27 April 2022, 13:36
Anna Lapwood directs the Leeds Lieder Festival. Image: Robert Piwko
Everything you need to know about the brilliant organist and director of music at Pembroke College, Cambridge, who has made history.
Anna Lapwood is an organist, conductor, broadcaster and music director at Cambridge’s prestigious Pembroke College.
Lapwood was born in 1995 in High Wycombe. Buckinghamshire, which means that she had earned all the previous accolades before she was 20 years old. Impressive.
He went to school at Oxford High School and then went on to Magdalen College, Oxford where he obtained a first class degree.
Read more: “Young girls can be organists too,” says pioneering musician Anna Lapwood
The first woman to hold an organ scholarship at Oxford University.
She was also the first woman in Magdalen College’s illustrious 560-year history to be awarded an organ scholarship.
Organ Fellows at Oxford are appointed by 22 of the university’s individual colleges, with recipients playing the organ for chapel services while directing or assisting in the work of that college’s choir.
Magdalen College currently awards up to two organ scholarships a year.
Oxbridge’s youngest music director
At the age of 21, Lapwood became the youngest person in history to hold the position of director of music at an Oxbridge college when she became director of music at Pembroke College, Cambridge.
She directs the college chapel choir and, in 2018, founded the Pembroke College Girls’ Choir, which invites girls aged 11-18 from local schools to perform at college eve services.
Read more: An organist was put on hold for 70 minutes, so she played along with the music on hold.
Cambridge Organ Experience for Girls
Lapwood has also established the Cambridge Organ Experience for Girls, which she hosts annually. Speaking to Classic FM in 2019, she said: “When I took up the organ, I really had no idea what world I was getting myself into… I feel like there’s a responsibility to help provide the opportunity for young girls to realize that they too they could be organists.” . I think the reason they don’t take it is because they don’t even think about it.”
She added: “You don’t see visible female models playing the organ. It tends to be seen as something for a certain type of guy or an old lady, and that’s not something a little girl is going to aspire to be.”
Read more: ‘Young musicians need to be able to make mistakes. Now they live online forever’ – organist Anna Lapwood
The epic ‘Bach-a-thon’ for organists
In Pembroke, Lapwood also hosts an annual ‘Bach-a-thon’ where a team of organists come together to play all of the great Baroque composer’s complete works for the instrument, and in 2018 all organ participants were women.
As an organist, Lapwood has performed at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, and New York’s St Thomas Church, among other high-profile appearances.
This year (2021), he will release his debut solo album, a recording of his organ transcription of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Four Sea Interludes’ by Peter Grimes, on Signum Records.
“As a child I spent many a holiday walking in the wind and rain on Aldeburgh beach,” Lapwood writes in the show notes. “My dad grew up in Suffolk and as a child he played fiddle for Britten at Orford Parish Church.
“The Four Sea Interludes were the first Britten pieces that I got to know deeply playing the harp,” he continues. “I remember being amazed at how accurately they captured the spirit of that part of the country, whether it was the sounds of the sea or the bustle of a Sunday morning with church bells ringing across the landscape.
“A couple of years ago I was invited to give a recital as part of the Aldeburgh festival and was asked to include a small amount of organ music written by Britten. I wanted to try to do a transcript of ‘Dawn’. The project grew from there.
Does Anna Lapwood play any other instruments?
In addition to the organ, Lapwood can play the piano, violin, viola and harp, which she played in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, the Classic FM Teen Orchestra.
When she was younger, the multi-instrumentalist was fascinated by new instruments almost every week, admitting to introducing herself with the line “my name is Anna Lapwood and I play 20 instruments.”
Lapwood is also a songwriter and studied composition at the Junior Royal Academy of Music. and she sings
She continues to perform regularly and appears as a presenter on a number of television and radio programmes, while serving as Director of Music at Cambridge.
More recently, Anna became an Associate Artist of the Royal Albert Hall, where she can often be found playing her 9,999-pipe organ (check out her TikTok account here).