Organist and Master of Music
Born in Londonderry in 1998, Jack began his musical training as a chorister of the Cathedral Church of St Columb, Londonderry. He began piano lessons at the age of 6 with the locally respected jazz musician and teacher Roy Mitchell, latterly progressing to begin organ studies at the age of 16. He studied at Limavady Grammar School, and is a graduate of The Queen’s University of Belfast where he read music, being awarded the May Turtle Scholarship for future academic study. In 2020 he completed the MMus in Choral Studies at the University of Cambridge, in conjunction with holding the post of Graduate Organ Scholar at Sidney Sussex College, and Organ Scholar of the St John’s Voices. Jack is also an Associate of the Royal College of Organists.
Jack has held the posts of Organ Scholar, Acting Assistant Organist, and most recently Assistant Director of Music of the Cathedral Church of St Anne, Belfast, where he was principal accompanist for all Cathedral Services.
Jack has broadcast live several times on BBC Radio 4 and Radio Ulster, also live on BBC One, playing for the funeral service of the murdered journalist Lyra McKee. In September of 2021, Jack moved to take up the position of Graduate Organ Scholar at Ely Cathedral, where he shares in the playing for the Cathedrals 8 weekly choral services, combined with training the Girl Choristers. He also taught music, both Junior and Senior, at the Kings School, Ely.
In May of 2023, Jack returned to Belfast Cathedral as the Organist and Master of Music. Here he has oversight of the Cathedral Music Department, including the role of principal conductor for all choral services, and the responsibility of leading and training those within the Cathedral Music Department.
Currently, Jack studies the organ with the renowned Liturgical and Concert Organist Richard Hills, as a composer, he is published with Encore Publications, and he is the owner of a 1973 MG Midget called Margot.
Stephen’s first connection with St Anne’s was in 1966 when he started having lessons with the then
Cathedral Organist, Harry Grindle. He quickly worked through the Associated Board grade exams,
gaining his Grade VIII in June 1968 as a silver medallist , gaining the second highest marks in any practical
subject in the whole of the UK. The “troubles” made travelling up from Larne on a weekly basis difficult in
the evenings and in 1970 lessons at St Anne’s ceased. Stephen followed his father’s footsteps into electrical
engineering, and for a while organ studies took a back seat, although he was frequently found deputising
at his home church in Larne.
In 1974, while studying Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast, he was persuaded to apply for the
Organist job at Cooke Centenary Church, Ormeau Road Belfast, a post which he held until 1997 when he
took voluntary Redundancy from NIE and set up his own business servicing and installing digital organs
in NI. Three years later he partnered with a software engineer in Preston and they set about designing and
building their own top end digital organs from a clean sheet of paper, still successful after 23 years.
Around 1975 to 1987 he was Accompanist of Larne Choral Society. In 1987 he started working with The
Renaissance Singers, forging a good working relationship with Ronnie Lee and Grosvenor High School
Choir, which led to many broadcasts on both TV and national radio. This also rekindled his relationship
with the St Anne’s organ as he played for the Renaissance LP recording and all the Grosvenor High School
Carol Services from 1987, which at that stage were broadcast by the BBC up until Ronnie’s untimely death.
At this time the BBC commissioned “Sing Carols”, a community Carol Service held in the Ulster Hall and
Stephen was organist from the first one in 1987 until the last one 23 years later, when the series was axed.
UTV was also active during this period, making a series of six programmes called “Sing Out” from the
Ulster Hall featuring local choirs, as well as a series of three programmes called “Organ Power”, which all
included Stephen at the Ulster Hall organ. UTV also made a documentary about his preparation and
travel to give a recital at St Paul’s Cathedral London in December 1988.
In 2002 he once again returned to regular Sunday console duties in St Peter’s Antrim Road, where he built
up the choir’s repertoire to include over 130 chants; service settings by Dyson, Bryan Kelly, Leighton,
Gerald Near; anthems by Richard Shephard, Finzi, Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Bairstow, Britten’s Rejoice
in the Lamb, and many of his own compositions including a Communion Service for the 2004 Prayer Book
and a set of Responses.
In 2018 he was appointed interim Director of Music at St Peter’s Cathedral Belfast until the Covid
Lockdown, in charge of the Schola Cantorum boys choir which provided music for the Sung Mass on
Sunday mornings and all the other special occasions and broadcasts.
Stephen has been Accompanist to two very successful NI choirs since their formation - The Grosvenor
Chorale, formed in 1993 and conducted by Edward Craig; and the Osborne Singers formed in 2014.
Stephen’s interests include springboard diving (not active now but still watches all that’s available on TV),
motorsport in the form of autotesting (which he has recently returned to in his MX5) and organbuilding,
supplying control systems of his own design for digital and pipe organs to GB and North America as
proprietor of Phoenix Organs NI.