12/15/2023

Play Like a Girl

For something weird and niche like the organ, which has historically been a bit side-lined from mainstream classical music, people can get really sucked into it and start to ask questions.” 

With nearly 10,000 pipes, standing 70 feet high and weighing in at 150 tons, the Royal Albert Hall’s massive pipe organ is a monumental beast tamed as of late by the unlikeliest of musicians, a petite 28-year-old superstar conductor-composer-musician-media personality named Anna Lapwood. 

The slight, smiley and bespectacled blond with a penchant for sparkly jackets often puts fingers and toes to the giant organ after midnight when rehearsal space is free, setting her phone next to the keys and recording her sessions for a massive TikTok audience where she is viewed as the Taylor Swift of classical music. 

Using the hashtag #playlikeagirl, Lapwood routinely delights nearly 600,000 TikTok followers with her performances. One of the most common adjectives used to describe her success is ‘meteoric.” 

At just 21, Lapwood was named (the youngest ever) director of music at Pembroke College in Cambridge, where she also conducts the college’s choir. Her talent was undeniable.

“Music-making should be fun — it should be about sharing joy and positivity.”

Charismatic and effervescent, Lapwood didn’t pick up the organ until the age of 15, an incredibly difficult undertaking, she recalls. But talent and tenacity paid off, and the girl and her instrument are changing classical music’s trajectory for a new generation

Lapwood was famously asked by electronic dance musician Bonobo to perform with him at a rave held at the Royal Albert. Millions tuned in for the show which Lapwood has called “life-changing,” both for herself and a new legion of organ fans drawn to what formerly was considered an archaic instrument.

Play like a girl, indeed!

Follow Anna Lapwood

Photos courtesy of Sony Classical, Andy Paradise