My average working day starts at around 9.15am in the cathedral’s song school, the newest part of the cathedral, completed in 2004. It is the home of the music department and where all choir practices take place.
An important part of my job is the planning of music for services and events at the cathedral and this can take up a lot of my time.
I am also responsible for organising our organ recital series and deal with lots of enquiries from organists around the world who want to visit the cathedral and play our famous organ. Organ recitals have always been a feature of the music-making at Chester Cathedral and we have hosted a weekly organ recital here since 1972.
Chester Cathedral’s Grand Organ is one of the world’s finest and it has been played virtually every day for nearly 150 years. It has entertained royalty and heads of state and has been played by many world famous organists. We are hoping to raise the funds necessary to expertly rebuild the organ and people can pay to share an Organ Experience was me as part of our brand new Grand Organ Appeal.
At 4pm each day I rehearse the cathedral choristers and at 5.30pm we sing choral evensong in the magnificent setting of the cathedral’s 13th century quire stalls. The choir are frequently called upon to perform for TV and radio, so that always keeps us busy too. During the last twelve months we have broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Day and on Radio 3 on Easter Day. The boy choristers were also featured on Blue Peter last Christmas.
In amongst all of this activity, I also have to find time to practice the organ each day. Being an organist is a bit like being an athlete – if you don’t use your skills, you lose them quite quickly! I’m currently preparing for our Battle of the Organs event on January 31, 2015. It’s going to be an out of the ordinary organ experience as I enter into musical battle with my colleagues and special guest Nigel Ogden (The Organist Entertains, BBC Radio 2).
Dress: When I am conducting the choir I wear a red cassock and a white surplice (a long gown) over the top.
What is the favourite part of your job? I love working with the choristers. It is a privilege to work with young people that are so enthusiastic and talented. It’s exciting to teach them about the music I love and really rewarding to see them engage with choral pieces, some of which are centuries old. I also really like my job at Christmas time. I always look forward to the Christmas events and services, especially our annual carol concert. This year the concert is called Noël: A Chester Christmas and is on December 20 at 7.30pm.
What is the least favourite part of your job? That would most definitely have to be all of my administrative tasks!
What would your dream job be if you weren’t doing what you do now? Do you know what? I actually don’t know! I started in this walk of life at a very young age and I have never really known anything different. I started as a chorister here at the cathedral when I was eight years old. I was also organ scholar here from 14-18. So I guess I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here.
How do you relax when you aren’t working? I love to spend time with my wife and three children and we have a busy family life. We have just acquired a lovely little puppy. His name is Arthur and he is a Dachshund/Jack Russell cross. I collect clocks and watches and love coastal walking, especially in Anglesey. I’m also fascinated by the Titanic and her sister ships, the Olympic and the Britannic.
What is your favourite film? Odd Man Out. It’s a 1947 British film noir set in an unnamed Northern Irish city and stars James Mason.
What is your favourite book? Any Human Heart by William Boyd
What is your favourite song? Rather than a song, I would have to say my favourite piece of music is The Dream of Gerontius by Edward Elgar.
If a film was made of your life, who would you like to play you? I think I’d have to say Colin Firth – my wife likes him!
Have you had your fifteen minutes of fame yet? I was in Italy when Pope John Paul II died and I felt privileged to be playing an organ recital in a church near Milan that was full with people mourning his passing. There were hundreds of people there - but I’m not sure I could call that fame.
●Name: Philip Rushforth
●Job: Director of music and organist at Chester Cathedral
●Education: Abbey Gate College, Chester and Trinity College, Cambridge
●Family: Wife Louise and three children Laura (17), Tom (11) and Sam (10)