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St Paul's Organist hits the silver screen

Music by the Organist of St Paul's Cathedral can now be heard at a cinema near you, thanks to an out-of-the-blue invitation to play for the most talked-about movie of the moment.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, released in the UK last week, tells the story of a concierge at a famous European hotel in the 1930s who tries to clear his name after being framed for murder.

The film's cast list is as grand as the hotel itself, with names such as Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, and Harvey Keitel all making an appearance.

But further down the credits you will also see Simon Johnson, Organist of St Paul's Cathedral. And Simon's appearance on the film's soundtrack, scored by Alexandre Desplatt, came as quite a surprise.

Simon said: "I received a call from an artist booking agency in August 2013 saying that they needed an organist at short notice. The director, Wes Anderson, wanted a pipe organ involved in the score. So a couple of days later I turned up at St Jude's Church in Hampstead and, to my surprise, the director was there himself.

"He took a great interest as I explained to him how the organ works and the different sounds it can make, and at various points in the session he asked for some of the specific sounds I had demonstrated to him. At another point he even sang a counter-melody that he wanted me to include, which I hastily notated.

"Best of all, though, I was given a ride home in a very swanky chauffeur-driven car."

Simon can now add this brush with Hollywood to an impressive CV which includes playing at the Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving Service in 2012 and the funeral of Baroness Thatcher in 2013.


Simon's latest CD of works by César Franck can be bought here