by Alex Patterson
After their much-deserved summer break, the Cathedral Choir returned to sing 11.15am Mass a few weeks earlier than intended. This was to say thank you and farewell to Robert Gower, who stepped down as Cathedral Organist to take up a new post in Berwick upon Tweed, where he and his lovely wife Pauline are relocating.
Robert joined the Cathedral Music Team back in June 2014 when I took over from Neil Page as Director of Music. I had just turned 26 and, as Robert liked to tell people, he was the inverse age, and it was the start of a very interesting journey as we began to explore how to unleash the potential of the Music Department.
It’s rather humbling to look back to see what has been achieved in the last five years – none of which would have been possible without the support and expertise of Robert. There are events like the first contemporary performance of John Carol Case’s Requiem for an Unknown Soldier, which we gave back in 2015 on Remembrance Sunday, and which Robert was responsible for editing for publication. As well as introducing me to a whole range of neglected motets and indeed the Gretchaninoff Missa Festiva, now a staple of our repertoire, Robert also provided a catalogue of descants and arrangements of carols, and began writing a complete 3-year cycle of responsorial psalms (which
he completed in June 2019). His imaginative hymn accompaniment and extemporisations transformed our animation of the liturgy and he has certainly given us all an education in the variety of organ music which he played at Mass. It’s no secret that pieces we heard on a Sunday would be arrangements or editions he was working on for new organ compilation albums for Oxford University Press, and indeed, the latest ‘Ceremonial Organ Music Book 2’ published last month features a whole range of music that was first heard here in Nottingham over the last year, whether we realised it at the time or not.
I am indebted to Robert for many things but am extremely grateful for his dedication and outstanding musicianship which he has shown throughout his tenure. His experience and expertise has directly shaped the evolution of the Music Department over the last five years and we will certainly miss him. I’m glad that our paths will still cross as trustees of the Finzi Trust.
The music for Robert’s last Mass with us on Sunday 25 August was a very deliberate selection by Robert himself, including the Missa Festiva by Gretchaninoff, the first performance of Robert’s new arrangement of Dora Pejačević’s Ave Maria, and my own setting of the hymn Brother, sister, let me serve you, which included some very pertinent reminders – ‘when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you’.
On behalf of everyone at the Cathedral, I’d like to wish Robert and his wife Pauline all the very best for their next chapter.