Christopher Stembridge’s interest in music goes back to his earliest years, his father being a keen amateur organist who also sang in the City of Birmingham Choir directed by David Willcocks. At the age of eight Christopher left home to be a chorister in Lichfield Cathedral, following in the footsteps of his brother David, who had been one of the first boys to enter the choir-school there when it first opened in the middle of the war. Music sung at Lichfield ranged from Tallis to Bach to Herbert Howells and Christopher soon began studying the organ under Ambrose Porter, organist and master of the choristers. Music for larger forces, as well as solo recitals—including one by the Italian organist Fernando Germani—were heard at the Lichfield music and drama festivals held in the Festival of Britain and Coronation years. A memorable week was that spent attending all the rehearsals and concerts at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954. Once, after an organ recital given by George Thalben-Ball at Birmingham Town Hall, Christopher’s father took him back-stage and introduced him to the artist with the words: “This young man wants to take up music as a profession”; Thalben-Ball peered over the top of his half-moon spectacles, murmuring: “A dangerous thing to do, a dangerous thing to do.”

The wide range of musical activities pursued at Rugby School, where Christopher entered as a music scholar, included playing clarinet in the orchestra. The main emphasis was on playing the organ and, subsequently, an organ scholarship to Downing College made it possible, alongside musical activities, to complete a degree in modern and medieval languages at Cambridge University where he also enjoyed singing under David Willcocks at the unviversity music society. At this time he began attending summer courses regularly, notably those at the Mozarteum in Salzburg given by Anton Nowakowski who became a notable influence. Such courses continued during the period of his studies at the Musikhochschule in Munich, after which he was appointed organist and choirmaster at the church of S. Wolfgang in that city. Following six years in Germany he moved to Ireland where, for 20 years, he held a part-time lectureship at University College, Cork. There he formed a choral and instrumental ensemble, Pro Musica, which also gave the first performances in that city of Frescobaldi Masses, Monteverdi Vespers and Bach’s Johannespassion. Following further study, at summer courses, with Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini and Kenneth Gilbert, Christopher began performing seriously on both organ and harpsichord. From the late ‘70s, still active in Cork, he was concurrently studying under Denis Arnold and John Caldwell at Oxford University, an experience of fundamental importance for his later work on music editions.

A move in 1989 to Italy, where he still lives, opened the way for a variety of free-lance activities. These included frequent appearances as continuo-player with the Dresden-based Cappella Sagittariana. Until recently he was teaching regular courses on historic organs in both Italy and Germany, including at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena. He often travelled to teach and play in North America as well as Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Armenia, Poland and Ukraine. He directed choirs in Italy and Armenia. He was for short terms teaching at Innsbruck University and at the Gnessin Institute in Moscow and musician-in-residence at Harvard University’s Villa i Tatti in Florence. For many years he was professor of organ and harpsichord at the Scuola diocesana Santa Cecilia in Brescia.
He was awarded the Turpin Prize on becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists in 1967, and the Noah Greenberg Prize by the American Musicological Society in 2007 for his work on Frescobaldi.