John Birch (musician)

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Not to be confused with John Burch (musician).

John Anthony Birch (9 July 1929 – 28 April 2012)[1][2][3] was a British organist and choral director.

He was educated at Trent College, Derbyshire and left in July 1947 to study at the Royal College of Music, London. In 1953 he became Organist and Master of the Choristers at a prominent Anglo-Catholic church: All Saints, Margaret Street, London. In 1958 Birch moved to Chichester to be Organist and Master of the Choristers at Chichester Cathedral. During his time at the Cathedral, he worked closely with Dean Walter Hussey in the commissioning of new choral works for the Cathedral Choir, including pieces from composers Leonard Bernstein, William Walton, Lennox Berkeley, William Albright, Bryan Kelly and Herbert Howells.

In 1959, Birch was appointed as a Professor at the Royal College of Music, where he continued to lecture until 1997. He was one of the founders of the revived Southern Cathedrals Festival (with his colleagues at Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals) in 1960.[4]

Birch was University Organist at the University of Sussex from 1967 to 1994 and worked as a Visiting Lecturer in Music from 1971 to 1983.[5]

In 1982, Birch became Director of Music at Temple Church. Two years later, he was appointed the role of Curator-Organist at the Royal Albert Hall, a position he held until his death. In the posts at the Temple Church and the Royal Albert Hall, Birch was the successor to Sir George Thalben-Ball. Birch was, in addition, the long-serving organist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded widely, particularly in orchestral repertoire. He had, earlier, served with great distinction as accompanist and organist to the Royal Choral Society working closely with Sir Malcolm Sargent. For almost forty years, Dr Birch served as a Professor of Organ at The Royal College of Music.

He held an honorary MA from the University of Sussex and the Lambeth degree of Doctor of Music.

He died on 28 April 2012 after suffering a stroke.


  1. ^ "John Birch". Daily Telegraph. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "John Birch obituary". The Guardian. 22 May 2012. 
  3. ^ "John Birch: Celebrated organist and master of choristers". The Independent. 25 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "History of Chichester cathedral choir school – of choristers ancient and modern". 2004-12-21. Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Horace Hawkins
Organist and Master of the Choristers
of Chichester Cathedral

Succeeded by
Alan Thurlow