Picking perfect note for organist to retire

Chichester Cathedral organist Alan Thurlow is to retire next year after 28 years in the post.

Dr Thurlow, who is organist and master of the choristers, has announced he will step down next Easter, the culmination of his massive contribution to cathedral life.

Under his guidance, Chichester Cathedral choir has developed to become truly world-famous, touring in recent years to South Africa, France and Germany.

The choir's inspirational sound is also the mainstay of cathedral services.

During term time the choir sings evensong in the cathedral six days a week, as well as mattins and the sung eucharist on Sunday.

They also sing at a number of additional services throughout the year, including the cathedral's hugely-popular Christmas carol services.

Dr Thurlow also has been greatly involved in the musical life of the entire Chichester diocese, extending across the counties of east and west Sussex. In 2005 the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred a Lambeth doctorate of music on Alan, in recognition of his services to the world of church music.

"My retirement was due earlier this year, but I have stayed on for an extra year," he said.

The Southern Cathedrals Festival which rotates between Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester was in Chichester this July – and he wouldn't have wanted to leave just before it.

Now, instead, he will be stepping down on Easter Day, a much better piece of timing.

"Easter Day is such a wonderful day in the church's calendar."

Dr Thurlow will be staying in the area, having bought a house in Chichester five years ago with a view to his retirement.

"It will be an enormous wrench. It is hard to envisage life without daily rehearsals with the boys and daily evensong, but it has to come at some time!"

The Dean of Chichester, the Very Rev Nicholas Frayling, said: "Alan has made a unique contribution to the cathedral for more than a quarter of a century. His choir is the envy of many other cathedrals and has an international reputation. Alan and his wife, Tina, will be greatly missed."

Dr Thurlow was born in Essex and read music at Sheffield University before going to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, for a period of research into pre-reformation English church music.

In 1973 he was appointed sub-organist at Durham Cathedral, serving first under Conrad Eden and later under Richard Lloyd and combining his cathedral duties with those of director of music at the chorister school and part-time lecturer in music at Durham University.

In 1980 he was appointed organist and master of the choristers at Chichester Cathedral, in succession to John Birch.

During his time at Chichester, he has been responsible for the restoration of the cathedral's historic organ.

He is a member of the executive committee of the Friends of Pallant House Gallery, an organ adviser for the Diocese of Chichester and an area representative for the Royal School of Church Music. In 1995 and 1996 he served as president of the Cathedral Organists' Association.