Leeds City Organist Darius Battiwalla is a regular on the stage at Leeds Town Hall as he performs in the Leeds Lunchtime Organ Music series, a collection of weekly free recitals that he curates.
He told us about his season highlights, and let us in on what to watch out for for future organ concerts.
Lunchtime Organ concerts are free to attend and take place on Mondays at 1.05pm from September to March.
Hi Darius, thank you for sitting down to chat to us. How have you found the 2018/19 season of Lunchtime Organ Music concerts?
I’ve really enjoyed all the concerts - it’s great for me to enjoy listening to a huge variety of talented players all using the organ in different ways. We’re very fortunate with our audience – the recitals are consistently well-attended and generously supported, which I greatly appreciate, and the audience seems to enjoy a wide range of music. And they often tell me what they like – and what they don’t!
What have been your highlights of the season, and why?
All the visitors were memorable in their own different ways – I particularly enjoyed some of Tom Bell’s programme which presented some unusual music in a really exciting way, and Nigel Ogden is a joy to watch – he translates the theatre style to a ‘traditional’ organ so well and makes it look so easy. Another highlight was Thomas Trotter’s own arrangement of Jupiter – I would never have believed it could work so well on the organ. From my own recitals, the arrangement of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody attracted so much attention it seemed to take on a life of its own! – and was great fun to play. And the opportunity to learn and perform Reger’s monumental choral fantasia on Wachet Auf – a real mountain to climb but worth the effort.
How does it feel to have the prestigious title of Leeds City Organist and regularly perform on the Town Hall organ?
Very fortunate! I’ve been lucky enough to take on a series which Simon Lindley has made into one of the most successful in the country, so it’s really a matter of building on the success of what’s already there, rather than changing a successful formula. One thing I’d particularly like to do is develop the use of the Town Hall organ for education and encouraging younger organists.
You’ve been curating the Lunchtime Organ Series for two seasons now, and are heading into your third season. What have you found to be the biggest challenge when putting together the programme of organists?
There are challenges but they are enjoyable ones – achieving a balance between experienced players and giving a chance to younger and less well-known organists, and finding those who can really get the best out of the organ with a variety of music. I’m also trying to get the programme a bit more balanced by inviting more women organists, we’ve still got some way to go but are making progress.
Do you have a favourite piece to perform, and if so have you ever performed it in the series?
The Reubke Sonata is one of my favourites, and it was great to have an opportunity to perform it last season.
Can you share a preview of the next season? What are you looking forward to the most?
I’m not sure I could pick out any particular concert, but I always look forward to our ‘regulars’ particularly Thomas Trotter and Gordon Stewart who really know how to make a Town Hall programme work well. I’m also looking forward to hearing Thomas Gaynor from New York, who won the St Alban’s International competition recently.
Darius Battiwalla has recently been appointed Leeds City Organist, performing regularly in the highly successful recital series in Leeds Town Hall, and has given organ recitals at cathedrals and concert halls throughout the country, as well as recordings and broadcasts on Radio 3. For more information on Darius, please see his website.