Robert Court, the University Organist has had a long relationship with Cardiff which has ranged through his time as student, to full-time member of the practical staff and now as part-time Associate Lecturer.
Robert Court rehearsing at the Royal Albert Hall for the Proms 2008
My association with the University dates back, unbroken, to 1973. In those days the Music Department at Cardiff had a very strong bias towards practical music making and was regarded as a bridge between a conservatoire and an academic institution. It was the ideal place for me. Though smaller than it is today, it was nevertheless one of the largest music departments in the country and there were some very exciting events happening. Some of world’s greatest musicians visited (I can immediately think of Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, Olivier Messiaen, and pianists Vlado Perlemuter and Vladimir Ashkenazy to name just a few) and we had opportunities to interact with them.
Today’s School of Music presents a more balanced profile between the practical and academic but is still one of the most popular choices for new students. Many of our students have gone on to pursue highly successful careers in the music profession either as performers, composers, academics, administrators or teachers and I love bumping into them unexpectedly from time to time.
My connection with the university has ranged from student, to full-time member of the practical staff and now to part-time Associate Lecturer. It has been a connection for which I am very grateful and it has enabled me to develop the many aspects of my freelance performing career (which include playing with many of this country’s leading orchestras, TV and radio appearances, CD recordings and recital work both here and abroad). I have played the organ at Degree Congregations since 1974 - a frightening 34 years (though technically only 33 – I had a year off to get married!). I really enjoy those occasions – graduation is one of the big milestones in your life, exciting and poignant at the same time and I try to reflect that in the music I play. There have been many other events over the years which have required organ music such as the 100 years Celebrations, Honorary Degree Congregations of the University of Wales, Memorial Services, meetings of the College Court and innumerable concerts.
Cardiff is a great place to live. For musicians, there are so many opportunities and sources of inspiration both locally and nationally and Cardiff itself just keeps on getting better and better. Outside the university I play for Sunday services at St. Augustine's Church, Penarth and I am the Music Director of Cantemus Chamber Choir Wales. 25 years ago there wasn’t much happening on the organ scene in Cardiff so I co-founded Cardiff Organ Events which is an organization dedicated to promoting the organ through recitals by celebrity recitalists and other related activities. COE is unique in this country and is responsible for organising most of the organ recitals that take place in the area (including those at St. David's Hall, Cardiff and the National Museum of Wales) and has been a major force in securing the restoration of local historically valuable instruments.
It has been a real privilege to be part of Cardiff University for so long and to witness the changing face of the university over that period. However it is not only my career for which I have the university to thank. My wife-to-be enrolled as a music student in 1977, by the end of the year we were engaged and she completed her degree as Mrs Court in 1980!