29/04 | John Challenger


Acclaimed for his performances on the great Father Willis organ, John Challenger has been Assistant Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral since September 2012, where he accompanies the Cathedral’s liturgy. He received his musical education as a chorister at Hereford Cathedral under Dr Roy Massey and Geraint Bowen, and as an Organ Scholar at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and St John’s College, Cambridge; at St John’s, under the directorship of Andrew Nethsingha, he played the organ for services, concerts, recordings, broadcasts, tours, and four critically-acclaimed recordings on the Chandos label. He studied the organ with David Briggs, Jeremy Filsell, Mark Williams, and the late David Sanger, and obtained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists in 2008. In addition to his duties at the Cathedral, John is active as an organ teacher and recitalist. Between January and March 2017, John acted as Director of Music at St John’s College, Cambridge, during the sabbatical of the College’s full-time Director of Music, Andrew Nethsingha. During this time, the world-famous choir undertook numerous high-profile engagements, including a BBC Radio 3 live broadcast of Choral Evensong on Ash Wednesday. In April 2015, John’s début solo organ CD, Elgar from Salisbury, was released under the Regent label. The recording was awarded five stars by Choir & Organ Magazine, and received enthusiastic reviews in the American Record Review, Hi-Fi Plus, Church Music Quarterly, and on Classic FM. Roger Judd, writing for FCM’s Cathedral Music wrote that ‘it would be difficult to imagine a more auspicious début CD’, whilst Andrew Fletcher wrote for Organists’ Review: ‘there is nothing I can say that can begin to convey the technical brilliance, artistry, musicality and seemingly effortless organ management of John Challenger. If you love the Salisbury organ (and who wouldn’t?) and adore Elgar (and who doesn’t?), here is a match made in heaven. Flawless! Phenomenal!’ His second solo CD, César Franck – Organ Works, was released in 2019 and his third CD, Organ Prom, in 2020, an album marking the decommissioning-for-renovation of Salisbury's Father Willis organ. In 2021 he released ”Salisbury Meditation – Music for the NHS", a digital album of classics played during the COVID-19 vaccination sessions at Salisbury Cathedral.