"Mr. Bowyer's pacing — specifically, his way of creating relationships among the score's disparate episodes — makes 'Gmeeoorh' into an almost cinematic thriller."
- The New York Times
"...this extraordinary concert was a spectacular tour de force of virtuoso and characterful organ playing by Kevin Bowyer, whose pyrotechnical feats of digital magic could be observed, but not explained, in detail via the fixed camera in the organ loft that projected the eye-boggling versatility of his wrists, flying fingers, hands, dancing feet, and lead weights on to a large screen..."
- Glasgow Herald
"...a superb player, not only technically brilliant, but profoundly musical."
"...Britain's most formidable organist."
- MusicWeb International
Hailed by Gramophone magazine as "a superb player, not only technically brilliant, but profoundly musical," KEVIN BOWYER is one of the most celebrated organists of our time. Born in January 1961 in the seaside town of Southend-on-Sea, just 30 miles from London (UK), Kevin began singing in the local church choir at the age of 11 where his initial studies were self-inflicted, picking out hymn tunes on a supermarket electric chord organ. His first confrontation with genuine music lessons came about through the medium of the piano accordion a year or so later. The usual route to organ lessons (via the pianoforte) was not taken.
Kevin's first organ teacher was Eric Welch, organist and choirmaster of the church where young Bowyer's was voice was heard ringing out every Sunday, morn and eve. These first lessons, taken in the Autumn of 1975, laid the foundation for his lifelong journey with the instrument. By 1979 he was a student at London's Royal Academy of Music, receiving lessons from Douglas Hawkridge, Christopher Bowers-Broadbent, Arthur Willis (at that time organist of Ely Cathedral), Paul Steinitz, Arthur Pritchard (who had been articled pupil to Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral in the middle 1920s) and the renowned harpsichordist, Virginia Black. During his three years at the RAM he gathered all the organ prizes. Subsequently he spent two years studying with David Sanger on an award from the Countess of Munster Trust.
Kevin practiced like there was no tomorrow and developed for himself a learning technique that enabled him to assimilate even quite complex scores in double quick time. In 1982/3 he performed all the solo organ symphonies of Widor, Vierne, and Dupré in two concert series at St. Pancras Parish Church, Euston Road, London. In July 1983 he took First Prize in the Interpretation Competition at the St. Alban's International Organ Festival and this led to his professional debut at the Royal Festival Hall in February 1984. In 1990 he took part in four further international organ competitions (Odense, Dublin, Paisley, and Calgary), winning first prize in all of them.
His first commercial recording, A Feast of Organ Exuberance, comprising world premiere recordings of Giles Swayne's Riff-Raff, Wolf-G Leidel's Toccata Delectatione and Jean Berveiller's Suite pour orgue as well as the concert study, Cadence, was released in 1986 and gathered numerous positive reviews.
In July 1987, together with Thomas Trotter, he premiered the first Organ Symphony (1923/4) of the reclusive and eccentric British composer, Kaikhosru Sorabji (1892-1988), considered unplayable since its publication in 1925. Kevin recorded the entire two hour piece the following April, and his activities with Sorabji's music led to a recommendation, made by Nimbus Records by the Alkan Society (Sorabji was a keen advocate of Alkan's music), that he should make a CD recording of Alkan's music for the pedal piano, but in organ transcription. This recording was made in October 1988 and released the following month to considerable critical acclaim. It laid the foundation for a hugely fruitful 13 year collaboration between Nimbus and Bowyer that was to see recordings of the complete organ music of J.S. Bach in 29 CDs, as well as the complete organ works of Brahms and Jehan Alain. The catalogue was further swelled by Kevin's Nimbus recordings of music by Julius Reubke, Schumann, Gade, Arvo Pärt, Rautavaara, Philip Glass, Malcolm Williamson, Carl Nielsen, Schoenberg, Hindemith, John Tavener, Jonathan Harvey, Wilfrid Mellers, Peter Maxwell Davies, and many others. His reputation as a player of "impossible" music was further swelled by his world premiere recording (1997) of Brian Ferneyhough's Sieben Sterne, also on Nimbus.
He also recorded for Priory, ASV, Unicorn, Continuum, Altarus, Cathedral Classical, Regent, Dinmore, NPC, and a number of other labels. Kevin dove wholeheartedly into humorous and light music, with several releases entitled Organ X-Plosion (2 CDs) and Organ Party! (5 CDs), and his recording of organ storms on the Regent label was a big success. He lost count of the total number of CD recordings when it rose beyond a hundred.
Simultaneously, Kevin pursued a worldwide concert career, performing throughout Europe and also in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and Japan. He produced a number of articles and book chapters and, for a time, provided the regular humorous column for the Organists' Review magazine. A number of these offerings, including A Day at the Races, Tall Tales I Told my Children, and his articles on the composer, Caractacus Ginger McIvor, have acquired a kind of cult status.
In the late 90s Kevin became sought after as a teacher, working for the St. Giles Organ School in London and also in the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, although he relinquished all his teaching commitments in 2008 in order to concentrate on a six year PhD, eventually producing a performing edition of the complete organ music of Sorabji. In 2010, in the University of Glasgow, he gave the world premiere of Sorabji's eight hour Second Symphony for organ (1929-31), a feat he has attempted several times since, in Amsterdam, Iowa, and at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.
Since 2005 Kevin has been organist at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, where his duties include accompanying the magnificent chapel choir, organising the celebrated Memorial Chapel organ concert series (arguably the most extensive, adventurous, and wide ranging series of its kind in the UK), and playing for many of the annual 150 wedding ceremonies.
He has four grown up children, an increasingly large squad of grandchildren, and enjoys sleeping, reading, and wide-open spaces.
Kevin Bowyer is represented by Seven Eight Artists.