The Choir Courier



The Choir Courier
The Choir Courier
No. 3
20 December, 2015
Bidding Some Fond Farewells...
Welcome to the third edition of The
Choir Courier, an annual publication
which features news up until St
Cecilia’s Day and is published
shortly thereafter. I hope that,
through the articles that follow, you
will enjoy reading about the work
of the Cathedral Choir, and the
wider Music Foundation. You will
also find information about some of
the new recruits who have joined us
recently, and it is particularly good
to have news of former choristers,
choral scholars, organ scholars, and
others within this issue. We are
always pleased to hear from former
members of the Music Foundation,
so please keep your news coming.
At the beginning of
November we had
the first of what will
become a special
the work of the
Chorister Trust (WCCT). This was
also an occasion when we gave
thanks for the Chairmanship of Iain
Ball, who has so brilliantly led the
Trust for the last 12 years, having
rescued it from what has been
described by some as ‘a difficult
birth’. There were many tributes
to Iain, both in the cathedral at
the post-service reception, and
also at the school, where a dinner
was held in his honour. Iain Ball has
worked tirelessly for the Trust, in
support of the cathedral choir and
true friends of the music here, and
will always remain so. The Head of
Wells Cathedral School, Elizabeth
Cairncross, has penned a tribute
to Iain for this edition of The Choir
Courier [please see page 11].
At the time of writing, we have also
just said goodbye to Dean John
Clarke. He has been a wonderful
support to the cathedral choir and
to me personally. I could think of
no better tribute than the one that
Canon Andrew Featherstone gave at
the end of the John’s final Eucharist,
as Dean of Wells. The tribute is
printed on page 2. We shall all miss
Dean John but wish both him and
One of WCCT’s early
Cressida a long, happy, and fulfilling
fundraising events
retirement in Chippenham, and shall
its choristers, and he is handing look forward to welcoming them
on the Trust in an extremely good and their family back to Wells soon.
state. He has been the driving force
Matthew Owens
behind the numerous services,
concerts, and events that have been Organist and Master of the Choristers
St Cecilia’s Day
organized by and for the Trust over
the years. He has been generous in
so many ways, to so many people,
and we all owe him an enormous
debt of gratitude. It has been said
repeatedly, and rightly so, that
without the work of the Trust,
many choristers would not have
had the life-changing experience
that they have had (or are having,
as the case may be). The work of
the WCCT is vital for the future of
the cathedral choir at Wells – long
may both continue. I am personally
grateful to Iain for his unstinting
The Very Reverend John Clarke
support – he and his wife Helen are
The following tribute was given at the
end of the Eucharist on 22 November:
market place and, most significantly,
the Vicars’ Close Project.
We have come together today to
worship God and to give particular
thanks for John’s work and
thoughtfulness and prayer as Dean of
Wells. Today is also a time to recall,
as we did in the intercessions, the
various places in which John has
served through nearly forty years of
ordained ministry. As well as John’s
cathedral work there is the school,
the church commissioners, the
Almshouses, and so much else.
Over his eleven years as Dean ofWells,
John has kept us to task, ensuring that
things begun are carried through, and
things impending are identified and
prioritised and begun. And he has
done all this through what have been
difficult and challenging times for
both church and state.
Because of your wise work and
careful leadership, John, the cathedral
is in good heart and, you have set
course for us to continue in good
The Almshouses trustees have heart. Be assured, we are indeed set
worked through some considerable fair, and will indeed continue in that
change, and
the Almshouses good heart.
entrepreneurial chairmanship in There is your work, John, and then
steering them through that change.
there is your thoughtfulness, that we
know in your care for us: with your
And we might say the same of John’s careful listening and understanding
leadership as chair of governors at and spiritual direction.
the cathedral school – reconfiguring
the constitution, steering through There
the music building. Entrepreneurial thoughtfulness: challenging us and
as well, in his leadership in chapter gently leading us in your preaching
and of the cathedral overall, guiding and your lectures and your teaching;
us through to the completion of and in your conversations with us.
the development project – a major How grateful we are for your wit
piece of work already begun and and care and wisdom, your breadth
continued under the guidance of of interest, and your constant focus
John’s predecessor, Richard Lewis.
on detail.
John steered through to completion,
the conservation of the Jesse window
and has led us into the next round of
works: restructuring, the shop in the
Be a Chorister for a Day 2015
On Saturday 10 October, Wells
Cathedral hosted its annual Be a
Chorister for a Day event.
Forty-five boys and girls, aged
between seven and ten, came
from schools across Somerset and
The Dean making a presentation
to WCCT’s Royal Patron, HRH The
Countess of Wessex
And then there is prayer.
John listens to God: in the silence,
and in the noise and bustle of the
everyday. Prayer with colleagues
and others in the day-in, day-out of
early morning Matins and of Choral
Evensong – the daily office that forms
the very heartbeat of cathedral life.
Prayer that informs your intellect;
prayer that informs your work;
prayer that is at the heart of your life
as Dean.
John is a listener, and can be incisive:
incisive in word and action, rarely A prayerful Dean; a Dean with a
showing the wrestling and thought sharp business mind; a Dean of
that lie behind the sharpness.
great intellect who is eminently
John and Cressida, your presence
in and around the cathedral, in the
many and various circumstances and
occasions that we have spent with
you, are greatly appreciated by all of
Mr Dean; Mr Entrepreneurial
Chairman; Father in God; John: on
behalf of all of us: thank you.
We wish you and Cressida and the
family good and fulfilling times ahead.
The children met the Cathedral
Choristers and participated in
singing workshops with Hilary
Jones (a vocal coach of international
(Assistant Organist), and Matthew
Owens (Organist and Master of the
The ‘temporary’ choristers had
many other activities during the day,
which culminated in them singing
Choral Evensong in the Cathedral.
Joining the Cathedral Choir, the
children performed the anthem
If God is building when we build by
the contemporary composer, John
The boys and girls also learnt
to process in and out with the
Cathedral Choir, and helped to lead
the two hymns during the service.
There were also events for the
children’s parents, including a tour
of Wells Cathedral School and a tea
in the 14th century Vicars’ Hall.
If you are interested in the 2016
event, please contact the Cathedral
Music Office via [email protected]
If you can’t wait that long, you may
like to join Wells Junior Choir, which
meets on Tuesday nights. Contact
the Music Office for more details.
The newly-restored Jesse Window above the East end of the Quire
The Start of the New Academic Year Vicars Choral...
Congratulations are also due to
James Gooding and Astrid RoseEdwards, who became Head Boy
Chorister and Head Girl Chorister,
respectively, and to Freddie Falzon
and Rosa Bonnin who became
Deputy Head Boy and Girl
Choristers [pictured left].
At Evensong on Saturday 5th
September we welcomed the
following people into the choir:
Boy choristers: Raphael Davey,
Daniel Fawden, Ross Lloyd, and
Monty Reeve-Gray
Girl choristers: Nicola BarkerStone, Madeline Davis, Cecilia
Fawden, Eliza Hazlewood, Mimi
Hughes, and Eliza Mead
Vicar Choral: Tim Wilson
Choral Scholar: Damien Macedo
Senior Organ Scholar: Bryan
Junior Organ Scholars: Blandine
Jacquet and Alexander Henshaw
We would like to say thank you to
those who left the Cathedral Music
Foundation during the course of this
year. We are deeply grateful to them
for their commitment, dedication,
hard work, and marvellous music
making. They were: choristers Natalie
Borenstein, Freya Carruthers, Niamh
Davies, Flora Hartz, Madeleine
Perring, Maxim Davis, Zach Everson,
and Greg Wills; Choral Scholar
Daniel Brown; Vicars Choral Tim
Angel and Julian Robinson-Porter;
and Senior Organ Scholar Nicholas
Congratulations are due to the
following choristers who were
surpliced at this service: Carla
Coombs, Eliza Green, Dylan We wish them all the very best with
Cox, Xavier Hobday-Padamadan, their future studies and/or careers.
Robert King, Ozzie Latta, James
Matthew Owens
MacGeoch, and Taylor Thompson.
Our new Choral Scholar...
Damien Macedo is a Canadian
countertenor hailing from Toronto,
where he studied conducting,
Gregorian Chant, organ, piano,
musical theory, and voice at St
Michael’s Choir School, one of just
six schools in the world which is
absolutely directly affiliated with the
Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music
in Rome.
Park United/Calvin Presbyterian
churches. As a choral singer, Damien
has worked with numerous choirs,
including The Orpheus Choir of
Toronto, the Toronto Tallis Choir,
The University of Toronto MacMillan
Singers, The Victoria Scholars Men’s
Choral Ensemble, and was recently
a Choral Scholar at Trinity College in
the University of Toronto.
He went on to study voice under
renowned Canadian countertenor
Peter Mahon, choral conducting
under Dr Jerzy Cichocki, and
organ under Dr John Tuttle, while
completing an Honours Bachelor
of Arts Degree at the University
of Toronto, graduating with High
Distinction in June 2015.
Upon returning to Canada at the
end of this academic year, Damien
will begin his studies in international
law at Queen’s University, Kingston
Ontario, where he will serve as
Organ Scholar at St George’s
Anglican Cathedral and as cantor
at The Cathedral of St Mary of the
Immaculate Conception.
During his time in Toronto, Damien
served as cantor at St Michael’s
Cathedral and Blessed Sacrament
Church, as well as assistant organist
at St Peter’s Paulist Catholic
Church, and deputy choral singer
at St Thomas More and Deer
Timothy Wilson [above left]
joined Wells Cathedral Choir
as a Vicar Choral in September.
A former Winchester Cathedral
Head Chorister, Tim enjoyed an
international opera and concert
career that included roles at the
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Tim was a member of the Tallis
Scholars, the Gabrieli Consort, and
sang at the Royal Wedding in 1981.
In the mid 90’s, however, he changed
career and joined Mercedes Benz
before moving into property, living
and working in Marbella and Dubai.
Tim returned to singing in 2006
joining the choir at St George’s
Chapel, Windsor Castle, and
recently built a traditional thatched
cottage in rural Wiltshire!
Evans Jones, and, after gaining a BSc
in Ecology, combined his solo career
with his work as a member of the
BBC Singers.
Edward’s career has seen him
perform all over the UK and abroad.
Most notably in 2008 he performed
with Bryn Terfel in The Last Night
Of The Proms, as well as recording
Leighton’s Crucifixus Pro Nobis for
BBC Radio 3. He has worked with
leading conductors and directors
including Sir Roger Norrington,
Pierre Boulez, David Sulkin, and
Gianandrea Noseda.
In September, Edward Goater
[above right] was appointed Tenor
Vicar Choral. He began on Advent
Edward has been heard regularly as
a soloist in BBC Radio broadcasts
concerts. His
repertoire is extensive; highlights
include Evangelist (Schütz, Stainer,
Bach), Mozart’s Requiem, Rossini’s
Stabat Mater, Puccini – Messa di
Gloria, Britten’s St. Nicolas, Elgar’s The
Kingdom, Janácek’s Otce nash, and
many more.
Edward studied singing with David
Maxwell Anderson and Timothy
His operatic work spans a range
of rolls and includes Antonio,
The Duenna - Linley; Viscount de
Letorières, La Traviata; Beppe, I
Pagliacci; Básník, The Excursions of Mr
Broucek - Janácek; Balder, The Death
of Balder - Hughes; Spoletta, Tosca;
Middle Son, The Vanishing Bridegroom
- Weir. Edward also revived the role
of Tallon in Dame Ethel Smyth’s
centenary of The Wreckers for
Duchy Opera.
In 2004 David Briggs wrote the
song-cycle Dreamworld especially
for Edward, which was released by
Chestnut Records. Signum Classics
has also released Remoter Worlds
and My Dancing Day featuring
Edward, and The Excursions of Mr
Broucek is available on Deutsche
Congratulations are also due to
Jack Wilde, who was a Choral
Scholar up until September. He was
appointed Tenor Vicar Choral, with
effect from October 1st.
...a new Senior Organ Scholar...
Bryan Anderson is an organist,
pianist, and harpsichordist, native
to the State of Georgia, USA. He
began studying organ around
10 years ago, and, for the last
five years, attended the Curtis
Philadelphia, where he earned
degrees in organ (studying with
Alan Morrison) and harpsichord
(with Leon Schelhase).
and the Cathedral of St John the
Divine in New York.
Bryan has been featured in
performance at conventions of
the American Guild of Organists
and the Organ Historical
Society. His most recent positions
have been as organist at St Mark’s
Episcopal Church, and Tenth
Presbyterian Church, as well
serving as an assistant organist
and of the Wanamaker Grand Court
has Organ. performed at venues including
the Kennedy Center, Verizon Hall After graduating in May, Bryan
in Philadelphia, Woolsey Hall at married his wife, Julia, and shortly
Yale, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic thereafter took up residence on
City, Princeton University Chapel, Vicars’ Close.
...and two new Junior Organ Scholars
her a chorister’s perspective which
has been beneficial to her organ
playing. The music that she sang
really captured her imagination and
it is this which made Blandine want
to play her part in perpetuating and
preserving the rich Anglican choral
In September, we welcomed two
Junior Organ Scholars, who are
sharing the post: Blandine Jacquet
and Alexander Henshaw.
From 2007 to 2012, Blandine
Jacquet was a chorister at the
American Cathedral in Paris –
progressing to Head Chorister in
her final year. This time as a chorister
helped her discover more about the
Anglican tradition in Paris, a place
where the English form of worship
is not as prevalent, whilst also giving
Blandine hopes to study Physics at
university, in combination with an
organ scholarship. She believes that
Physics is fundamentally related to
music – the physics of acoustics being
the scientific foundation of all music.
After her degree, she is considering
spending some time in Toulouse
to become more familiar with the
French tradition of organ playing – a
tradition of which, ironically, she has
never really been a part!
Alexander Henshaw began playing
the organ at ten, being tutored by Dr
Richard Godfrey, soon after taking
up the piano, and started playing
percussion with local brass bands
the following year. By the age of 12
he was playing the organ regularly
for local church services, and had
become first percussionist with the
Durnovaria Silver Band. At 13 he
won a scholarship to study organ
and percussion at Wells Cathedral
School. The next year he became
Junior Organist at St John’s Church,
Glastonbury, playing in services and
recitals, and conducting the choir.
Still at Wells Cathedral School,
he enjoys playing a huge range of
repertoire, from 16th century organ
music to modern jazz kit playing.
Wells Choristers - Sporting Success!
This was a very tight pool with many
draws taking place and the boys were
tantalisingly close to taking the lead
in all three of the drawn matches.
Unfortunately they finished just
outside the top two places within
the pool so did not progress through
to the semi-finals. Nonetheless, they
can be very pleased with their solid
performance against many schools
who play football as a major sport.
March 4th 2015, saw all the senior
choristers plus three junior boy
choristers heading off bright and early
for Hereford Cathedral School to
compete in the CSA (Choir Schools’
Association) Football and Netball
Tournament, and to sing Evensong at
the end of the day. The girls were in
training since Christmas, practising
on Sundays, after Eucharist or Matins,
coached by Mrs Jo Perring (Mum of
former Head Girl Chorister, Maddie
Perring, and current Year 8 chorister,
Harriet), ably assisted by Mrs Diane
Johnson, Molly Johnson’s mother. The
girls are really grateful for all the time
and energy given by both parents.
After Christmas, training also started
on Tuesday evenings after Evensong
for the boy choristers. They were
coached by Andy Johnson, and we do
appreciate his efforts each week in
honing the boys’ skills.
In addition, Taylor Thompson (playing
in goal), a probationer in year 6, was
named “most sportsmanlike player” of
the tournament, following his honesty
with the match referee when deciding
whether to award a goal kick or
corner kick and he received a splendid
trophy at the end of Evensong. Very
well done boys for all your hard work.
Finally, the choristers would like to
thank the CPSC (Chorister Parents
The boys also fared well in the football
Social Committee) for purchasing
tournament, playing 4 games, with
some fabulous new kit for both teams;
points awarded for a loss, draw or win.
these are being shown off in the
Our results were:
accompanying photographs.
Wells v Hereford
Wells v Kings Gloucester
Wells v Exeter
Wells v St John’s (Cardiff)
Diana Armstrong
Pastoral Carer of Choristers
The girls’ tournament was a round
robin: five cathedral teams playing each
other, and we had some measure of
success. Our results were:
Wells v Bristol
Wells v Exeter
Wells v Llandaff
Wells v St John’s (Cardiff)
17 - 1
10 - 1
16 - 0
Three points were awarded for each
win and, of course, Wells couldn’t be
caught; they won the trophy and were
delighted that all their hard work had
been rewarded. Molly Johnson was
named ‘girl of the match’ for scoring
36 goals!
“Sing Unto The Lord A New Song”
Permission having been given,
Blythe later went back again with
one of the supposed band to try
the church for sound. The musician
was, in fact, was Yehudi Menuhin.
“Is it a band? – sort of...”
I like to imagine something similar
happens here in rural Somerset
when our Cathedral Choir arranges
to go and sing in one of our country
churches, which they do.
This sermon was given on
Sunday 28 June, 2015, by The
Reverend Prebendary Stephen
Lynas, Senior Chaplain and
Advisor to the Bishops, during
Choral Evensong on the launch
day of the new Gary Davison
CD, The Armour of Light
And he said to me, ‘Son of man, Go
now to your people in exile and speak
to them. Say to them, “This is what the
Sovereign LORD says,” whether they
listen or fail to listen.’
Some of you will know the work
of the English writer Ronald Blythe.
Blythe is a Church of England reader,
now in his 90s. He’s very much a
man of East Anglia and has been
associated over many years with
the poet John Clare, the composer
Benjamin Britten, and the artist
John Nash.
He tells the story of the day he
was sent by Benjamin Britten to
Blythburgh in Suffolk to persuade
the Vicar, a Mr Smith, to give
permission for a concert to be held
in the church. I would guess this was
in the late 1950s.
He records the conversation like
this: “The Vicar was puzzled. Is it
a band?” he asked. “Well, sort of a
band.” replied Ronald Blythe.
The churchwarden or sidesman asks
– “is it a choir?” And our Precentor,
or Matthew Owens, or whoever is
making the arrangements, says “...
Sort of”.
New Testament encourages us to
use psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs. But our readings tonight
did not take us down a musical
road. Instead, we cheated slightly,
and heard the readings appointed
for the first evensong of the feast
of Saint Peter and Saint Paul,
which is tomorrow. So we heard
the prophet Ezekiel, discovering
that his task was to speak the
word, whether people liked it or
not. Some of you will be familiar
with the other stone pulpit in this
Cathedral, down in the nave, with
the red-lettered text around the
ledge: ‘preach the word in season or
out of season’ – a New Testament
echo of Ezekiel’s uncomfortable
job. I wonder if composers and
choirmasters sometimes feel they
have this same uncomfortable
calling: And what a choir. To be asked
to preach at such an occasion
as tonight, when we are in the
company of world-class music and
musicians, is a bit of a task. Ronald
Blythe’s vicar, Mr Smith of Suffolk, •I must carry on writing – whether
rather exemplifies the great gulf
people like it or not.
that is fixed between the company •I need to compose – whether it’s
we are in and the more amateur
popular or not
musical attempts of the rest of us.
•We need to sing this piece – whether
they like it or not.
There is a tension that all church
musicians must wrestle with The dedication of musicians, like
between what is ordinary, workaday prophets, is admirable. But they
regular repertoire, and the extra- must sometimes ask themselves: am
ordinary, the complicated, the I doing this to please the crowd, or
festival pieces. It’s the difference to give voice to the inspiration that
between a ‘sort of band’ and Yehudi is within me?
Menuhin. There is music that most
of us can do, and music that only Even as we meet here in these
some of us do. I’ll return to that, surroundings I am conscious that
not ten miles away, Lionel Richie is
taking to the main Pyramid Stage at
Now you might have been expecting Glastonbury. He’ll be followed later
musical readings for this feast of new on by Paul Weller and The Who.
music today. But Biblical references Yesterday, I was very moved to see
to music are in short supply. Yes, 87 year-old Burt Bacharach on stage
obviously there are the Psalms, working through his extraordinary
and in particular Psalm 150 with its catalogue of music.
trumpets, lutes and harps. We used
Psalm 138 tonight, with its starting And we might ask of them too: are
invocation of praise in music. The they doing it for the money and the
crowd? Or because they have this •And on another occasion we were
inner compulsion to make music,
all safely shut up in the recording
and to do it as well as they can?
vehicle reviewing tapes while
Evensong took place here in the
And from Galatians, Paul’s slightly
Quire. Sadly, one of our engineers
grumpy apologia for his ministry;
had left the BBC loudspeaker
and the linking of Peter and Paul,
system on in here, so as we were
whose day it is tomorrow.
out in the truck gaily reviewing a
recording of hymn singing, it was
•Paul the Jew, called to travel the
being pumped out full blast in
known world and preach to the
here while one of the canons was
Gentiles. trying to lead the intercessions.
•Peter the apostle was to preach
Out came the virger: “turn it off,
to the Jews. turn it off!”
The same task, but to different
audiences. He is making the
same point as Ezekiel: there is a
compulsion deep inside, given by
God, to spread the message, by
whatever means.
thinking straight, and commending
our cathedrals and churches. I am
not qualified to assess the arguments
but no fewer than 3 of the 7 letters
published in protest mentioned
Wells as a place where new music
is to be he heard, including:
•“an admirable tradition of visionary
new commissions under Matthew
Owens…” – this from James
Lancelot, Master of the Music at
Durham Cathedral
•and one from our Dean
Emeritus, Richard Lewis, citing 17
We used, in those days, to speak of
contemporary composers being
two kinds of musical audience:
sung in one month alone by the
Wells Cathedral Choir.
•There were ‘Radio 2’ people, who
liked a melody that they could get This little storm in an ecclesiastical
hold of; words that spoke to their teacup does raise some interesting
own life experience, and generally questions for those who love church
something accessible.
music. We are back in the territory
•And then there were the of music for all and music for some.
‘Radio 3’ people, somewhat As I said earlier: there is music that
more ‘highbrow’, much more most of us can do, and music that
adventurous and knowledgeable only some of us do. – but not exactly ‘down on the
streets with the kids’.
The following questions arise:
I spent seven very happy years
working at the BBC in religious
broadcasting. I have some very
cheerful memories of coming to this
Cathedral from our base at BBC
Bristol to transmit a live Choral
Evensong. I also played a minor part
in some Songs of Praise recordings
It is of course a false distinction, but
a useful one. And nowadays you
•I recall a Good Friday televised would have to add in there are also
service where we had the cameras ‘Classic FM’ people, who combine
moving through that forest of a bit of both. Anyway, I shall leave
pillars and arches behind the high you to decide for yourself which
altar as the choir sang the Lotti category you fit into.
Crucifixus est.
•And, given that it is 25 years New church music has been the
ago, it is now safe to tell the subject of recent controversy in the
story of broadcasting disasters august columns of the The Church
at Wells Cathedral. For one TV Times. They printed an article by
recording one of the riggers had The Reverend Dr Martin Thomas,
run a camera cable over the top complaining about what he sees as
of one of the chantry chapels the lack of brave new church music.
in the nave sanctuary. Sadly, he You can assess his views on church
managed to bring down a portion music for yourself, but this is a man
of the stonework at the top. A who is less than enthusiastic about
very angry virger came up to the John Rutter, and believes that John
producer to report this damage Tavener’s work is “neo-religious
and said in somewhat stressed wallpaper music”.
tones: I think you should know that
you BBC people are only here by a The article provoked a storm of
majority of one vote in the Chapter! letters protesting that he is not
•Should a choir, (or indeed a
Cathedral) rest on its musical
laurels, or should it keep pushing
boundaries of complexity – and
•How do you make music in
worship accessible to more
•How do you present it? Is it only in
the context of traditional liturgy,
like tonight, or can you showcase
it in a reverent way elsewhere?
Dean Richard also made the point (in
his letter to The Church Times) that
it is a shame the music world tends
to reside only in Book of Common
Prayer or Latin, and has not moved
into more of the Common Worship
texts which have done duty now for
more than 15 years.
One of the highlights of my own
musical year is the Advent Carol
Service of Wells Cathedral School.
Yes, we all get to sing It came upon
the midnight clear. But we also get to
hear material that, for many of the
congregation, is out on the edge of
their experience – I’m thinking of
how an Arvo Pärt piece transfixed
us all a year or two ago.
And to hear a new setting for
Glory to thee my God this night is a
treat, remembering that the text
was written by our much-loved
17th century Bishop, Thomas
Ken, remembered both for his
saintliness and for his sticking to
his beliefs when a change of King
from Charles II to James I meant
It is rather delightful to find that that on point of principle, he could
Gary Davison’s pieces we’ve heard not swear allegiance. Truly a man
tonight include such strong Wells to preach the word ‘in and out of
references: the canticles setting is season’.
called The Palace Garden Canticles.
I began with the urge to preach
Now my theory was that the and the difficulty of it: something I
composer has referenced the think that musicians feel too. And
gardens of our own Bishop’s Palace I’ve hinted at the possible divisions
in the name. Being anxious not to that music can cause, yes, even in a
get anything wrong, I ‘Googled’ church or cathedral.
those exact words to see if I could
Sadly, Google could not A hundred and fifty years ago, the
confirm this. Instead it pointed Reverend Samuel Barnett, a priest
me to a Chinese restaurant in and social reformer began a series
Newcastle, called the Palace of concerts and lectures for the
Garden, which if you are going that poor in Whitechapel, in the heart
way, gets 4.5 Trip Advisor stars. (I’m of London’s East End. He recruited
pleased to say that the Bishop’s artists and singers, and persuaded
Palace Garden gets better than that, them to perform/exhibit in the
and has a TripAdvisor ‘Certificate of Whitechapel Gallery. And Barnett
said this: “Grand music heard in
church seems to help many whom
sermons fail to touch.”
He may have been onto something
there. The words that people
like me try to string together can
articulate and explain the great
truths and stories of the faith.
Equally they can confuse or annoy.
Music cannot easily articulate the
faith. But it can touch the soul and
draw you to admiration, to prayer,
to humility. In another context, just
down the road, it can bring you into
community and make you whoop
for joy.
We are grateful for that musical
compulsion that drives our
composers and singers. There
are challenges in it if we care to
see them. But we rejoice in their
creativity – God’s creativity – and
that they are gifted to share with
the rest of us lesser mortals.
As Ezekiel put it: And he said to me,
‘Son of man, Say to them, “This is what
the Sovereign LORD says,” whether
they listen or fail to listen.’
CSA Composition Competition
Dominic Stokes, a chorister at
Westminster Abbey, won the annual
Choir Schools’ Association David
Willcocks Music Trust composition
competition, with his introit “Sing a
new song”. Wells Cathedral Choir sang the
introit at the beginning of Evensong
on Tuesday 5 May, which was
attended by 50 delegates from the
Choir Schools’ Association Annual
Conference, held in Wells.
Dominic is pictured here with Wells
Head Choristers, Madeleine Perring
and Maxim Davis.
Iain Ball - An Appreciation
Iain Ball became chair of what
was then the Wells Cathedral Girl
Chorister Trust in 2004, after
Canon Melvyn Matthews and I
used what we like to think was tact,
diplomacy and vision to persuade
him. He tells it differently!
lead the raising of a million pounds
thus far. It meant that he steered
its evolution into a trust for boy
and girl choristers alike, when that
became desirable, with charm and
firmness, and managed to retain the
support of those with a particular
commitment to the girls’ cause.
The Trust had had a shaky start. It
needed strong, inspired leadership, He has shared that vision with
advocacy and drive. Iain brought all countless people, including his own
those qualities and more.
friend Lady Marina Hobson, who has
been such a generous enabler, and
He works very hard. His meticulous including HRH Sophie, Countess
preparation for trustees’ meetings, of Wessex, who has become not
his seeking out of good people to only the Trust’s royal patron, but its
be trustees (which continued even friend and foremost cheerleader.
into the clear eyed succession plans
for his own departure as chair), his He has supported the whole choir
thorough planning for events, and through the opportunities for new
his building of a team to help him and interesting music which Trust
do that - all these were just the activities have given, and many
outward manifestation of hours people have had hours of quality
of reflection and planning. And he entertainment through Trust events.
worries productively. He told me
that, having finished his term as chair, And Iain is, above all else, generous.
he could now sleep easily – and I He shares his contacts and his
don’t think it was an exaggeration. friends – like Lady Marina – and
he shares his hospitality. (He
Iain had – has – a vision for the once told me that he believes it
Trust which has enabled him to is a sacrament.) He thanks people
warmly, quickly, and personally. He
is trenchant, and he is kind. So he
achieves things!
Helen has been a willing, generous
and thoughtful ally and supporter
through all these years, and needs
our thanks as well. There are
choristers now in the choir and the
school who would not be there if
it were not for Trust funding. There
are young adult musicians making
an impact for good in the world
who started their musical careers
in the choir because of the support
of the Trust.
And perhaps his greatest success is
that he leaves the leadership of the
Trust at a point when it is both solid
and developing, with clear ambition
for the future, and the ability to
realise that ambition. We owe Iain
a great deal!
Elizabeth Cairncross
Head,Wells Cathedral School
Above: Iain Ball [centre] welcomes
HRH The Countess of Wessex to
Wells Cathedral School on her first
official visit in 2007
Alumni Updates
After graduating from Christ
Church College (University of
Oxford) last summer, former Junior
Organ Scholar Ghislaine ReeceTrapp [pictured below] has secured
a teaching position at London’s
Eltham College. The school has an
excellent reputation for music, and
Ghislaine will be working with its
trebles as well as the chapel and
many other choirs. Previously the
choir has sung at the BBC Proms
and at St John Smith Square, so
Ghislaine is looking forward to
these and other projects as well as
working with the choirs day to day.
Also, we are proud to announce
that Ghislaine recently passed her
FRCO (Fellowship of the Royal
College of Organists) exams, and
was awarded the Limpus, Shinn
and Durrant prize for the highest
mark in the performance exam.
In September 2015, former Bass
Choral Scholar David Shipley,
[above centre] became one of only
five singers to be selected to join the
Jette Parker Young Artists Programme.
Along with Russian soprano Vlada
Borovko, Irish soprano Jennifer
Davis, Australian mezzo-soprano
Emily Edmonds, and Korean tenor
David Junghoon Kim, David was
selected from more than 370
applicants from 59 countries.
Organ Scholar from 2012-13, is
currently Organ Scholar at Trinity
College, Cambridge, and conducts
The Gesualdo Six, a male-voice
ensemble specialising in early music.
His existing works will be published
by Novello, which include ten pieces
for unaccompanied mixed voice
choir, compositions for men’s
voices, others for upper voices, and
an Evensong service with strings,
written for Wells Cathedral Choir.
Owain said “I’m absolutely thrilled
to be signing with Novello. I feel
very privileged and humbled to be
among such esteemed company.
I look forward to continued
composing over the coming years”.
The selection process, which
began in August 2014, included
preliminary auditions in London
or Vienna and a one-to-one coaching
session with the Programme’s
Artistic Director David Gowland. A
shortlist of just 12 singers made the
final stage, auditioning on the Royal
Opera House main stage in front
a panel that included The Royal
Opera’s Music Director Antonio
Pappano and Director of Opera
Kasper Holten.
The specially tailored Royal Opera
programme offers extensive training
for talented professionals, with the
Jette Parker Young Artists working
as salaried members of The Royal
Opera for a two-year period. During
this time they perform in a variety
of main-stage productions, concerts
and recitals, as well as covering lead
roles. They also receive coaching
in all opera disciplines, including
role interpretation, language and
Former Wells Cathedral Organ
Scholar Owain Park [right]
has signed a music publishing
contract with Novello & Company.
Owain, who was Junior Organ
Scholar from 2010-12, and Senior
James Rushton, Managing Director
of Novello & Company commented
“It is very exciting to be able
to work with such a young and
talented composer as Owain and to
look ahead to all that the future will
offer. We warmly welcome Owain
to Music Sales”.
Owain Park’s music has been
ensembles including the Tallis
Scholars, the Aurora Orchestra,
the RSCM Millennium Youth Choir,
and Wells Cathedral Choir. Recent
works include Beati quorum via
commissioned by the Wells Cathedral
Chorister Trust for The Countess of
Wessex, and Shakespeare Songs of
Night-Time for the Holst Singers.
Recently, Judas mercator pessimus
was included by The Choir of
Trinity College Cambridge in its
tour programme to Canada. His
compositions have won awards
from organisations including the
NCEM, and his music has been
broadcast on BBC Radios 3 and 4,
and Classic FM.
Congratulations to:
•former Head Girl Chorister
Madeleine Perring [pictured
top right with Matthew Owens]
who was awarded a highly coveted
specialist music place at Wells
Cathedral School as a singer;
Buckland, [pictured middle right,
playing Grieg’s piano in Norway]
who has been awarded a place to
study composition at the Royal
College of Music;
•former Senior Organ Scholar
Cathedral as Assistant Organist;
•former Senior Organ Scholar
Oliver Walker on his recent
marriage to Emily [pictured
bottom left];
•former Choral Scholar Jonathan
Woodhouse on his recent
marriage to Sarah [pictured
bottom right];
•former Junior Organ Scholar
William Fox on being awarded
the Organ Scholarship to
Magdalen College, Oxford;
•former Junior and Senior Organ
Scholar, Jeremy Woodside
on being appointed Organist of
Repton School, having completed
Westminster Abbey;
•former Senior Organ Scholar,
Nicholas Freestone, on being
appointed Organ Scholar of St
Albans Abbey;
•former Head Girl Chorister,
Annabel Green, on being
awarded a Choral Scholarship to
Trinity College, Cambridge;
Please send your news items to:
[email protected]
new music wells 75-15
Drakett, whose Wells Service (Te
Deum and Jubilate Deo) was sung
by the Vicars Choral at Sunday
Matins; and Robin Walker, whose
Missa Brevis was sung at the Sunday
Eucharist by the Boy Choristers
and Vicars Choral.
Wells Cathedral celebrated its
eighth annual festival of new music:
new music wells 75-15, from Sunday
11 – Thursday 15 October 2015.
Building on the success of previous
years, all of the music sung during
the Cathedral’s services and at
three special concerts was selected
from repertoire written over the
last 40 years.
This year’s featured composer
was Lord Michael Berkeley CBE
[centre], who wrote a new anthem
for the cathedral choir, funded by
the Cathedral Commissions scheme.
A Tale of Andrew was premiered
on Thursday 15 October during
Evensong. Berkeley’s music was also
featured throughout the week, and
there was a special “Evening with
Michael Berkeley” on Wednesday
14 October which saw Lord
Berekely in conversation with
fellow composers Judith Bingham
(President of new music wells) and
Howard Skempton, as well as the
Artistic Director of new music wells,
Matthew Owens.
Three concerts took place during
the festival: students from Wells
Cathedral School gave lunchtime
recitals on Tuesday 13 and
Wednesday 14 October (see article
by Paul Whitmarsh on page 19) and
Paul Walton (Assistant Organist of
Bristol Cathedral), gave an organ
recital on the Thursday, which
featured music by Michael Berkeley,
Philip Wilby, Elizabeth Winters, and
former Wells Cathedral Assistant
Organist, David Bednall. Michael
Berkeley also gave a composition
masterclass at Wells Cathedral
School on Thursday 15 October.
Berkeley was born in 1948, the
eldest son of the composer Sir
Lennox Berkeley and a godson of
Benjamin Britten. He is one of the
UK’s foremost composers, and
is well known for presenting the
weekly programme, Private Passions,
To find out more about Cathedral
on BBC Radio 3.
Commissions and support the
new music wells 75-15 also included exciting new music scheme at
world premiere performances of Wells, please see the article on the
works by Choral Scholar William opposite page.
Visiting Choirs
The Cathedral welcomes visiting choirs to sing
the services during the school holidays. During
the summer of 2015, we were fortunate to
welcome twelve such groups, which led the
worshiping life of the cathedral whilst the
cathedral choir was on vacation.
Thanks are due to the following choirs: Trinity
Episcopal Cathedral, South Carolina, USA
[pictured right]; Holy Innocents’ Episcopal
Church,Atlanta, USA; Collegium Singers; Choir
of St Alphege, Solihull; The Choir of Lincoln
College; Croydon Minster; St John’s Episcopal
Church, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA; Harmonia
Sacra; St Mary’s Parish Church, Moseley; The
Acis Chamber Singers,Washington, USA; Voces
Assumptionis, and Wessex Chamber Choir.
President: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, CH CBE
Artistic Director: Matthew Owens
• have your score signed by the composer at a
special Commissioners’ reception
• have your name printed in the score; this may
include a dedication to a family member or a
• be kept up to date with the progress of the work
after its premiere
• directly support the work of a contemporary
• directly support Wells Cathedral Choir and the
wider English choral tradition
A Commissioners’ Reception with composer,
John Joubert
For further details please contact:
Dr Nicholas Hooper, Cathedral Commissions
Administrator, Wells Cathedral Music Office, Chain
Gate, Cathedral Green, Wells, Somerset BA5 2UE
T: 01749 832204
E: [email protected]
Wells Cathedral Commissions invites you to
join its growing group of commissioners to help
bring important new works into the repertoire of
Wells Cathedral Choir and the wider English choral
Cathedral Commissions is commissioning two new
works in 2016, in celebration of the tenth anniversary
of its founding. The first is a setting of the St Mark
Passion by John Joubert ( It
will be premiered during an act of worship on the
afternoon of Palm Sunday, 20th March, which also
happens to be the day of the composer’s 89th birthday.
The second work to be premiered is an anthem by
the Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir CBE
(, on Thursday 20th October
2016, during the cathedral’s innovative annual festival,
new music wells.
Composer Jonathan Dove signs his
autograph for a chorister
Being a Cathedral Commissioner enables you to
become part of a group that shares the unique
experience of enabling a new piece of music to come
into being. As a Cathedral Commissioner you will:
• be invited to the main rehearsal for the premiere
of the work, with the composer in attendance
• be a VIP guest at the premiere
Gary Davison Requiem
Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine,cum of your esteemed Organist and
sanctis tuis in æternum,
Master of the Choristers, Matthew
quia pius es.
Owens, writing a Requiem setting
for Remembrance Sunday became
Let everlasting light shine upon them, a very real labour of love. And,
O Lord, with your saints for ever,
coming on the heels of the success
for thou art merciful.
of the recently released recording,
The Armour of Light, a wonderful
(Communion antiphon from the
continuance of our combined
Requiem Mass)
artistic endeavours in the realms of
“If the [cathedral] building here sacred music.
provides an architectural glory, it is
the music which provides its soul Over the course of the past year or
and its meaning.” Thus remarked so, as I grappled with how I would
the retiring Chairman of the Wells order my setting, I ended up looking
Cathedral Chorister Trust, Mr to the past to move forward. Very
Iain Ball, in his speech during the few composers, it seems, have set
reception following Evensong on 4 the prescribed sung portions of
November 2015. The occasion was the ancient Missa pro defunctis in
the inaugural annual service that, its entirety, which includes the
as Mr Ball described, “Will reflect dramatic sequence, Dies irae (the
the work of the chorister trust familiar Pie Jesu concludes this
[each year] in its role of supporting lengthy Latin hymn). This was a
the choir and providing funds for daunting task, to be sure, albeit
the education of the cathedral self-imposed. Furthermore, the
long ubiquitous shadows of Fauré
and Duruflé loomed heavily over
Please let me assure you in no my shoulder. After all, what could
uncertain terms that was music, I possibly have to say that hadn’t
indeed, to this composer’s ears been expressed so perfectly in their
and as a Patron of the Trust. respective settings? Simply put,
Sacred music is literally a living and nothing. Ironically, accepting that
breathing “sacrifice of praise and reality allowed me to move ahead
thanksgiving”; a soul, indeed, inside and construct my own expression
such an inspiring and beautifully of this profound liturgy.
defined edifice as is Wells Cathedral.
For me, Mr Ball’s comments also And so, the long hours of composing
served as a very moving prelude to began. The work was written
the Remembrance Sunday premiere primarily in my home study, as well
of my setting of the Requiem, sung as in my office at St Francis Church
with absolute acumen by the Great in Potomac, Maryland, and during a
Choir on the afternoon of Sunday, fortnight stay on the Outer Banks
of North Carolina thanks to the
the 8th November.
great generosity of friends who
Many of you know of my happy allowed me time in their lovely
association with this remarkable home there. Admittedly, the “birth”
cathedral church. It truly is my was somewhat difficult but, in the
home away from home, a vibrant end, finally completed not too long
Christian community I love, and one prior to the premiere. (I’m certain
that is carrying forward a tradition Mr Owens and the other musicians
to which I ascribe and seek to would tell you that there may have
contribute. So, at the suggestion been just a few spots of wet ink still
Early Music Wells Concerts
on the page!) Naturally, the Great
Choir and Mr Vaughn offered a
sublime reading under Mr Owens’s
deft direction. The expressive
mezzo-soprano, Rachael Lloyd, was
stunning in her interpretation of the
solos, as was violist extraordinaire,
Philip Dukes. With consummate
artistry, former chorister Maddie
Perring’s singing of the “distant”
treble solo in the Dies irae could
not have been more exquisite. And
I’d be remiss in not thanking David
Wilcox not only for the perfectly
chosen poetry for the devotional
service, but also for his perfectly
rendered recitations of the same.
The only thing more moving
than hearing my music come
to life in such an extraordinary
circumstance, was to sit in the midst
of the congregation at Wells for
just such an occasion. Surrounded
by deeply cherished friends in this
magnificent and beloved place is a
blessing beyond measure and for
which I shall ever be grateful. I look
forward to the next time I will have
that privileged pleasure once again.
Gary Davison
Early Music Wells, founded by
Artistic Director Matthew Owens,
is a series of concerts promoted by
Wells Cathedral which focuses on
music from the Medieval period,
through to the Renaissance and
Baroque periods. All the concerts
take place in the beautiful space of
the Cathedral’s Quire.
Since 2011, concerts have featured
some of the UK’s finest early music
performers and ensembles. This
year, the evening concerts have seen
The Early Music Wells Consort sing
Lamentations by Lassus, Brumel,
and Palestrina; Baroque violinist,
Colin Scobie, play the second of
his two concerts of music for
unaccompanied solo violin; and
harpsichordist, Colin Booth, give the
St Cecilia Concert, entitled Grounds
for Pleasure, featuring music by Byrd,
Gibbons, Blow, Purcell, and others.
January of this year also saw the
launch of a bi-monthly series of
lunchtime recitals, given by Matthew
Owens, playing the Complete
Organ Works of J.S. Bach, over six
years. The retiring collections from
these lunchtime recitals all support
the work of the Cathedral Choir.
The 2016 Early Music Wells Season
will be announced in the forthcoming
Music in Wells brochure, which will
be available from 20th December
and via the cathedral website: www.
Bach Complete
Organ Works
by candlelight
The first in a new series of bi-monthly organ recitals that will
survey the complete organ works of J.S. Bach over six years
A concert of the finest Italian and Franco-Flemish Renaissance
settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, including works by
Brumel, Lassus, and Palestrina
played by Matthew Owens
Organist and Master of the Choristers, Wells Cathedral
The Early Music Wells Consort
Recital I : Thursday 15 January
Matthew Owens, director
1.05 – 1.40pm, in the Quire of Wells Cathedral
Saturday 21 March at 7.00pm
Admission Free • Retiring Collection
in the candlelit �uire of Wells Cathedral
Tickets £12.00
available from Wells Cathedral Box Office
01749 672 773 and at the door
Chorale Partita “Sei gegrusset, Jesu gutig”, BWV 768
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542
Unaccompanied Bach
by candlelight
Colin Scobie
prize-winning baroque violinist
Saturday 26 September at 7.00pm
in the �uire of Wells Cathedral
Tickets £12.00
available from Wells Cathedral Box Office
01749 672 773 and at the door
St Cecilia Concert
by candlelight
‘Grounds for Pleasure’
A programme of keyboard music from seventeenth century England
Music by Blow, Byrd, Croft, Gibbons, Purcell, andTomkins
Colin Booth
Saturday 21 November at 7.00pm
in the candlelit �uire of Wells Cathedral
Tickets £12.00
available from Wells Cathedral Box Office
01749 672 773 and at the door
BBC Broadcast
The BBC Radio 3 broadcast
was sung this year by the
Girl Choristers and Vicars
Choral. It fell between two
Saints’ Days: Columba, Abbot
of Iona (9 June), and Barnabas
the Apostle (11 June). As such,
the music reflected the festal
nature of these two feasts.
The service included the
first broadcast of Sir John
Tavener’s Preces and Responses
(commissioned for the choir
by Cathedral Commissions),
Finzi’s Magnificat, Holst’s Nunc
dimittis, and Leighton’s anthem
Gaudeamus (from ‘A Sequence
for All Saints’).
A Composition Masterclass
Paul Whitmarsh, Composition Tutor
at Wells Cathedral School, recalls the
excitement of this year’s performances.
The annual Wells Cathedral Choir
Association reunion took place on
24th April 2015. 20 ex-choristers
joined the Great Choir for sung
Evensong singing Stanford in B flat
and Harwood’s O How Glorious is
the Kingdom. The enhanced choir,
with an age range of 15 to 80, made
itself well and truly heard, filling the
cathedral with ‘a joyful noise’. The
day finished with a well-earned drink
and dinner at The Fountain Inn, with
lots of choir tales of yesteryear. Next year, Wells Cathedral is
playing host to the National Festival
of the Federation of Cathedral Old
Choristers’ Associations on the
weekend of 29 April to 1 May 2016.
This is taking the place of our annual
Wells Cathedral Choir Association
reunion. It is the first time that
Wells has hosted the festival and
we will be expecting in the order
of 100 ex-choristers from around
the country to participate. The sung
evensong with the Great Choir
will be a highlight of the weekend,
but we will also holding a festival
banquet on the Saturday night to
celebrate Cathedral music-making
and to do so in a place where we
only recently celebrated 1100
years of the foundation of our very
own chorister school will be very
fitting. We hope that ex-choristers,
organists, choral scholars and vicars
choral will be at the heart of this
Chris Seaton, Chairman, WCCA
During the festival, new music wells,
composers and instrumentalists
from Wells Cathedral School
participated in a number of nonliturgical performances, including
two lunchtime concerts and a
composition masterclass led by
Lord Michael Berkeley, the featured
composer of the festival. The
centrepiece was the lunchtime
concert on Wednesday 14th
October, featuring instrumental
and ensemble pieces by Michael
Berkeley performed by members of
the school New Music Ensemble.
One Man and His Dog
Iain Ball,WCCT, writes:
On 25 and 26 June Matthew
Owens, Organist and Master of the
Choristers and Elsie, his Labrador,
walked the 50-mile Mendip Way to
raise money for the Wells Cathedral
Chorister Trust in support of his
choristers. Now that the final
calculations have been made the
Trustees are delighted to announce
that Matthew has raised over
£10,000 for the Endowment Fund.
This is a remarkable achievement;
the Trust wishes to thank Matthew,
and the many generous sponsors
who supported him, for achieving
this wonderful outcome.
Fergus McCready (oboe) and
Julian Chan (piano) opened the
concert with Fierce Tears I; Julian
also accompanied Marianne Sutton
(violin) in Persistent Memory, a
work that was commissioned for
the Britten International Violin
Competition in 2004. In between,
Charlie Walker (cello) and Daisy
Brinson-Hill (flute) performed
American Suite, and the whole
ensemble joined together for a
performance of Berkeley’s Seven
to conclude the concert. Michael
Berkeley was present at the
rehearsal and the concert, and this
was a wonderful opportunity for
the instrumentalists to work with
the composer on his music.
In the lunchtime concert on
the previous day, the ensemble
compositions. Two of these,
Thomas Carling’s Presence and
Julian Chan’s Jumbled Windows were
directly inspired by aspects of the
Cathedral itself; in between, there
was a performance of Rebecca
Farthing’s Tell-Tale Heart, a trio
directly inspired by the Edgar Allen
Poe short story of the same name.
All of these compositions, as well
as Vivace Capriccioso by Daniel
Harding, were performed in Michael
Berkeley’s composition masterclass
on Thursday 15th October.
of insightful anecdotes and some
contributions from members of
the audience, this was an engaging
and illuminating discussion for the
composers and music students
at the Cathedral School. Our
thanks to Matthew Owens and the
Cathedral for generously enabling
between the Cathedral School and
the festival.
Paul Whitmarsh
In front of a packed music school
hall, Berkeley examined aspects
of compositional ideas and their
style, and rhythmic, melodic and
instrumental writing in all four
pieces. Combined with a sprinkling
Launching The Armour Of Light
The Cathedral Choir’s new CD of
works by renowned US composer
Gary Davison, entitled The Armour
of Light, was released on 28 June.The
disc features the Girl Choristers
and Vicars Choral, and is the first
recording entirely devoted to Gary
Davison’s choral music.
Steeped in the rich Anglican choral
tradition, American composer
Gary Davison is one of the US’s
leading composers of sacred choral
music. He brings a deep love of this
heritage to all of his writing.
Performers and audiences alike
favourably regard his compositional
style for its idiomatic expression
and freshness of voice. Critical
acclaim supports this esteem,
with such descriptions of his
work as “persuasive ... imaginative
and polished ... sumptuous and
engaging” (The Washington Post);
“seductive and spirited ... smooth,
flexible and clear, allowing the
music to shine from within”
(Hamburger Abendblatt, Germany)
and “breathtaking and exquisite
... exactly the kind of rewarding
challenge singers love best.” (The
Journal of the Association of
Anglican Musicians).
Gary Davison is Organist and
Choirmaster of Saint Francis
Episcopal Church in Potomac,
Maryland, and maintains an active
schedule as a solo and collaborative
keyboard artist, and particularly
enjoys a close musical relationship
as a composer with Wells Cathedral.
The CD has been very favourably
reviewed in the critical press. Some
of these reviews can be read in full
none in his championing of
Matthew Owens is second to
the girl choristers and Vicars
living composers. Here with
introduces us to the music
Choral of Wells Cathedral, he
Davison... Davison’s greatest
of American composer Gary
ing of a sacred text, which
strength is a deep understand
writing... This distinguished cat
an unclutte
an Vaughn.
informs his writing...There is
the creative playing of Jonath
r / December 2015
choir is in ex
Shirley Ratcliffe, Novembe
Gary Davison is organist and choirmaster of
Saint Francis Episcopal Church in Potomac,
Maryland, and maintains an active schedule
as a solo and collaborative keyboard artist
and particularly enjoys a close musical
relationship as a composer with Wells Cathedral. This association would
be no bad thing for any
composer for under organist and Master of Choristers Matthew Owen
s Wells Cathedral Choir
has become one of the finest in the world. This CD is the first record
ing entirely devoted to
Gary Davison’s choral music and all the works are receiving their first
commercial recording. As
expected the choir do them full justice and the audio quality, courtesy
of producer Gary Cole, is
equally good. The music can be appreciated on several levels. As a listene
r I enjoy a good tune and
Davison delivers and as a member of a choir (albeit not one of the standa
rd of Wells Cathedral) I
am always listening for material I can recommend and again this CD fits
the bill….
Davison knows his history and is able to make his contemporary work sit secure
ly within the Anglican
choral tradition. Listeners who appreciate this genre will find much to enjoy
in this collection.
Steven Whitehead,
Since he first visited Wells
nine years ago the America
composer Gary Davison ha
s had a special relationship
with the cathedral and its sin
gers, who deliver now the
first CD completely devo
ted to his music. Davison
is a choirmaster himself,
and it shows in the userfriendliness of his writing:
the glowing harmonies
and grateful melodies of My
Song Shall be Always are
clearly relished by the girl
choristers in particular.
nt Records] and The influence of John Tavener is dis
Gary Cole [of Rege
cernible in the drones,
like foundation material in
g the recording
The Armour of Light, but the
Gary Davison in
ning in
piece develops a voice of
girl choristers liste
own, with evocative use
of a semi-chorus, touchingly
realised here by the small
group of selected singers.
The compact Banffshire Ma
setting, tests both the choir
ss, an unaccompanied
s pitching and its ability to
keep ensemble tight as tex
briskly by the composer. Bo
t is zipped though
th tests are confidently ne
The moody chiaroscuro of
Davison’s Te Deum, and its
moments of surging dram
projected, and the Nunc dim
a, arc impressively
ittis from Palace Garden Ca
s, with ringing trumpet, burge
There is much substantial
ons thrillingly.
music on this disc, all of it
realized with unflappable dis
Owens and his singers.’
tinction by Matthew
Terry Blain, October 2015
The American composer, Gary Davison is someone who is
clearly steeped in the Anglican/Episcopal musical tradition,
not just as a composer but also as an active executant…
The roots of this present disc lie in a sabbatical period that
he spent in the UK in 2006 during which he went to hear
his journey was in Wells where,
a number of cathedral and collegiate choirs sing services. One stop on
w Owens and the fine Wells
he says, he found a particularly warm welcome. His admiration for Matthe
a number of them are included
Cathedral choir has inspired him to write several pieces for them and
on this programme.
are four each of altos, tenors
The choir at Wells includes 12 adult male singers – the Vicars Choral; there
only 18 boy trebles but also a
and basses. For some years now the choir has benefited from having not
rly with the Vicars Choral and
similar number of girl choristers. Each of these groups sing services regula
on, however, it’s the girls who
sometimes the boys and girls sections are involved together. On this occasi
sing with the Vicars Choral and a very pleasing sound these young voices
I have to say it doesn’t appear
[...] All the music on this disc is attractive and well-crafted though
and I’m sure will appeal to
to break much new ground. However, the pieces are very accessible
intended: this is music written
choirs and congregations alike, which is surely what Gary Davison
Matthew Owens and his fine
for practical use in the liturgy. His music is given splendid advocacy by
an expert contribution at the
choir – one would expect nothing less – and Jonathan Vaughn makes
et Rondo on ‘Laudes Domini’.
organ, including an exuberant account of the solo organ work, Trump
notes on the music. […]
The recorded sound is good and Tom Shorter contributes some useful
John Quinn,
This latest CD release from We
al Cathedral Choir is of the American
The Sydney Organ Journ
composer Gary Davison’s choral mu
Steeped in the rich Anglican cho
choral music. The recording is a mix
tradition, he is one of the
, both accompanied and unaccompanie
anthems, canticles and a mass setting
an Vaughn who highlights with great
[…] The organ throug
lar favourite of the
pany the choir. Easter was a particu
and excitem
an and the viola. Dedicated to Vau
ersed with
listener. This anthem inco
language. The vocal lines are intersp
Williams, the pie
r melodies played on the viola.
these hauntingly beautiful, rich counte
excellent and I
some beautiful music. The singing was
[…] Overa
and the booklet captures a wonderful
enjoyed most of the music.
case. Owens’s direction and Vaughn’s
moment of the
Spring 2015
make for a wonderful combination.
“In the studio”
Two of the late Sir John Tavener’s
final pieces have been recorded by
Wells Cathedral Choir as part of
a CD dedicated to composer. The
disc, which will be released in 2016,
includes major first recordings,
including the Preces and Responses
and Missa Wellensis, composed for
the choir through the Cathedral
Commissions scheme shortly before
Diocesan Evensong Visits
The choir enjoyed two
Diocesan Visits in 2015: St
John the Evangelist in Taunton
in March, and the Church of
the Holy Trinity in Long Sutton
in November. Both of the
churches made the choir very
The girls and men also sang
Evensong at Downside Abbey
[pictured right] in January as
part of the Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity. This has become
an annual event, with the Schola
Cantorum and Monks visiting
Wells to sing Vespers.
Tavener passed away in November
The recording was funded by a new
initiative – the Recording Patrons
scheme, which is supported by
Wells Cathedral Chorister Trust. For
further information please visit and look under ‘You
can help’.
Bob Chilcott’s St John Passion
On Palm Sunday, 29 March, the
Great Choir performed acclaimed
composer Bob Chilcott’s setting of
the St John Passion in a devotional
service. An hour-long work,
Chilcott composed the piece for
Wells Cathedral Choir, which gave
the world premiere performance
on Palm Sunday 2013.
viola player Matthew Souter. Laurie
Ashworth, who sang on the choir’s
recording of Chilcott’s Requiem,
sang soprano, and Darren Jeffery
and Neal Davies sang the parts of
Pilate and Jesus respectively.
The service was also the launch of
the recording for Signum Records.
It reached number 14 in the
For this special service, the choir Specialist Classical Chart, and has
were joined by the Chaconne Brass received good reviews, including
Quintet, cellist Richard May, and those printed below.
Following on from their excellent recording of Chilcott’s
Requiem, Matthew Owens and the Wells Cathedral Choir
have now set down the composer’s St John Passion, which
they premiered in 2013… The results are powerful and
compelling, the more so in this authoritative performance,
an Vaughn… On the evidence
with uniformly excellent soloists and the sensitive organ playing of Jonath
ces and performers.
of this fine recording, Chilcott’s St John Passion will connect with audien
Philip Reed
The Wells Cathedral Choir makes a fine
contribution. In particular I liked the sound
of the treble line, which is sung by boy
and girl choristers. This seems to me an
excellent combination because the natural
edge of the boys’ voices and the rather rounder soprano tone combi
ne most effectively. Under
Matthew Owens’s leadership the Wells choir has established a well-deserve
d high reputation and
this recording is another success for the choir. They display energy and bite
when taking the part of
the crowd in the Judgement scenes. In the meditations they sing with finesse
. The singers are most
effectively supported by the instrumentalists and Matthew Owens brings
everything together under
his guiding hand. I’m sure Bob Chilcott will have been thrilled to find the first
recording of this score
done with such evident commitment and skill from all concerned.
Reviewed by John Quinn,
In 2016 the Vespers service in
Wells Cathedral will take place
at 5.15pm on Friday 22 January,
and the Cathedral Choir will
sing Evensong at Downside at
3.00pm on Sunday 24 January.
From L-R: Adrian Peacock [producer for Hyperion Records], Bob Chilcott, and Matthew Owens
Bob Chilcott’s setting of the St. John Passion was created for
Matthew Owens and the Choir of Wells Cathedral. Scored for
four solo voices, choirs, organ, and seven instrumentalists it was
first performed by them in worship on Palm Sunday 2013 and
recorded in 2014.
The work begins strongly with an opening chorus in which an
ies the Johannine theology of the Christ
alternating pattern of upward and downward lines convincingly embod
him from death--to go “up”, as it were.
who came “down” to earth and showed the world how to be raised with
in the narrative, perhaps corresponding
It is one of four meditative pieces for the choir heard at appropriate times
reflection on the narrative. Chilcott is at
loosely to arias in Bach’s passions that offer non-scriptural interpretive
his best in these reflective choral numbers.
into the drama of the passion, Chilcott
As Bach used Lutheran chorales as a way for the congregation to enter
with descants. The Oratorio Society and
has taken five traditional Lenten hymn texts and set them to new tunes
Palm Sunday premiere, the worshipping
Voluntary Choir join the Cathedral Choir in these hymns. (At its 2013
l to Bach’s passion settings, a tenor
congregation was invited to join in singing these hymns.) As a further paralle
arioso recitatives are written with specific
sings the major solo role of the Evangelist, the narrator of the story.The
instrumental accompaniment for each solo voice.
tt’s compositional language stands out
During this current British renaissance of church choral music, Chilco
using dissonance sparingly for appropriate
dramatically. His more traditional tonal approach is accessible and direct,
may explain why his musical style might
accent.As he comments in the notes,“I want to connect with people.” That
tt writes attractive melodic fare in an
remind you of musical theater. As Philip Greenfield has commented, “Chilco
nice it is to enjoy Bob Chilcott’s music
easy-on-the-ear British style reminiscent of John Rutter. I can’t tell you how
from the King James Version of the Bible
without having to work all that hard to take it in”. The narrative is taken
vividness the troubling antipathy to
and creates a vivid contrast to the musical style. It also presents with painful
“the Jews” found in the Gospel of John.
and effectively [...] Laurie Ashworth
Ed Lyon is a steady narrator who captures the emotion of the story clearly
my Leman’. Neal Davies captures well
provides superbly atmospheric solo work in `Christ, my Beloved’ and ‘Jesus,
of Pilate. The superb Cathedral Choir
the solemnity of Jesus’s words and Darren Jeffery is fine in the smaller role
ns in the texts; it is joined at various
sings compellingly and evocatively in proclaiming the wide range of emotio
tympani, and organ all sound fine. Richard
points by the other choral forces for added fullness. The brass, strings,
goes to Matthew Owens who paces the
May’s expressive cello work is especially commendable. Highest praise
work just right, keeping all his musicians in good balance.
Robert Moore, American Record Guide
‘probably the finest English cathedral choir at the moment’
Gramophone Magazine
Boys have sung in Wells Cathedral for over
1100 years; girls began in 1994.
The Wells Cathedral Chorister Trust
has been providing bursaries to support
choristers’ education since 2000,
recognizing that singing in a cathedral choir
is the best foundation for children with
musical gifts.
The Trust’s aim is to raise enough money to
fund all thirty-six choristers.
This is some way off, and it needs your
support to help us reach this goal.
The Trust’s website has more information
and provides an opportunity to make a
donation. Please visit it as soon as you can:
Royal Patron: HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO
Registered charity no. 1098277
© 2015 Wells Cathedral
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