The official title Thomas Trotter holds is ‘Organist to the City of Birmingham’.

After 24 years in the post it clearly means a lot to an organist who is in demand across the world.

"It is a great honour and I enjoy the opportunities that it brings," says Thomas, who took up the role in 1983.

He admits that at the time there were no great career plans – he was already doing what he loved most, playing the organ.

"To be honest, I nearly didn’t apply. They advertised the job in the musical press and I heard about it quite by chance through a member of a choir. I never used to read the musical press – my career was performing and it is so unique there weren’t that many opportunities."

The successful application meant the career was able to take a whole new direction.

He is still organist at St Margaret’s Church in London’s Westminster Abbey but the role of city organist in Birmingham enabled his talents to be appreciated by fresh audiences.

"If you are an organist in church it is obviously predominantly church music that you play," explains Thomas, who still relishes the challenge of playing both organs at the Town Hall and Symphony Hall.

The historic instrument in the newly-refurbished Town Hall still seems to outshine the modern Klais organ in Symphony Hall installed in 2001, but both give Thomas an opportunity to celebrate a wide variety of musical repertoires. One of his responsibilities is to create a programme that appeals to different musical tastes and bring different organists to the city to showcase their talents and the city’s instruments.

"The presentation of organ concerts has changed. Classical music has become more accessible to an audience, who become interested in different works," explains Thomas.

In each season’s programme Thomas will bring to Birmingham a variety of musicians along with his own performances. His other roles includes Organist in Residence and Artistic Advisor at Symphony Hall.

Thomas explains that one of the challenges is to ensure the programme shows the organ’s versatility and profiles traditional and newly-commissioned work.

"I will include familiar pieces that people know from the first few notes and then try to add in other works that show what can be done.

"There are extremely well known pieces like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D but others may not be so popular."

The Town Hall organ, complete with its recently installed handbells, commands total respect – anyone who has seen Thomas play will understand it is a mental and physical challenge.

Thomas admits: "It looks dramatic. The organists not only use their hands but their feet and the music comes alive when people can see and hear the organ being played."

And he adds: "The organ in a church can be seen as an aloof instrument but when people see it being played it gets its voice and comes alive."

Thomas started playing the organ at the age of 12 and had already made an impression before becoming the city’s organist.

Earlier in his career he was organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, and after studies in Paris won first prize at the St Albans International Organ Competition in 1979. He made his debut at the London’s Royal Festival Hall.

Prizes have included the Royal Philharmonic Society’s prestigious award for Best Instrumentalist in 2002 – the first time it had gone to an organist, with previous winners including the cellist Julian Bream and pianist Andras Schiff.

Along with his commitment to the city, Thomas is in demand across the world but he still seems almost surprised at the response he receives from new audiences.

"In places like the USA they don’t really have a tradition like a city organist so it comes as a surprise that Birmingham still has one," says Thomas.

But after the tours are over to places like the USA, Australia and one-off concerts in anywhere from Switzerland, France, Monaco and even Iceland, it still seems to be Birmingham where Thomas feels most in tune.

The re-opening of the Town Hall after its multi-million refurbishment has given Thomas and the organ fresh impetus.

"The restoration has been beautifully done. The acoustics are wonderful and I do love being there."

And for Thomas, it is not the accolades, world travel or even the possibilities of fame and fortune, that have helped ensure he is satisfied with life.

"I always wanted to make my living from organ concerts and from the start of my career that is all I have ever wanted to do. I knew that getting this job was important but still to be playing and making a living from playing is tremendous."

* Thomas plays regularly in Birmingham. The next scheduled concerts include:
Monday April 14, 1pm, Town Hall
Monday April 28, 1pm, Symphony Hall
Monday May 12, 1pm, Town Hall
Monday May 19, 1pm, Town Hall
Other Lunchtime Organ Concerts:
Mon Apr 7, 1pm, Town Hall – Andreas Liebig
Mon Apr 21, 1 pm, Town Hall – Catherine Ennis
Wed Apr 30, 7.30pm – Ludger Lohmann (evening organ concert)
For full details see the website at or call the ticket office on 0121 780 3333