Composer-in-residence at the Corn Exchange releases first full-length track

Genie Harrison 6 April 2018


Jay Richardson is the Composer-in-residence at the Corn Exchange, and a third year music student at Pembroke. Inspired by musicians and composers such as Brian Eno, and Anna Clyne, ‘I Break’, is his first full-length album release, a single track of contemporary organ music.

It must be said that organ music, particularly if you’re not someone who finds themselves in the attendance of chapel a lot of the time, is something most students are probably not that accustomed to listening to. However, ‘I Break’, totally apart from the traditional organ works of the likes of Bach and Purcell, provides a window into a world of classical music so often perceived to be inaccessible. I’ll admit, I might have initially been put off by 55 minutes worth of straight organ playing, but there is something rather humbling and beautiful about Richardson’s composition. Musically sketched over a mere day, Richardson then spent a later four months configuring organ registrations, rewriting and eventually recording in Bury St. Edmunds, and the effort and time put into its production are certainly captured in its expression. It is, I think, the melody line that is so compelling, with its lyrical quality becoming increasingly poignant with the piece’s progression.

This being said, it’s not totally ‘easy’ listening. The sobering effect I generally experience whilst listening to an organ being played is capitalised upon by Richardson, whose labouring tempo allows for much contemplative reflection to occur within the spaces of the music. Yet, there are moments of triumph, and uplifting climaxes that capture the brilliance of the organ. The work seems to approach the instrument in a refreshing manner, veering away from the traditional framework of organ music and becoming an outlet for the voice of the individual. There is an honesty apparent in Richardson’s writing, a lack of need to adhere to the demands of what is expected of either contemporary or classical music. Granted – it probably isn’t for every listener. But, if you’re somebody who enjoys organ music, and has an interest in expanding your musical-horizons, Richardson bridges a gap between the traditional and the contemporary, with a musical expression quite unlike your average release from a young person.

Beyond listening to ‘I Break’ – available on both Spotify and iTunes now, you can hear a premier of another of Jay’s compositions on the 5th May at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, led by Artist-in-Residence Esther Yoo on the violin, and conducted by Michal Nesterowicz.