’s fun, challenging, and rewarding.” Having sung under Steve’s direction, I know this is a rare opportunity for committed young singers to be coached by such a highly-skilled professional. A chance not to be missed.

Auditions for the Junior Choir will take place at St Mary’s Church, Shaw, on January 18 and 25 and February 1, at 4.15pm. All primary school pupils (Years 3, 4, 5 and 6) are welcome, no prior experience needed. Contact Jo Stuckey as soon as possible to book your audition slot. Practice takes place Fridays 4.15pm-5pm in term time for choir members. A successful audition qualifies you for a fully-funded position in the choir

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