The Organists

MichaelMichael Harris received his earliest musical education as a chorister of Gloucester Cathedral. He was Organ Scholar of St Peter’s College, Oxford, and continued his studies at the Royal College of Music.

Michael has been Organist and Master of the Music of St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, since November 1996; he is also a Lecturer at the Ian Tomlin Academy of Music in Edinburgh Napier University. Prior to moving to Edinburgh he held posts as Sub-Organist of Leeds Parish Church and Assistant Organist of Canterbury Cathedral.

As St Giles’ cathedral organist he hosts many organ concerts on the famous Rieger organ (built in 1992) and his work has involved him in numerous recordings and broadcasts, both for Television and Radio.  Under his direction the Cathedral Choir toured to Italy in 2011, Canada and the USA in the summer of 2009, and, in addition to a previous tour of the USA in 2004 has also given concerts in France and Greece.

His solo recordings include The Organ at St Giles’, and he has directed the Cathedral Choir in a number of CD recordings, the most recent, issued in 2008, being I was glad. His most recent releases are CDs on the Priory label, PRCD 1001, of a 1724 organ in Wandersleben, Thüringen by Johann Schröter, and PRCD 1047, The Organ Music of William Wolstenholme, recorded on the organ of Christ Church, Port Sunlight, Wirral.

Elsewhere Michael has given recitals at many venues in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Poland, and the USA, as well as in the UK, where he has played in many of the major venues. In August and September 2008 he gave concerts in Australia and New Zealand. From1998 until 2010 he was Musical Director of the Scottish Chamber Choir and he has recently founded a new a cappella vocal ensemble, Cantica Alba, who in addition to concerts in the Edinburgh area have toured to Germany and Malta.

He is also much involved in organ and choral education.  He has led a number of study tours to Germany, with a special interest in the organs of Thüringen and Saxony, and is Director of the Edinburgh Organ Academy, an international Springtime organ course founded in 1998. His Edinburgh Napier University duties include supervision of final year performance students, and directing the University Chamber Choir.

Peter Backhouse
Peter Backhousebegan his musical training as a chorister in the choir of York Minster.  Later he studied music at Edinburgh University where he graduated BMus (Hons), having won the 3rd Year Class Medal as well as the Tovey Memorial Prize for his organ playing.  He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and holder of their Choir Training Diploma, as well as an Associate of the Royal College of Music.  In 1977 he was appointed Assistant Organist at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral.  This post, with its daily accompaniment of services, as well as many concerts, recitals, broadcasts and recordings, kept him busy for over 20 years.

In 2000 he was appointed Assistant Organist at St Giles’ Cathedral, and combines this post with teaching music at The Edinburgh Academy (a Day and Boarding School).  He has served on the Council of The Edinburgh Society of Organists for many years, including two as President.  He supports the work of the Royal School of Church Music and was for a number of years an organ adviser in the Edinburgh area for the Scottish Federation of Organists.

He has played for services and given recitals in many cathedrals, including Westminster Abbey, Canterbury, Durham, Ripon and St Albans Cathedrals, St George’s Chapel Windsor, King’s College Cambridge, the Temple Church London and recently at York Minster.  As a continuo player he has played with all the major professional ensembles in Scotland.

Railways have interested him all his life, and he is a qualified signalman on the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway.  His photographs, principally of organs, churches and walking holidays, continue to be published, and he tries to find time to enjoy cricket and walking.