A musician turns murderous – How the Calderdale organist drew inspiration from musical research for his latest novel

He started playing the church organ at the age of 12 and Professor David Baker, founder and director of the Halifax Organ Academy, has twenty non-fiction books to his credit.

Now he has combined his love of music with his talent for writing, with the publication of his second detective novel The Organ Loft Murders.

The Calderdale-based musician turned author turned to detective fiction during the long months of isolation imposed by Covid-19 lockdowns.

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Professor David Baker has published a new mystery novel inspired by his research on music.

His debut novel, A Month of Murder, was published late last year and features the fictional town of Hartley, which is modeled after Halifax and Mytholmroyd, the latter of which Prof Baker has made his home.

Set in the North of England in 1879, The Organ Loft Murders sees the city torn apart by a series of murders in the church’s organ loft that highlight the rich-poor divide, greed, corruption and the hypocrisy of sacred and secular leaders.

Bradford-born Professor Baker, who is a tutor at the Royal College of Organists, says inspiration came from research into music-making in churches and concert halls in the north of England in the 19th century, and in particular, the difficult life of ordinary workers. .

The new novel introduces readers to a whole host of characters, including Detective Chief Inspector Wright Watson, head of Hartley CID, Reverend Percy Banks, devious and manipulative vicar of Hartley, and Doctor Thomas Burchill, murdered church organist. parish.

“I hope readers who enjoyed A Month of Murder will also enjoy this new plot and the characters involved,” Professor Baker said.

“It reflects life in Victorian England and has human stories of love and conflict, ambition and failure, greed and selflessness.

“Again, I really enjoyed creating the characters and bringing them to life and although of course they’re all completely fictional, some of them were inspired by people I’ve met in the past.”

By the time Professor Baker was 16 he was an Associate of the Royal College of Organists.

He won his scholarship the following year and in 1970 he was elected a Scholar in Organ at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, graduating with a first class degree in music three years later.

He has remained active as a musician and musicologist, with the first edition of his book The Organ in 1991 selling over 10,000 copies.

Professor Baker regularly writes and reviews music and recordings for organ and choir and was previously editor of The Organ magazine.

He now focuses on organ education and in 2011 founded the Halifax Organ Academy, which aims to provide high quality tuition and support to organists of all ages and backgrounds in West Yorkshire.

Professor Baker is also planning to fulfill the ambition of bringing his ‘Bach-a-thon’ to Halifax – playing all 241 Bach organ pieces over a series of 26 recitals – which had to be put on hold due to the pandemic .

There are more books in the pipeline too. He’s on track to complete a follow-up to A Month of Murder and has more crime novels in mind.

As for The Organ Loft Murders, “I want the reader to feel immersed in the book, to enjoy it, to think about it, and, naturally, to want more,” he says.

“I got great feedback from readers who enjoyed ‘A Month of Murder’, so I hope they enjoy The Organ Loft Murders as well.

“Again, I’ve included plenty of twists and turns that I hope will keep readers enthralled from the start.”

The Organ Loft Murders is now available.

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