Five things I've learned from Martin Setchell

Martin Setchell, a concert organist from New Zealand, performed at St Matthew’s Church, Albury on Sunday 26th of June 2016 at 2.30pm.

He was born and educated in England and studied at various times with Pierre Cochereau, Marie-Claire Alain, Piet Kee, and Peter Hurford. He is the curator of the Rieger organ in the Christchurch Town Hall for the Performing Arts, and is Associate Professor of Music and University Organist at the University of Canterbury. He regularly performs in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan. Coming to Albury was part of this year’s concert tours through Australia (three times), Germany and Poland.

I was fortunate enough to have a lesson with Martin the day before his Albury concert. This was very generous of him as he sacrificed some rehearsal time on the St Matthew’s organ to teach me. Here are the five things I’ve learned from Martin as he mentored me on my pieces for performance, practice and interpretation:

  1. Show off the strong beats of the bar by leaning on the note longer and shortening the remaining notes.
    False accents are easy to achieve on the organ!
  2. Pedal technique in baroque works require evenness of tone – if you’re using heels, make sure it’s not obvious to the listener (it’s easy to join notes together when using heels).
  3. Brush up on the composer’s notes on the score – if you can’t read it, do some research and find out.
    Composer’s notes mean a lot into interpreting a work.
  4. When playing a soloed out voice, think of its orchestral equivalent or character – this will help determine whether you need to articulate or play more legato.
  5. The organ is the known as the “monster that never breathes” – really ensure you set obvious breathing sections, where appropriate, in your pieces. This of course also depends on the acoustics of the building.
    Breathing (breaking) helps clearly define sections of phrases as well as giving the ear a break!


  1. Rhea on July 4, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Very nice of him James! What a nice privilege for you!

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