Speaking about her job here in Durham, Francesca said that “Durham Cathedral’s organ is one of the best in the country, and so having the opportunity to play it daily is a real privilege. The job is extremely varied, and incorporates many aspects of music-making which I particularly relish: accompaniment and solo playing, conducting and choir training Being involved in the musical upbringing of choristers is a cherished responsibility, and knowing that your musical contribution has brought joy, or else moved someone in some way, makes it all the more worthwhile.”
Her musical tastes are wide-ranging, but she particularly enjoys the music of the late Romantics and early 20th century, and in terms of the organ, she feels particularly at home in the French symphonic repertoire, as well as enjoying Howells and Leighton. She also enjoys exploring contemporary music, and the sense of a blank canvas that new music can give to an interpreter. What she looks for is music that offers expression and meaning beyond the notes, something which is definitely reflected in the pieces she has chosen for our Passiontide programme: Parry’s Songs of Farewell and Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater, both of which she enjoyed singing whilst she was at Cambridge.
When I asked why she chose this demanding cycle, she explained that, while the beautiful music in Parry’s Songs of
Farewell is innately singable, it also challenges a choir to produce well-tuned and sustained singing, and she will be
looking for us to explore the music’s emotional depths. We have sung three movements of the cycle in the past, and we are looking forward enormously to working on the full set with Francesca. Domenico Scarlatti’s ten-part Stabat Mater is much less well-known, and Francesca thinks it deserves to be heard more often, with what she describes as its incredibly rich and luscious setting of the very moving text.