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Obituary: Michael Hedley

18 December 2020

Garry Humphreys writes:

THE English organist and conductor Michael Hedley died, aged 69, in Amsterdam on 3 December, two weeks after testing positive for Covid-19. He was music director and titular organist of the Basilica of St Nicholas in Amsterdam.

Hedley was born in Morpeth, Northumberland, on 19 July 1951, and studied with Nicholas Danby at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Before coming to London, he had been the assistant organist of Newcastle Cathedral, and later took part in masterclasses with André Marchal, Michael Schneider, and Luigi Tagliavini, among others. He won several prizes for his organ playing and, after obtaining the Concert Diploma from the Royal College of Music, worked for several years as a teacher and church mu­­sician in London.

In 1978, he moved to Amsterdam to complete his organ studies at the Sweelinck Conservatoire, and the following year won the César Franck Organ Competition in St Bavo’s Cathedral in Haarlem. He was sub­se­­quently active as a choral con­ductor and concert organist at home and abroad and as a continuo player. He made recordings for radio, television, and CD, and, for a year, was conductor of the cathedral choir school in Haarlem.

In 2000, he became music director of the Basilica of St Nicholas in Amsterdam, with its 1889 Sauer organ, and director of various ensembles connected with the cathe­dral, notably the Cappella Nicolai, several of whose perfor­mances can be heard and seen on YouTube.

He was also chairman and artistic director of the Musiek in de Nicolaas Foundation. Under his leadership, the Concerts Spirituels and the Amsterdam Orgelzomer were organ­ised, in which an international array of organists were attracted to per­form there.

Michael Hedley was able to bring the music in the Nicholas basilica to a very high level — including a weekly choral evensong in the English tradition — and he was regarded as both one of the most prominent church musicians in the Netherlands and a striking person­ality.

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