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BARBICAN LIFE


Inspiring Individuals Anne Marsden Thomas


Anne Marsden Thomas, St Giles' organist & Director of Music, set up the internationally acclaimed St Giles' Organ School in the early '90's. She has changed the face of organ teaching across the UK. Stephanie Ross meets her and profiles her amazing musical career.


optimistic face. She is skilled in managing and co-ordinating many different types of people and overcoming obstacles.


When she was five years old her seven year old sister really wanted piano lessons. Their parents loved classical music, so naturally agreed. Seeing her sister enjoying the new lessons Anne wanted some too. Her sister stopped piano at grade 4 when Anne’s clear ability had become apparent.


Anne Marsden Thomas A 30


s Director of Music at St. Giles Cripplegate Church, founder- director of St. Giles International Organ


School, teacher of some 80 organ students from this country and overseas, Head of Royal College of Organists/St. Giles Organ School programmes, teacher at The Royal Academy of Music and writer/editor of many books for the student organist, Anne Marsden Thomas has ample opportunity to inspire others.


She is tall, slender, stylish and quite quiet really, with a clear inner strength and a calm, positive nature no matter how heavy the workload. She smiles a lot and has an


The youngest of three children, Anne had a happy childhood in a nurturing church-going North London family. Her father was a Welsh marine insurance broker – a job requiring good relationships and the courage to go out on a limb. Her mother was trained in domestic science and gave cookery demonstrations. Both parents were very practical and resourceful, organised, hard working, sociable and active in the church community. Her feisty paternal grandmother, who had been widowed early, resourcefully cutting herself a career in the hotel industry, visited the family every Sunday.


Home-life was full of encouragement.


Achievements were celebrated and from a very young age Anne recognised this as being powerfully motivating. She has always used a similar approach as a teacher. Classical music records were frequently enjoyed, Bartok and Sibelius were among favorites and the family sometimes went to


concerts – “Messiah” at the Albert Hall took Anne’s breath away. A church organist family friend invited the fourteen year old Anne to have a try playing the organ. She was “instantly enchanted by the range of colours and sonorities that a single person could conjure up”. The art of directing hymn singing also fascinated her. “Playing hymns is remarkably challenging: somehow one has to get the congregation to breathe, start and stop together – AND sing the words with meaning – all that without the benefit of rehearsal and conductor. It’s really exhilarating when it works!” A year or so after she started learning, the regular organist left her church and she was asked to take over. As a teen she also took up the harp – not a fashionable instrument to study at that time - and the harpsichord. Her aspiration was to be a musician of some kind but she was unclear how to turn this into an “exciting career”. And so at first she didn’t. After A levels, she became an Assistant at Hendon library for a year and then ran the switchboard and library for the Chartered Accountants Students’ Society (at the junction of London Wall and Moorgate at that time). She was good at being in charge. She still took music lessons and passed diplomas. Encouraged by the results, she decided to commit to music as a career, and gained a place at the Royal Academy of Music in 1970, studying joint piano and organ plus harp.


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