Five Minutes with Organist Seb Gillot
Seb Gillot is a multi-award winning organist and winner of the Company’s 2018 Silver Medal – Royal College of Organists. A versatile, in-demand solo organist and harpsichordist with a love of Baroque music and HIP, Seb performs as an accompanist and continuo player with many UK groups including The Hanover Band and period instrument ensemble Endelienta Baroque, of which he is a founding member. He is also musical director of Cantanti Camerati of Richmond, an auditioned chamber choir specialising in early music.
When and where did you start your organ training?
I started my organ training aged sixteen whilst a music scholar at Harrow School. I was fortunate to have a number of friends and contemporaries who played the organ, and so I was consistently keen to give it a try!
Do you get the opportunity to play different instruments? And can recitals be challenging given there’s no such thing as a standard organ?
Performing on different instruments presents as much of an opportunity as it does a challenge. Of course, it can take a while to acclimatise to a new instrument, but it is an exciting process to explore the tonal and expressive potential of an unfamiliar instrument. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to play a number of marvellous (and often historic) instruments both in this country and on the continent – it is one of the privileges of being an organist!
When did your enthusiasm for Baroque music develop?
The communicative and rhetorical aspects of Baroque music have long appealed to me. Since my teenage years, I have been drawn constantly to the logic and method of construction of so much Baroque music, and how musical and narrative drama can unfold within these frameworks.
Who is your favourite Baroque composer?
It has to be (unsurprisingly for an organist!!), J.S. Bach. The astonishing variety and technical mastery of his music never fails to leave me dumbfounded, but what I find even more extraordinary is the music’s humanity and soulfulness. The title page to first edition of the Keyboard Partitas talks of “refresh(ing) the spirit” of “music lovers”; how apt!
Tell us about some of the projects you’re involved in, both now and next year.
I have a number of performances typical to this time of year: Messiahs and carol services, as well as other large concerts, including Bach’s Mass in B minor and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. It’s a busy time and, like many others, am constantly flitting from one place to another!
2020 is set to be an exciting year with a number of fantastic projects to look forward to. In March, Endelienta Baroque will join forces with Ensemble Pro Victoria for a performance of Bach’s St John Passion in London, and the excitement is building as we continue to plan logistics and seek funding. We are also in the early stages of putting together small education-focused performances to take into schools. I’m particularly excited to bring our love of Baroque repertoire into schools to help inspire young people both to connect with musical pasts and to lead musical lives.
2020 sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of French organist Louis Vierne, and plans are afoot to perform his six organ symphonies across the year. This is a significant undertaking for me, but one that I am relishing!
You can find out more about Seb and Endelienta Baroque on:
Mailing list (sign up for news and updates): http://eepurl.com/gwcmuf
Seb Gillot: Twitter @sgeelow
Interview by @suzywillmott