Chorale Conversations: Christopher Wrench


As a professional musician, what’s it been like for you since COVID-19 began?

On the plus side, there has been much more time to practise, which is an amazing gift for any musician, because practice normally has to be squeezed in between teaching, a myriad of administrative tasks and family life, to name but a few!

On the down side, lack of opportunities to travel and perform on a wide variety of instruments nationally and internationally has been very restrictive.  Even though I have a small two-manual pipe organ at home for practice, preparing and performing in a large venue is a completely different matter.  The uncertainty surrounding local performances also impacts one’s motivation at times.

What originally drew you to learn the organ?

Well, I grew up hearing Mum play the Harmonium at church, then when I heard the pipe organ I was completely smitten – no turning back!  Seminal childhood experiences were midnight Mass at St Luke’s, Toowoomba, hearing Robert Boughen and the cathedral choir at St John’s, and singing with my Chermside State School Choir in the annual massed choirs ‘Festival of Music’ at City Hall (also accompanied by Robert Boughen on the Willis organ).

Who do you see as your musical heroes and why?

That is a hard one – so many.  I guess I would start with my first organ teacher John Broughton (at Brisbane Grammar) because he set me up with all the right foundations, and Nancy Weir (my piano teacher at the Con) for her superb insights into the never-ending process of delving into a musical score in order to discover everything you need to know to learn it, lift it off the page, liberate it from the mass of black dots, and eventually share it with others.  Then there are my organ teachers in Vienna: Leopold Marksteiner and Michael Radulescu who imparted their own invaluable insights into performance preparation and interpretative mastery.  Having said this, I believe that every musician whose tenacity, stamina, dedication and sheer hard work enable them to sustain a musical life and repeatedly share living, sophisticated and dynamic performances with others is a true hero!

What’s the most helpful musical or performance tip you’ve picked up from your teacher/s?

Study the score and never stop practising!

What pieces or works are on your performance “bucket list”?

Well even at 63 there are still plenty!  I guess the big one would be to play ALL the Vierne symphonies.

If you could invite five guests (past or present) to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

Johann Sebastian & Anna Magdalena Bach, despite how intimidating that would feel, along with Clara & Robert Schumann & Johannes Brahms.  They all adored JSB but never got to meet him!  I also adore the early German romantic period and am fascinated by the Brahms-Schumann friendship circle.

What else might we find on your play-list besides organ and classical music?

Ella Fitzgerald, Cæcilie Norby (Danist Jazz vocalist), Brad Mehldau

Besides music, do you have any special talents or skills you’d like to share with us?

I wouldn’t consider myself talented at it, but I love cooking – when I have the time.