David Briggs (English musician)

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David John Briggs (born 1 November 1962) is an English organist and composer.[1] He started his career as a cathedral organist as Assistant Organist at Hereford Cathedral before becoming the organist of Truro and Gloucester Cathedrals. Heavily influenced by Jean Langlais and Pierre Cochereau, Briggs is regarded as one of the world's finest improvisors, and now works as a concert organist. He is also a composer of choral and organ music, and has transcribed many orchestral works for solo organ, as well as many of Cochereau's recorded improvisations.

Early life and training[edit]

The Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, where Briggs was an organ scholar from 1981 to 1984.

Briggs was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, to a musical family. His grandfather, Lawrence Briggs, had been organist at St Jude's Church, Birmingham, for over 40 years, and his parents met while playing in the Birmingham Hospitals Orchestra.[1]

He was a chorister at St Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham, from 1970 to 1973, where he began to develop his interest in the organ. In 1973 he won a BBC Television piano competition and was awarded a music scholarship to Solihull School, where he studied piano, organ, violin and viola. He played the viola in the National Youth Orchestra from 1977 to 1981, becoming Principal Viola in his final year.[1]

The French organist Pierre Cochereau, many of whose recorded improvisations were transcribed by Briggs.

At the relatively early age of 17 he was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO), and from 1981 to 1984 was an organ scholar at King's College, Cambridge. In 1982 and 1983 he played during the well-known Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, heard by millions around the world[1] He also toured Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany with the college choir.

In 1983 he received the Countess of Munster Award to study interpretation and improvisation with Jean Langlais in Paris, with whom he furthered in his interest in the art of improvisation by his transcriptions of the recordings of Pierre Cochereau. Transcribing the remarkable improvisations from Cochereau's cassette recordings took eleven years, and Briggs's subsequent performances and recordings of them earned him his initial acclaim.

In 1993 Briggs became the first British organist to win the Tournemire prize for improvisation at the St Albans International Organ Festival.

Cathedral organist[edit]

The organ and choir stalls of Gloucester Cathedral.

On leaving university, Briggs was appointed as Assistant Organist at Hereford Cathedral, where he also took over the directorship of Hereford Chamber Choir and Hereford String Orchestra.

He was appointed Organist and Master of the Choristers of Truro Cathedral in 1989, before moving to the similar post at Gloucester Cathedral in 1994. While at Gloucester he oversaw the rebuilding of the organ which included the installation of the "divided pedal". This allows the pedal board to be "split", meaning that the pedal stops sound on the lower section,and the upper section can be set to reproduce the sound of any of the manuals. Briggs also oversaw the installation of this system on the Father Willis organ of Truro Cathedral in its rebuild in 1991. During his time at Gloucester, he conducted the Three Choirs Festival.

Upon leaving Gloucester in 2002 to pursue a freelance career as a concert organist and composer, Briggs was made Organist Emeritus at Gloucester Cathedral and was succeeded for a second time by Andrew Nethsingha.[2]

Concert organist and composer[edit]

Considered one of the finest concert organists and improvisors of his generation, Briggs currently teaches and performs around the world. He gives regular masterclasses at the Royal Northern College of Music and Cambridge University, among others. He is also the composer of over 60 works, mostly for choir and organ.[1]

He made his debut at the BBC Proms on 14 August 2010 as part of Bach Day, playing pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, some originally for organ, others in arrangements, including Briggs's own arrangement of the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068.

From 2012 to 2017, Briggs was Artist-in-Residence at the Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto, Canada. His responsibilities included giving celebrity recitals, playing regularly at services, composing liturgical music for the Cathedral and working on the establishment of a vision for the music programme, including the design and installation of a new organ or organs and relevant acoustical enhancements.

In October 2017, he became Artist-in-Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.[1]

Family[edit]

Briggs has lived in the United States since 2003[1] and has been married twice. He married his second wife, Margaret Nimocks, in 2004, adopting a daughter, Eloise,[3] and has two daughters from his previous marriage.[4]

Compositions[edit]

Choir and organ[edit]

  • Truro Eucharist (1990), SATB and organ
  • The Music Mountain (1991), SATB, Soprano and Tenor soloists and 2 organs.
  • The Noble Stem of Jesse (1996), SSAATTBB, for Gloucester Cathedral choir
  • When Waters Kiss One Bank (1996), SSAATTBB, for Gloucester Cathedral choir, words by John Donne
  • Holy is the True Light (1997), ATB and organ, Commissioned by RSCM America
  • Jubilate Deo (1998), SATB Soprano solo and organ
  • O Thou Who Art Unchangeable (1999), SATB, two Soprano soloists and organ. Commissioned by Virginia Wesleyian University, USA
  • Matin Responsary (1999), SSAATTBB for the Gloucester Cathedral Choir
  • Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (2000), SATB, Tenor solo and organ, Commissioned by the Hereford Three Choirs Festival 2000
  • Messe pour Notre-Dame (2002), SATB and 2 Organs, commissioned by the Choir of Keynsham Parish Church, Bristol.
  • The Rising (2003), SATB and Organ (based on an Old Celtic Prayer), commissioned by the Choir of Church Street United Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Hosanna to the Son of David (2003), SATB and Organ commissioned by the Choir of Kirk-in-the-Hills, Bloomfield Hills, MI
  • When in our music God is glorified (2003), trebles and Organ (with optional Trumpet), commissioned by the Bristol Cathedral Girls Choir for their 10th anniversary
  • Ave Verum Corpus (2004), SATB, commissioned by the choir of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
  • Regina Coeli (2004), SATB, commissioned by St. Mary's Church, Moseley for their 600th Anniversary Year
  • Christ's Peace, Commissioned by the Rosengren family in celebration of 35 years of marriage
  • Music, SATB A setting of the poem by Walter de la Mare. Commissioned by the Britten Singers, Hereford
  • Ave Maria, TTBB and organ, commissioned by the Lay Clerks of Blackburn Cathedral
  • Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis 'The Truro Service' (2004), commissioned in thanksgiving for the life of John Taylour
  • Caedmon's Hymn, SSAATTBB for Carlisle Cathedral Festival
  • Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for Jesus College, Cambridge (2008)
  • Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for St Davids Cathedral (2008)
  • Messe pour Saint-Sulpice (2010), SATB and Organ, commissioned by the Choir of All Saints, Northampton, UK.

Choir and orchestra[edit]

  • Te Deum Laudamus (1997), SATB chorus, Soprano and Tenor soloists, Full Orchestra. Three Choirs Festival Commission
  • Creation (2000) SATB chorus, Soprano solo, Full Orchestra
  • Te Deum Laudamus (2003), TB Choir, 2 organs, flute, oboe, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, harp and strings. Commissioned for the 150th Anniversary of St Benedict's Abbey, Subiaco, Arkansas
  • Atlanta Requiem (2003), SATB, Soprano, Tenor and Bass soloists, Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Harp, Glockenspiel, Timpani
  • St John Passion (2005), SATB, Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass Soloists, Evangelist (tenor), Jesus (bass), organ and orchestra. Commissioned by Kirk-in-the-Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Organ[edit]

  • Marche Episcopale (1999), commissioned by the Incorporated Association of Organists
  • Transcription of the Improvised Fugue/Toccata on 'I Vow To Thee My Country' (2000)- improvisation by Briggs at the re-opening recital of Gloucester Cathedral organ. Commissioned by Mark Batten, Organist of the Birmingham Oratory.
  • Variations on 'Veni Creator', (for Organ Duet), commissioned by Elizabeth and Raymond Chenault
  • THEME AND VARIATIONS, for the Worshipful Company of Actuaries. Commissioned by Catherine Ennis, Organist at St Lawrence-Jewry, London)
  • Organ Symphony on Themes from the 'Missa pro defunctiis' for Stephen Farr, Organist of Guildford Cathedral, premiered by him at St David's Cathedral on 3 June 2004
  • Organ Concerto for Blackburn Cathedral. Organ, strings, harp, timpani, side drum, and glockenspiel.
  • Elegy, commissioned in celebration of the 80th Birthday of Patrick Bell, Esq, Cookham Dean.
  • 3 Improvisations a re-construction of improvisations by American cinema organist Buddy Cole.
  • Variations on 'Laudi Spirituali' (2004)
  • Variations on Greensleeves (2005)
  • Trio Sonata (2005)
  • Fantasie (2005)
  • Four Concert Etudes (2005)
  • Berceuse (2006)
  • Mosaique: Sonata for Organ Duet (2008)
  • Sortie on In Dulci Jubilo(2008)
  • Toccata for St Matthew's Day(2008)
  • Hommage a Marcel Dupré (2009)
  • Le Tombeau de Duruflé (2009)
  • The Legend of St Nikolaus(2009)
  • Chorale Variations: Lobe den Herren (2010)
  • Fantasia on Mendelssohn(2010)

Organ transcriptions[edit]

Other[edit]

  • Fanfare for Wells (2002), for Organ, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones and Cymbals. A 2-minute Fanfare (à la Marcel Dupré!') intended for use immediately before I was glad by C. Hubert H. Parry, commissioned by the Wells Cathedral Voluntary Choir, September 2002
  • Chempinesca (2004), for Piano Duet, in celebration of Beryl Chempin's distinguished teaching career at the Birmingham Conservatoire.
  • Dreamworld: Song Cycle (2005)

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g David Briggs - Biography. Accessed on 24 November 2021.
  2. ^ Hart, David Little style in unfussy approach, 22 August 2002, The Birmingham Post (www.thefreelibrary.com). Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  3. ^ "WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Madge Nimocks, David Briggs". The New York Times. 4 July 2004. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  4. ^ Weddings/Celebrations; Madge Nimocks, David Briggs, 4 July 2004, The New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  5. ^ VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Burtsts of Acclamation - Organ Music and Transcriptions

External links[edit]


Cultural offices
Preceded by Organist and Master of the Choristers of Truro Cathedral
1989–1994
Succeeded by
Preceded by Organist and Master of the Choristers of Gloucester Cathedral
1994–2002
Succeeded by