Cloister eBook – a Novel by Will Fraser

Cloister eBook – a Novel by Will Fraser

Cloister (eBook) – a new novel by Will Fraser – to be published later in 2024!

Please support Cloister by buying the eBook.

The manuscript is pretty much finished. Here it is printed out at Fugue State HQ in London, far from its setting in the atmospheric westcountry city of Bristol:

Rather than trying to blow my own trumpet, I’ve asked a long-time associate, writer and musician Roland Clare, to write you a brief introduction to Cloister:

I’ve long been fascinated by Will Fraser’s film career, right from the fiction films he directed as a student and in his early career in Canada. So much of the masterful success of his organ music films stems from that early, instinctive feel for narrative, and the enduring precision of his craftsmanship.

It’s curious, in view of his preoccupation with quick-fire genius – exemplified by his mercurial screen-subjects such as Bach and Reger – that Fraser-the-novelist gestates his work at a more glacial pace, his restless rewriting more reminiscent of the years Mendelssohn laboured over his violin concerto or the decades that Wagner took to reach maturity.

Cloister has been many years in the making, and is an original and distinctive début, taking place largely in the rich and atmospheric world of cathedral music that lovers of his music films know well.

The protagonist is an ambitious assistant organist, Matthew, and the plot is kickstarted by his misgivings over his lazy director of music, whom he regards as an unworthy boss. While Matthew strives to excel in this uneasy, conflicted milieu, he is further destabilised by the thrilling attractions of Chloë, a blues singer. This relationship involves him in the resolution of a homicide … but is the case really closed, or has the murderer returned?

Two worlds are wittily entwined in Cloister, where high artifice has a foil in intensely-lived experience, and the cerebral must come to terms with the carnal. For a taste of the novel’s opening, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Will has two more, very different, novels in the making, but Cloister has been brewing the longest. He learnt his craft studying English at Cambridge, and in the MFA Creative Writing programme at the University of Mississippi. He now needs our help to complete the final stages of editing Cloister, and seeing it through to publication.

His own Fugue State team, in collaboration with New Generation Publishing, will need to be supplemented by a small freelance posse – consultant, editor, designer, PR, sales and distribution specialists. The manuscript then needs to be copyedited, proofread, typeset, and then the hardback first edition needs to be printed. Will is now fundraising to ensure that, as with all the DVD boxsets he has published, this significant book will be finished to the highest-possible standard.

The sum he needs to raise is just £6,000.

If this appeal yields more, it will mean additional promotion, further readers, and greater success! Publishing by subscription is a time-honoured means of launching a book – much-favoured in Bach’s time, for instance – so please support Will Fraser in this fine endeavour. The rewards for subscribers are explained below.

The ebook will be published in late 2024.

Thank you for your support!

Will Fraser

The opening of the novel, Cloister:

Matthew Marcan had been looking forward to New Year’s Day 1993, which he could spend immersing himself in music with no interruptions. All the Christmas rehearsals and services were out of the way. He had no commitments and Bamberg was even unseasonably mild: he wouldn’t have to struggle through the snow or brave the bone-chill of the domkirche. Then his father phoned from England to say that Richard had died.

A call from the underworld that pulled him down. For hours he could do nothing. Memories of Richard’s warm presence swirled around his head until each one came to a standstill: how could his old teacher be dead? This generous paragon of a cathedral organist had years before taken Matthew as a bundle of pre-adolescent confusion and, through patient tutelage, somehow elevated him and sent him out into the world as a professional musician. He had always felt connected to Richard by an invisible umbilicus – he was always there to reach to – and now Matthew found himself standing alone in a foreign city in an attic room, in mid-air really if you removed all the walls and floors. How could he carry on? Why could life never settle down into the perpetual moment of balanced aesthetic stasis that he so desired? Why couldn’t he stop time at a point when things were right, and live his life in that eternal moment?



‘This’ll test you. Play just the soprano and alto parts. I’ll take the tenor and bass.’

The memory of Richard’s words transported Matthew back a decade to when he was still at school, learning the secrets of musical counterpoint with the ardency and loyalty of his youth, not yet tempered by experience of life.

The seventeen year-old Matthew pulled out a selection of stops and reached towards the keyboards of the organ of Bristol Cathedral. Sitting next to him on the bench, Richard tapped his arm: ‘Close your eyes. See if you can do it blind.’

As always, a test. Matthew shut his eyes. With his left hand he reached towards the third of the organ’s four manuals. Feeling for the black keys as reference points he found his opening note, middle D. He played, and heard the alto theme emerge out of the darkness, singing out of the tin pipes around him into the resonance of the nave. Like many Bach fugue subjects it was deceptively simple: progressing through the notes of two chords over four bars, tonic, dominant and back to tonic. With his right hand he brought in the soprano playing the same melody but at a different pitch on the uppermost keyboard. Richard’s turn came. He brought in first the tenor and then the bass on the two lower keyboards. In a comfortable closeness Matthew could feel the warmth of his teacher’s arms extended just below his own. The piece written for one player was recast as a duet. Matthew had chosen a different stop, or sound, for each of their four hands. The clarity added to the geometry of the music but made any mistake sound worse. He hit a wrong note that stood out painfully from the harmony.

‘You’re a fifth out, you should be starting on an A,’ said Richard.

As a teenager Matthew had already started what Richard had warned would be a lifelong journey: memorising pieces of Bach by singing them part by part over and over again, then playing them repeatedly one part at a time, and finally weaving them all together with both hands. He had not dared do this for the Art of Fugue, Bach’s long compendium of fugues that he revered to the point of paralysis. But Richard’s unwavering philosophy that masterpieces are human and need to be played had won out. Under his direction he had started memorising the first movement from Bach’s celebrated collection, but under pressure he found himself faltering.

‘Come on, you can do this,’ said Richard.

Matthew felt sweat break out on his temple.

‘Get ready for your next line.’ Richard played faultlessly himself. ‘Soprano, on A. One, and – ’

Matthew brought it in.

‘And keep the alto going. It’s in quavers. You know it.’

With his surprisingly frail voice Richard sang the alto until Matthew was able to resume it. Then, towards the end of the fugue where the inner parts interplayed with multiple suspensions, Matthew fully remembered the parts again. Richard reacted to his new confidence. Teacher and pupil challenged each other with subtle accents and intricate off-balances. The musical lines caressed each other. After the final flourish the last chord echoed away into the darkness of the nave. Matthew opened his eyes. The organ loft and his teacher materialised around him. Blotches and creases skated across his vision as his eyes adjusted to the warm light of the organ loft.

‘You don’t know it yet.’ Richard smiled, his laugh lines and silvering hair adding beneficent authority. ‘It’s up to you to live up to your own aspirations. It’s not magic. You have to put in the time.’



Matthew awakened from his memories of one cathedral and found himself in another. The domkirche in Bamberg was much taller, its postwar organ cantilevered from the sheer north wall, far above the honey-coloured flagstones. There were so many cathedrals, churches and organ lofts. Now he wanted to go to the one he thought of as home. Taking his sheet music and putting on his coat and scarf, he looked down from the organ loft. Having played with his eyes closed, the blotches still moved across his view. Among them two small groups of tourists milled around thirty feet below, each following a guide with a fluorescent umbrella. Almost all dutifully examined the tombs and statues. One exception, motionless among the milling crowd, peered up at the organ through binoculars. Matthew saw his sensible clothes and mackintosh. The little backpack probably held his sandwiches, and the brochure that protruded from its pocket was doubtless about the domkirche’s organ. Well, he thinks I am one of the happy few. Matthew put away his music, snapping shut the flap of his dried-out leather satchel.

He set off for the office of his boss, Heinz-Günther, the domkirche’s director of music, but ran into him outside on the uneven cobbles. The two men walked among the leafless lime trees with benches built around their trunks, then along the low wall on the townward side of the yard. The hilltop cathedral presided over Bamberg’s altstadt on the banks of the Regnitz as it had for hundreds of years. They looked down over the uneven roofs and steep gables. No other large German town that Matthew had visited had escaped bombing. All the major cities had been reconstructed since the war. Their buildings and streets were new and straight, their paving stones perfectly laid, their souls incinerated, unless you could reimagine them. But here the walls and lanes, all organically planned and built long ago by hand, undulated with unmachined beauty and led you straight to the past.

‘Are you sure you want to go back?’ asked Heinz-Günther.

‘Andreas will play for the vespers that I’ll miss. It’s only a few days.’

‘It’s not your absence about which I worry. I was sorry to hear about Richard.’

Matthew looked down at the cobbles.

Heinz-Günther continued: ‘I worry that you’ll get yourself drawn in.’

Matthew glanced at his boss.

Heinz-Günther added: ‘Do you want to succeed him?’

Matthew faced out over the city. That’s my wish, and this is my summons, he thought but didn’t say.

Heinz-Günther put on a received English accent: ‘Will they want you to be their Organist and Master of the Choristers? Is that what they call it?’

‘Now they call it Director of Music.’

‘Did Richard want you to be his successor?’

The questions were too big and too fresh, and speaking answers aloud would make his future seem too fragile.

‘What if I wanted you to be my successor?’ added Heinz-Günther. ‘You’re one of us. You belong in Mittel-Europa. Your father must be glad you’re here.’

‘My dad would say a true Czech never lets a German refer to anywhere as their shared home.’ Matthew smiled as he said this, to make sure he gave no offence. ‘But spiritually I’ve always felt German. If you don’t grow up where you’re from, you don’t know where the borders are.’

‘Knowing where borders are. That’s exactly my worry, Matthew.’

After they had said their goodbyes, Matthew walked the short distance to his furnished rooms. The rich years in Bamberg should give him special gravitas on his return home to the cathedral in Bristol. He entered one of the smaller doorways in the old Bishop’s Palace and climbed the four flights of backstairs to his eyrie. Looking around, he knew the time had come to dismantle what had only ever been a campsite. He could get all his possessions, aside from his sheet music that lived in a special trunk, into two suitcases and an overnight bag. Everything else had either come with the rooms or could be decanted into the bins. For this short preliminary trip, though, he would need only the bag.

Cloister © Will Fraser 2024 All rights reserved.