Daniel Gordon: musician
Daniel (Dan) is the Senior Teaching Fellow in Performance, and Repetiteur at the University of Leeds' School of Music [part time]. He is also the Accompanist and Assistant Chorus-Master of Huddersfield Choral Society, Conductor of the Huddersfield Singers (a chamber choir with strong links to the Choral Society), Choir-Master and Organist of St. John the Baptist, Adel, and a free-lance who has played for many organisations, including Black Dyke Band (piano and organ), the C.B.S.O. Chorus (repetiteur), Manchester Camerata (harpsichord), Opera North, and Leeds Festival Chorus. He is the voluntary music director for the Leeds NHS Trust.
He is married to Clare, who is a librarian, web-manager, and map curator at the University of Leeds. She is a fine choral singer, and lacemaker. Please click here to see their home page.
Daniel worked in physics and computing for some years before becoming a professional musician. He is now a piano and organ pupil of Darius Battiwalla. He was accompanist of the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus from 1997-2006, and is delighted to now be an Honorary Life Member of the Chorus.
Daniel accompanies and organises recitals, exams, performance classes and other platform opportunities, for all the solo performance modules for undergraduates at years 2, 3 and 4, and postgraduates. This is a complex role, working mainly from the keyboard (piano usually, but sometimes organ, harpsichord or clavichord), giving feedback (both on the spot, for classes, which incorporates interviews with the student performers and class discussions, and in rehearsals and after performances), detailed scheduling of class performances, exams, and their rehearsals, coaching individuals in rehearsal, and liaising with dozens of specialist instrumental and vocal teachers, helping to oversee their work with individual students (although Jo Fairley does much of the organisation of this). He is frequently sought out by performers at all levels for a wide range of advice as well as for accompaniment.
Each year, Daniel organises and plays for many student concerts in the University's public concert series, at Ripon and Wakefield Cathedral, and other venues in the region. As well as providing valuable platform experience for the students, this is a service to various local communities, and plays a role in fostering good relations between them and the University.
Daniel is highly dedicated to helping other musicians, both as a solidly re-assuring co-performer, and as an informal counsellor for students and professionals on many musical and quasi-musical matters. He still finds the time to turn pages for various people, be it a student in his class, or for a live concert on Radio 3.
He first joined the university's academic community in 1990. He had a full-time Research Assistantship in the Earth Sciences department, writing numerical and data-transformation software for applied geophysics research, and teaching computing and maths to postgraduates. He first visited the School of Music in order to get a piano teacher recommended to him. He duly had lessons from Rene Waterman, who was teaching for the University at the time. Rene spoke to the School, and he was offered some volunteer relief-accompanying for student exams.
When he was made redundant from Earth Sciences in 1996, he was offered work from the Music department, and also choral accompanying work from Darius Battiwalla. Darius is a consummate organist, pianist, chorus-master and teacher, and at the time was the resident accompanist of the University of Leeds.
Daniel joined the School of Music's free-lance staff as a piano teacher in 1997, and became the resident accompanist and repetiteur (part-time) in 2000.
After a spell in his local church choir at Oatlands, Daniel went to Westminster Abbey as a chorister, aged 8. There he was, amongst other things, the choir-school's silent film accompanist from the age of 10. He learnt piano with Christopher Herrick until his final year at the School, and he had flute lessons with James MacGillivray - quite a character, with a huge beard: not a flautist but a general wind-player who had a fantastic collection of woodwind instruments. When he retired, he sold the whole collection and bought himself a life-seat at Twickenham Rugby Ground!
Daniel also took up the double bass after the head of music at Bedford School came to conduct the choir school's orchestra. He was an generous extrovert who subsequently donated a bass to the school - not before playing three blind mice on it in front of all the boys during supper! Choir school life was a high-octane one, with a full academic programme (all but one of Daniel's class went on later to Oxford or Cambridge), on top of two or three hours of singing each day, plus instrumental practice. There were of course several services each weekend as well, and the exposure of performing in public daily, often on TV and radio. But the school was a vibrant place under Michael Keall's diligent and imaginative leadership in particular. Daniel thrived there. Daniel twice won the Bavin prize for outstanding contribution to the Choir and the School (the first boy ever to win the prize more than once). He was Head Chorister in his final term there.
From Westminster he went to Ardingly College, where he was principal music scholar and ISIS sixth form scholar. "Ardingly was the just right place for me: relaxed enough but with a great range of musical opportunities. And it was in the countryside, which I loved. I continued to sing, play piano and flute, and some double bass, and do a lot of orchestral work, mainly on percussion. It was also here that I first got really interested in tutoring and helping others: I spent a lot of time doing this for friends, particularly in my second year of sixth form when I'd already passed the Oxford Entrance exam and got music A-level done and dusted. The ideas of community and service were strong at Ardingly". When Daniel left Ardingly, he was one of two people singled out for praise in the Headmaster's end-of-year speech, the other being a maths master who was leaving after 24 years. "It's a good thing we've got 12 music scholars coming to replace Daniel next year", he said.
He then went to Balliol College, Oxford: there he read Theoretical Physics and Philosophy. He also held, on flute and piano, the Instrumental Scholarship that was originally created for the eminent musicologist, Donald Tovey. Incidentally, Tovey also chose a non-musical degree - graduating in Classics with fourth class! Daniel worked in applied geophysics and taught computing to postgraduates for several years, before becoming a professional musician, gradually and somewhat by chance...
Not long after he arrived at Leeds University's Earth Sciences Department, he first met Clare, who was already working there, and still is! He also hadn't had piano lessons for a while, so he asked for a recommendation from the university's music department, duly going to Rene Waterman for lessons. Rene is a wonderful teacher - over 90 now and still going strong. She was particularly good at getting the fundamental physique right, and balancing musical and technical elements. She said something about him to the folk at the music department, so he started doing odds and ends of playing for them. When Earth Sciences made him redundant, this musical work took off somewhat...
Around about this time he started playing the organ as well as doing a lot of accompanying, and it was at this point that he needed a teacher with experience of these areas. He had, and still has, lessons with Darius Battiwalla (see below).
Daniel is now the resident repetiteur of the University of Leeds, where he also runs the solo performance courses for undergraduate performers at years 2, 3 and 4. His accompanying, coaching and examining work at the University encompass a very wide range of genres and styles, working with all instruments and singers. He also organises and plays for many student concerts each year, at the University, at Ripon Cathedral, in churches and hospital chapels in Leeds and elsewhere. On paper this is a part-time post, but it doesn't leave him room for a great volume of other work: he is strongly dedicated to his students, who are widely regarded as some of the best performers at any university in Britain.
Daniel is also the accompanist for Huddersfield Choral Society, and is a deputy pianist for many other choirs, including the CBSO chorus and Leeds Festival Chorus. Perhaps unusually for a choral repetiteur, he has appeared in that role on ITV, Radio 2, Radio 4 and Radio Leeds. He has played piano and organ with Black Dyke Band, and recorded with Doyen. He is an organist (in post at St. John the Baptist, Adel), a choral director, and composes and arranges music.
After his debut with the Halifax's Orchestra of Square Chapel, playing Shostakovitch 1, in 2001, the Yorkshire Post described him as "a strong soloist - comfortably in command of the elusive opening movement and the vigorous finale... Gordon's performance of the slow movement was one of magical repose". With the same orchestra he has since played Beethoven 1, Brandenburg 5, and Carnival of the Animals, with Ian Buckle.
He also has an active interest in historical performance: he has worked on several occasions with Peter Holman: recently he played a Handel Organ concerto under Peter's baton, and he has performed continuo harpsichord and chamber organ with the Leeds Baroque Orchestra. He has also given many concerts of nineteenth century chamber music on authentic pianos with Clive Brown. Clive is the author of the standard text on romantic performance practice, and has advised all the top names in the authentic movement. Amongst Clive's many other talents, he is an excellent cook, something which Daniel has benefitted from in rehearsals at Clive's house!
Although it's probably unfair to single out people from an impressive and vibrant list of colleagues he has worked with at Leeds University since he started playing and teaching there, Graham Barber and Anna Shuttleworth have been particularly insightful and helpful, and Daniel remains very grateful to them and to many others. Joseph Cullen in particular has been a wonderful musician to work for at Huddersfield Choral Society.
Daniel writes: "I first met Darius in 1993, when I was still amateur, but had begun to accompany some exams and choral rehearsals at Leeds university. From the start, I had no doubt that Darius was a very special musician. Now, having worked with most of the best-known conductors in the country, I feel even more strongly that Darius has no superior as a choral director, nor indeed as a pianist/organist and teacher. Three years after those first encounters, I turned professional, rather by chance, and needed lessons from someone who had specialist knowledge of accompaniment and of organ playing as well as piano. I asked Darius, and he is still my teacher. I wouldn't have had a musical career without him.
From Christmas 1996 I was the accompanist of the Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, which Darius was chorusmastering at that time. Shortly afterwards, Darius accepted the Musical Directorship at the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, and invited me to apply for the accompanist's position there.
The combination of Darius' masterful brilliance, his ability to bring on other musicians, the wonderful atmostphere and ethic at amongst the choir, and the fantastic welcome we always got there, made it a superb organisation to work for.
I played for them from 1997 till 2007, with a seven month gap while Clare was being treated for leukaemia. In reality, for several years before Clare was ill, it had been increasingly difficult to combine Sheffield with my salaried (part-time) work at the university, which is most concentrated on Tuesdays (the Phil's regular rehearsal night). The train journey from Leeds and back in the evening didn't make things any easier: with any other choir in that situation, I'd have probably left several years before, having hopefully put in a decent contribution and enjoyed it. But the Sheffield Phil. was just too good and were just too nice to me. I have sung, played for, and conducted many choirs at all levels: choral music is in my blood. Although the Sheffield Phil. isn't the most well-known choir, it is the best I've had anything to do with, and I hope it's profile will continue to rise as it deserves to.
I still play there as a deputy pianist when the opportunity arises. When I left, the Chorus made me an honorary life member, which was wonderful gesture and I'm very grateful to them."
Please e-mail any requests or comments about this site to us at our home address, if you have it. Otherwise please use Daniel's university address, D.R.H.Gordon@leeds.ac.uk. Thank you.
This web site is written and maintained by Daniel Gordon, and hosted by United Hosting. [© D./C.G. 2023]