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Early Years

Early Years

David was born at All Saints Hospital, Bromsgrove, UK on All Saints Day, 1962. His grandfather, Lawrence Briggs, was a renowned Organist at St Jude’s Church, Birmingham for over 40 years and some of David's earliest memories were of sitting with him on the organ bench.  His parents were both very musical and met in the Birmingham Hospitals Orchestra. His father was an engineer by trade, the family firm making precision high speed air torque motors (the sort that produce that high-pitched ‘whee’ sound, while you are desperately trying to relax in the dental chair).

David was a chorister at Birmingham Cathedral from 1970-73. His voice was only average (he only had one solo in three years!) but he had perfect pitch so could always come in on the right note. He quickly fell in love with the sound of the organ and when the Cathedral Organist was a way, the Assistant would surruptiously allow David to improvise after Friday Evensong. David was regularly told off for turning round to see if the organist was using the Pedal Trombone at the end of last hymn. 


In 1973 David won the BBCTV piano competition, Major Minor and was awarded a full Music Scholarship to Solihull School. Here he learned the piano, violin, viola and organ, and soon became rather expert in avoiding Rugby by hiding inside the pipes of the Chapel organ. David studied the organ, harmony and counterpoint with the then Chapel Organist Colin Edmundson, a former Domus Scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford. Within a period of 5 years, there were 4 schoolboy FRCO’s at Solihull - something of a record. David gained both his ARCO and FRCO while at school, winning all the prizes and the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians in the latter in January 1980. He also studied with Richard Popplewell, the Queen’s Organist, traveling every week to the Chapel Royal at St James’ Palace for lessons.


From 1977-1981 David played the viola in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, becoming Principal in his last year. The love of orchestral music has remained with him, and informs his many organ transcriptions of Symphonies by Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Bruckner, Vaughan Williams and Mahler.


From 1981-84 David was the Dr A H Mann Organ Student at King’s College, Cambridge, and was also the recipient of the John Stewart of Rannoch Scholarship in Sacred Music. He played for the world-famous Festival of Nine Lessons of Carols in 1982 and 1983, with a live audience of 35 million, and also toured Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium and Germany with the College Choir. He studied repertoire and improvisation techniques with Jean Langlais in Paris, on a Countess of Munster Scholarship.


From 1985-2002, David held successive posts at the cathedrals of Hereford, Truro and Gloucester. At Gloucester he was also the Conductor of the Three Choirs Festival, the oldest music festival in the world, coming into regular contact with the Philharmonia Orchestra. He also led the Cathedral Choir on successful tours to Australasia and the United States. At both Truro and Gloucester, David served as consultant for the rebuilding of the historic cathedral organs. 


David has been based in North America since 2003, living first in New York, before relocating to Ipswich, Massachusetts (2007-12) and Toronto, Canada (2012-17). Since 2017 he has been the Artist in Residence at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, in New York - the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. He continues to tour the world as one of the most sought-after Concert Organists of his generation, playing around 65 concerts each year. 


David is recognized as one of the world’s most renowned improvisers. He has taught improvisation techniques at Cambridge University for two decades and, as well as studying with Jean Langlais in Paris (1984-6), has made a huge in-depth study of the improvisations of the late Pierre Cochereau, Organist of Notre-Dame de Paris (1955-84). He spent eleven years transcribing many of his most famous improvisations from Notre-Dame, many of which have been published by Editions Chantraine and United Music Publishers. Cochereau remains David’s primary inspiration as a musician, even though they never actually met in person.


David is also prolific as a composer, and his works (over 60 in number) are published by Chestnut Music. His music has been recorded by Trinity College, Cambridge, York Minster, the Vasari Singers, Euphony and the Northern Chamber Orchestra. The Hyperion recording of Messe pour Notre Dame was selected as a Critics Choice CD by both BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone and has now been performed by various choirs across the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Holland, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand and is known for its rich harmonic language and emotional depth. 

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