Death of a great British organist, 89

Death of a great British organist, 89


norman lebrecht

January 28, 2019

Noel Rawsthorne, organist of Liverpool Cathedral from 1955 to 1980, died today in the city.

He was an appealing composer and arranger.


UPDATE: Here’s the official announcement:

Noel Rawsthorne passed on peacefully at 2.00am this morning.

Chrissie & Chris Rawsthorne and Liz, his wife, have requested a very private cremation, followed by a great service of thanksgiving celebration at the Cathedral, which, as near as we can say at this point, will be on Sunday 3rd March at 3.00pm.

Noel’s ashes will be interred under the North side of the organ, alongside those of Goss-Custard, his teacher and predecessor, during Evensong on Saturday 19th October, preceding the 93rd Anniversary Recital.

Noel Rawsthorne was Organist of Liverpool Cathedral for twenty-five years from 1955-1980 thereafter becoming Organist Emeritus. After study at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now The Royal Northern College of Music), he won scholarships to study with both Germani & Dupré. From 1980-1984 he was City Organist & Artistic Director at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, and travelled widely as a recitalist in U.K. Europe and USSR. In recognition of his many achievements, he was awarded a D.Mus from the University of Liverpool in 1994.


  • Alan says:

    Here’s what this fabulous organist could do.

    There are many truly great players in the world today, but am I alone in feeling that there are only a few with the charisma of players like Noel Rawsthorne, Alan Wickes, Francis Jackson . . . . .

  • Spenser says:

    Damn! And double damn!
    A very dismal week for the organ world.
    R.I.P., Noel.

  • squagmogleur says:

    His was the first in the Great Cathedral Organ series of the 1960s that included what I think was one of the first British recordings of the Toccata from Durufle’s Suite Op. 5.

  • richard coombs says:

    Mr Rawsthorne gave me a few lessons as a child – and had great tours and insights of the life of the Cathedral – including the lovely sherry bottle collection of the music cupboard – a really fantastic tour of the organ and a talkto 13/14 year olds treating them as equals……… and a story about boring sermon a few scoops of Sherry and the music non appearance afterwards. Also he was an organ scholar at the Cathedral with my late Dad (who would have been 88 now)during the War years. He was a true music special and I wonder why he was never featured more on Radio 3. His ‘fancies’ and spoofs of music in the style of… were great especially in a large cathedral at night just wondering if life could be better

  • John Hardaker says:

    Noel’s book of 200 Last Verses looks rather dilapidated due to constant use. It was only in the last few years that I started to play alternative last verses and Noel’s book is never far from the music rest. While I play other pieces he has written, it is during a ‘last verse’ I will say “Thank you, Noel, for the music”.

  • Gavman says:

    Noel Rawsthorne was one of the greatest organists. I frequently attended many of his recitals in Liverpool Cathedral and his mastery of the instrument was exemplary. Memories of him will long live on.

  • Peter Myers says:

    Noel was a god among organists. I first heard him play at a church school leaving service in 1971, heard him play stop 147 (as it then was) for the first time on an Easter Monday recital….and it was loud..and sang under his playing in the opening Choral Eucharist in 1977 in a choir of 1500 and several mass choir recordings. I feel privileged….and now so sad. A great man, in the line of my favourite Marcel Dupre. The great was taught be the great(est).

  • John Charles says:

    Peter, I’m just reading this now. On my first trip to England from Canada in 1966, I visited Liverpool Cathedral and happened to be there for a church school leaving service. For part of the service, Noel was kind enough to permit me to play one of my pieces. After the service was over, he then asked if I would like some time on the organ. It is something I shall never forget. Your piece caught my eye because of the “school leaving service part”. Small world. Noel touched many in a positive and marvellous way.