21 Aug 2019

The colourful organ

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 21 August 2019

Not many of us would consider the organ to be colourful, but that’s exactly how touring organist Benjamin Sheen describes his instrument of choice. He’s performing with the APO this week and chats with David Morriss about his colourful world.

Benjamin Sheen

Benjamin Sheen Photo: Ira Lippke

The organ can be a divisive instrument. But it’s the “career and life” of Benjamin Sheen, a young British concert organist currently plying his trade as the Associate Organist at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue in New York.

He’s been touring Australasia and finishes up in Auckland this week, first performing Poulenc's 'Organ Concerto' with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra tomorrow night and a solo recital at the Auckland Town Hall on Sunday.

“Each organ is different,” he says. “That’s one of the great challenges of being a concert organist. It takes a lot of hours [and] a great deal of preparation. I try to research the organ beforehand to get a sense of what the organ’s capabilities are.

He tries to bring out the orchestral colour in the instrument, and he’s determined to make the organ accessible to everyone. “On Sunday when I play a solo recital, I’ve designed it for those people who haven’t heard the organ or don’t see it as an instrument they enjoy,” he says. “I think when you’re in the Town Hall it’s a wonderful opportunity to show it’s an orchestra operated by one person.”

Benjamin Sheen performs performing the Poulenc Organ Concerto with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra at the Auckland Town Hall on Thursday Night at 8pm, then a solo recital at 2.30pm on Sunday.