For the latest amateur classical music listings in and around Portsmouth, including Fareham, Petersfield, Chichester, Havant and Hayling Island

Moment of history for Chichester Cathedral Choir

2022 will be a landmark year in the rich and remarkable history of Chichester Cathedral Choir.

Read more at the link below.


Review: The English Piano Trio at Chichester Cathedral

I’m sure this was originally listed as being Haydn and Beethoven when I first booked it. It’s not a problem at all that last night it had turned into Schubert but it means the world will have to wait for the words of wisdom I had ready to compare Haydn and Beethoven.

Schubert is the next stage down the timeline as the history of Western classical music edges its way forward. Some might say Romanticism begins in the early work of Beethoven but the late Schubert Piano Trio in B flat major, op. 99 is evidence enough for me that he was equally still a Classical composer, ‘late’ Schubert being written when he was no more than 31 with him being so prolific and another that leaves us wondering what might have been.

It begins optimistically, the piano sometimes the engine room and otherwise effervescent and rippling while the cello and violin exchange the roles of leading and following. The English Piano Trio are in their 27th season and one senses a polish and cohesion in their performance as a unit that is a great benefit of that experience.

The Andante second movement starts as a cello line of profound clarity, with Pal Banda’s rich sound, augmented and taken up by Jane Faulkner’s violin with Timothy Ravenscroft’s piano part redolent of a Mozart concerto. As a whole it creates a gentle sway and where Robert Schumann’s remarks, quoted by Jane in her introduction, are most justified, that ‘the troubles of human existence disappear and the world is fresh and bright again’.

The Scherzo is immediately dance-like, skittering and taking flight, making its way restlessly towards a smoother conversation between the strings and a unifying conclusion.

The violin cheerily introduces the Rondo which is marked Allegro vivace but could surely qualify as ‘spiritoso’. Sustained piano trills over a long cello note has music, as ever for Schubert, coming ‘as naturally as leaves to a tree’ as Keats said that poetry should until the movement gathers itself, led by the violin, to a joyous ending.

A fine, fluent account of a gorgeous piece set a tremendous standard that I’m sure will be maintained by the quality acts that Chichester gets for its Tuesdays.

All the seats are back in place, no longer spaced out in socially distanced formation, and although they’d prefer you to book a place online you won’t be turned away if you just turn up. It costs whatever you want it to cost on your way out and is generally worth more.


Music Scholars from the Prebendal School at Lunchtime Live!

2022 is underway and the young musicians from Chichester brought in the new year of Portsmouth’s lunchtime treats with a wide range of instruments and music. The sky outside was a clear Venetian blue that might have anticipated Vivaldi but a charming Miniature in D Minor by Gedike played by Inigo Abbott Barrington set a high standard to be followed by Caitlin Bailey’s confident clarinet on a Prelude by Finzi which was as bright and clear as the weather.

One of a number of impressive aspects of the show was the number of scholars appearing twice on different instruments. Scarlett Gladman’s singing on Homeward Bound, not Paul Simon but Marta Keen, was gentle on a folksy tune and she returned later to play Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring on the oboe with an authentically period reedy sound.

Isaac Hussey’s cello performance on Berceuse by Amy Beach was well organized before he returned later to be equally capable on the piano and then the enterprising idea of jaunty jazz on tenor horn was made convincing by James Parker on Philip Sparke’s Rhode Island Rag. James was to return to sing some Parry very effectively as his second offering.

It’s not often I have fifteen names to mention and I can’t mention some without paying tribute to them all and it turns out to be seventeen really so, with apologies, there’s no hanging around or extraneous filler here today.

Cradle Song by Ni Hongin was captured from its dreamy beginnings to some awakening on piano by Matilda Stone and although I’m very much not going to nominate a highlight among such an accomplished cast of musicians, Dolly Vann’s interpretation of With You, from Ghost, the Musical, was very moving and expressive. I’ll have to look that one up as one of several pieces that were new to me.

Daniel Waldren’s clarinet technique did well with the challenges of Fantasy Piece by Carl Nielsen which might have been one of the most difficult pieces played.

I’ve looked up to find a translation of Blaž Pucihar’s Z Eriko na igrišču from Flavta se igra and found it means ‘at the playground with Erika’, which makes sense given Matilda Wyatt’s lively, lightsome flute.

Baroque is not an easy option but it was great to hear Joseph Youngs on the opening to the great Well-Tempered Klavier, there’s plenty more of that to be getting on with, as well as Holly Eitel’s famous piece of Purcell that caught its glorious upward surge.

Inigo came back as a singer and used the sympathetic acoustic of the St. Thomas chapel with his top notes in Mozart’s Benedictus from k. 220 and Caitlin added some Debussy piano to her earlier clarinet so that, as with the others, it wasn’t possible to tell which was her ‘first’ instrument. If indeed any of them take priority over others but I understood that one begins to study a second instrument after reaching a certain level on one’s first.

Matilda came back on the oboe with a swing-along Italian Dance by Madeline Dring before we finished not with a bang but Daniel on piano with an impressionistic Lavender Field by Karen Tanaka.

I think that’s the fifteen but special credit should go to Mr. Collings and Mr. Pilgrim, teachers not having given names by tradition in school, whose accompaniments were well-judged and it must be a pleasure for them to have such talent to worth with and encourage.

Some performances grew from uncertainties towards more confidence and others were self-effacing enough to dispense with taking a bow in their haste to get off. I can sympathize with all of that. If I don’t have to read a poem in front of an audience ever again that will be soon enough for me. Perhaps such a concert is about development, promise and potential and perhaps there were future accountants as well as, obviously, musicians among the scholars but there’s no time like the present and they’re doing it now and there’s nothing better than that.


Review: Solent Baroque ensemble at Lunchtime Live! at Portsmouth Cathedral

At their recent Lunchtime Live! recital at Portsmouth Cathedral, Solent Baroque had unforeseen problems with their harpsichord which was a shame for those in search of ‘authenticity but the show must go on and I can’t say it caused any grief having piano continuo instead.

Handel’s Sonata in F major, HWV 389 was alternatively cool streams flowing through Palladian gardens and merry dances. The main line is shared about between recorder, violin, cello and continuo and made me think if trad jazz with Veronica Price’s violin as Humph’s trumpet, Jen Flatman’s recorder as Wally Fawkes flying off elsewhere but it’s a loose comparison.

Karen Kingsley was involved throughout as the pieces used different combinations of instruments. Perhaps Emma Sharrock might do some of a Cello Suite at halfway one day to give her a rest but she didn’t seem to mind as was rewarded with a Bach solo in the Allegro from the Italian Concerto which rattled along with its own energy, most notably with extended trills in the right hand while the left dashed around the basement. Bach is surely in a league of his own and I’ve got to save any further eulogies about him for the forthcoming Christmas Oratorio but it was great to see Karen do this after her very different Aubade played with the Grammar School students recently.

Blavet (1700-1768) was a new name for me, Jen’s recorder like organ pipes in the top range of his Menuet and Variation while somehow providing its own augmentation as, for example, the violin does in a Bach Partita. Loeillet was, too. I’m glad I checked on him because he wasn’t part of the huge French contingent from Lully to Rameau but Flemish and ‘of London’. For his Trio Sonata no. 2 in F major, Jen brought out the tenor recorder with its softer, woodier sound. The cello found its way to greater prominence in the Allegro and, as officially my favourite instrument, I was grateful and think we should have more of it both in Solent Baroque and everywhere else. Veronica’s violin shone brightly in the Allegro.

More Bach in the Sinfonia from Cantata no. 156 was violin and piano, effortlessly moving with Veronica achieving a sonorous tone. I don’t know if it’s because it’s Bach that it makes the instrument sound even better. I’m sure actors sound better doing Shakespeare than they do in Harold Pinter.

Telemann’s reputation might have been greater than Bach’s in their day which was probably fine by him. One of the busiest composers in history, one would think, from his output. It’s possible he was the main ‘ideas man’ of what was a prolific hit factory. The Largo of the Trio Sonata had violin and recorder in conversation, weaving in and out of each other’s lines. The cello led off and bossed the Vivace and, for all one could tell, might have been bickering with the violin. I’d not seen Affetuoso as a marking before and was told it was a Telemann thing. It’s not ‘affected’ as one with insufficient Italian might guess. That would give the violin licence to milk it like Andre Rieu. It’s tender, or passionate, a bit more restrained, and that’s what Veronica did. In the Allegro, recorder and violin were involved in a sprint to the line which it looked like Jen might be winning with a few more notes to play but as is to be expected in such a harmonious thing, they finished together.

Solent Baroque are a pleasure, art for art’s sake and doing it with an obvious love of it which one would like to think is the best if not the only reason. Get there if you can if they play anywhere near you.


Review: Simone Tavoni at Chichester Cathedral

Simone Tavoni’s piano recital today might be seen as two halves, one ‘classical’ and the other ‘romantic’.

Four pieces from Clementi’s Mon Ferrina, op. 39 were, he explained, by way of preparation for a competition. The first was light, the second more of a march, the third hinting towards the Mozart to come and the fourth gentler, even pensive. I hope the judges are suitably impressed by some dazzling fluency in what was pretty music, Clementi so often seeming to be used as exercises more than concert pieces.

Mozart is inevitably more involving. The first movement of the Sonata no. 14, k. 457 contrasted the serenity coupled with surges of energy and runs in the right hand with more stridency in the left. The second is an Adagio with a reassuring, warm caress that in turn looks forward perhaps to Chopin, the sonata being ‘almost romantic’ in Simone’s words. The programme had a convincing narrative behind it. The Allegro assai to finish was more forte and less flowing, even abrupt in its changes. It’s possible to see Simone as a lyrical pianist bringing out the C19th drama in Mozart’s C18th music but we were robbed of the second half of what Mozart might have written had he lived to three score years and ten and that’s what it might have developed into.

Much less well-known is Moszkowski (1854-1925) but on the evidence of the two pieces here, he belongs alongside Chopin. I suspect the programme of listing these in the wrong order. The first was expansive and lyrical while the second was the duskier and poignant, finding an eventual calm resting place. Au Crepescule was listed ahead of Poème de Mai but I think they might have been played in reverse order. The poem sounded the more crepuscular to me.

Chopin’s Rondo, op. 16 began tentatively before a top note blitzed us into stormier territory. It’s unsettled if not quite unsettling, melodic lines appearing in the busy, busy right hand. There’s often twice the value in a view of the keyboard and being able to watch such fluency that you wouldn’t appreciate from the wrong side or from further back. The Rondo didn’t end with a flourish as a gesture but it had been doing all its flourishing throughout, often sounding like a big ending when none of them were.

As an encore, Simone played a Toccata by Frescobaldi, written well before the invention of the pianoforte and thus for organ if not harpsichord. Such music entirely works on piano even if its composer had no knowledge that the instrument would one day be invented. After some lively exploration of its themes, it resolved itself to an undemonstrative ending and left me wondering whether Buxtehude’s organ music has ever been played on piano. I’m going to try to find out and if it hasn’t, maybe I’ll suggest the idea and see if it’s likely to work.

With all best wishes to Simone in his forthcoming competition. I heard the finalists in this year’s Leeds event and have no idea how anybody can find fault with any such musicians. There are no losers, really, or there shouldn’t be.


Musicians from Portsmouth Grammar School at Lunchtime Live!

In a late change to the advertised programme, it turned out not to be our local piano superstar, Angelina Kopyrina with her fiery Rachmanninov that I and my select entourage saw today, but Angelina can be saved for another time and, by happy accident, we had a different sort of treat at Lunchtime Live! at Portsmouth Cathedral on 4 November.

Karen Kingsley, Head of Keyboard at PGS and surely a profound influence on these young musicians, did the honourable thing by going on first, possibly so that nobody else had to. Peter Copley’s Aubade seemed to begin before sunrise in a disarmingly bleak opening but splinters of light from the top end of the keyboard broke through in what was an adventurous, modernist choice. Good Grief, when the composer’s date of birth shows them to be younger than me, it must be either me that’s old or them that’s young and Copley’s 59. It must be me, then.

That was surprising enough until the ‘kids’ came on. I thought Thomas Luke yesterday in Havant was amazingly accomplished not only as a musician (obviously and astonishingly so) but as a person for someone of 18. The three musicians here are a few years behind the likes of him but it was heartwarming, if not heartbreaking to see and hear the results of all the hours of hard practice.

Bach’s Ave Maria uses that uplifting riff most famous from Handel’s Zadok the Priest and then Daisy Sissons looks unassuming until filling the acoustic of the St. Thomas Chapel with her soaring voice. Equally impressive was her enunciation of the Italian in Gluck’s O del mio dolce ardor from Paride ed Elena, not something I knew but I’m always ready to make the case for Gluck, who only died two years before Mozart but would represent the ‘classical’ period gorgeously had he not been overshadowed by such a superstar name.

Erik Hillman played Jan Sandström’s Sang till Lotta on the trombone and, not being word-perfect in Swedish, I would have liked a translation of the title. Thinking that it might be about blood, given the French, I was entirely down a blind alley trying to make more of the resonant brass sound and moving piano part from Karen than was necessary. It just means Song to Lotta and makes much more sense as such as a love song so sensitively done.

Jason Shui completed the programme with his own show within a show. There’s nothing much more sensible in the piano repertoire than a Scarlatti sonata and he began with no.29, having been spoilt for choice, I’m sure, and brought it to life with what is often the part to listen to in baroque music, the walking left hand, while the right-hand thinks it’s doing the star turn. That lead, very naturally, into Mozart who, unlike Shakespeare, never blotted a line, is as close to a glimpse of heaven as we can realistically expect even in a cathedral and in the Adagio, Jason brought out the logic and mannerisms of some choice Amadeus in what had the makings of a hymn tune while I was inspired enough to cast my theatrical friend, Graham, as Mozart opposite my sinister, diabolical Salieri.

Very unfair it was of Peter Schaffer to give us that version of Salieri in his play. Salieri wasn’t Mozart but neither was anybody else. The merry Allegretto completed a fluent exposition of ‘classicism’ before first a swerve into to two C20th miniatures from Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives, which were fragments from a later world that perhaps didn’t seem to hold together so well, as by now we are well aware, and then, as any programme is well advised to, you finish on an upbeat with the jazzy, syncopated, slightly Scott Joplin, maybe even ‘stride’ piano of Fats Waller, with Sweet William by Billy Mayerl.

We couldn’t have gone over the road to the pub much happier than with that, with or without having seen the glamorous pianist from Moscow. It’s not obvious where hope comes from in a climate catastrophe with the most hapless vanity project in charge of our little bit of it, but here was some.

Thank you very much for being there, Daisy, Erik, Jason and Karen.


Review: Chichester Cathedral music events – Robert and Linda Stoodley

Performers in Chichester Cathedral at present have an imposing Moon to play under, Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon, which the likes of Pink Floyd might have envied.

One might have thought it fitting to gaze at such a thing during dreamy or slow passages but there turned out to be no such thing in the Stoodleys set and those astute enough to have found a seat with a view of the keyboard would have to save the Moon for later and be more enthralled with what was going on there.

Beethoven’s Sonata op.6 is pretty, twinkling and might plausibly have been attributed to Mozart, being early Beethoven and not the larger themed and more troubled or compelling later work. Nonetheless, the four hands shared the work as one unit as they were increasingly to do and, like Mozart was the other week, the star name did the job of support act for once.

Mendelssohn, Richard explained, ‘suffered nothing’ until the death of his sister, Fanny, after which he died soon after. Perhaps his lack of suffering is why he’s always such amenable listening and rarely dark but thus maybe not rated quite as highly as a few other major, major names. Richard and Linda changed places for this, with Richard taking the top end of the scale and both contributing to the torrent of notes that comes from their exchanges.

That was a fine thing but turned out to be something of a warm-up for a thrilling Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 by Liszt. From an ominous beginning, the programme seemed to be taking us chronologically to more shadowy Romantic thoughts, not immediately all that rhapsodic but for some yearning implications until the fast-paced circus with Linda in the engine room and Robert embellishing over the top, the Chichester Yamaha being turned into a jangle box of energy and enormous good fun.

That wasn’t just the highlight of the show, it will be among the highlights of the season and remain in the memory for a long time. It will be worth watching for the next disc from the duo because Robert told me this piece will be on it.

For many, I’m sure their arrangement of Gershwin’s An American in Paris was as good if not better, moving into the Jazz Age. Sadly, I’m not a Gershwin man, just not ‘getting it’ but at least having him ahead of Korngold, Bruckner and most of Wagner. That didn’t prevent me from appreciating an equally well done, and choreographed, performance and the intimate understanding they have of each other.


Profile: Adrian Green, singer, teacher, composer and producer

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career?

I’ve always wanted to sing and I was fortunate that the school I went to had a strong ethos when it came to music. Choral singing was part of day-to-day life and although the school wasn’t exclusively a Christian institution, assemblies throughout my education included hymn singing and whole school performances of major classical works, from Handel’s Messiah to Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Haydn’s Creation. The School choir also worked on annual opera productions, including Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for more opportunities to sing and perform, especially given that my school wasn’t a music specialist institution.

My music and singing teachers have all helped me to discover my voice over the years and, especially in the context of choral music, my time as a scholar at Royal Holloway College with Rupert Gough was critical in preparing me to take up a Lay Clerk position at Portsmouth Cathedral, which I’ve held since 2008.

In terms of music education, I spent a gap year working in Sydney at a primary school in 2004. Whilst I decided at the time not to go into full-time teaching, this role did inspire me to continue to work in music education, specifically through administrating and delivering Portsmouth Cathedral’s singing partnership programme (2008-), Cathedral Sing. This work involves inspiring primary children to sing in classrooms and choir stalls and it continues to flourish with the support of Portsmouth Cathedral and support from many other charities and trusts.

What are the greatest challenges to being a musician?

From a career perspective, you’ve got to be good at many different things. You cannot afford to always say “no” to new things or avoid things unnecessarily. Whether it’s solo performance work, composing, music or singing teaching, choir tour management, website design, accounting, or even tidying the office, all these things are part of a musical career. They can all be done musically.

From a performance perspective, I find one of the greatest challenges is to practise humility in making music. It’s easy when you’re singing to have opinions or ideas about what you’re singing or who you’re singing with etc…, and the ability to see these ideas and drop them when they are irrelevant (they usually are!) is really important. To quote Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” It’s the same with music and keeping this approach in mind helps me to be continually re-inspired by what I do (rather than expired!), whether it’s the first time I sing something or the thousandth time.

In summary, the challenges to being a musician are all about keeping an open mind and being present in what do you.

And what about Convivium Records?

Being a musician is about sharing music with others. When I first came to Portsmouth Cathedral in 2008, I was keenly aware of many of my friends and colleagues who were trying to establish careers in music. I’d developed an interest in recording at school and also at university where The Choir of Royal Holloway had worked with a number of top British Labels on commercial recording projects. With all of this in mind, I established Convivium Records in 2009. The aim was for this to be a self-publishing house for young artists and composers to be able to record and release music commercially. Over the past decade, Convivium Records has developed into a more traditional Label and works with both amateur and professional musicians and composers all over the world, whilst retaining a focus on the quality of production and a commitment to helping performers to share what inspires them.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?            

As a singer, I especially like performing Baroque and 20th Century music. Vaughan Williams is a composer who I’ve found particularly inspirational and, of course, alongside his significant compositional output, he was one of the editors of (and contributed heavily towards) The English Hymnal, which was and is a significant publication in the history of Anglican Church Music. It was initially in learning to play hymns from this publication that I taught myself to play piano.

What are your most memorable experiences as a musician?

Not so long ago I performed the tenor solos from Handel’s Messiah in a performance at Portsmouth Cathedral, directed by David Price. I first came across the work at the age of 10, when I was asked to sing some recit passages as part of a whole school production and it was during that performance that I decided I was going to be a singer. Some 20 years later, performing Comfort Ye, and Every Valley with Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, I experienced a being completely myself for a few moments and it’s in moments like these that I’m reminded why I do what I do.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be adaptable and willing to try out new things. Keep an open mind. Learn to play the piano.

How would you define success as a musician?

Contentment in your life. (Not necessarily all the time, but at least some of the time!).

What’s your next event?

During term time, my next event is likely to be singing evensong at Portsmouth Cathedral, as this happens up to five evenings every week! Of course, there are concerts and events and recordings and performances too, but if you want to discover something new and different, challenge yourself to turn up for a choral service in the building. They are free of charge and the music presented is wide-ranging and generally inspiring. (Most of the evening services start at 5.45pm, but you can always find out exactly what’s on and when through the Portsmouth Cathedral website!).

About Adrian

Adrian is a tenor Lay Clerk at Portsmouth Cathedral and also performs with Convivium Singers and the Charpentier Ensemble, as well as various other groups. As a soloist, Adrian sings with choirs across the UK and, occasionally, further afield. Adrian manages Portsmouth Cathedral’s “Cathedral Sing” music education programme across Hampshire and also teaches solo singing to people of all ages and abilities, both at Portsmouth Grammar School, and privately. As the managing director of Convivium Records, Adrian oversees the day to day running of the classical Label.

Visit: https://adrian-green.co.uk
https://conviviumrecords.co.uk
https://www.planethugill.com/2017/03/balancing-commercial-and-artistic.html


In Tune With Heaven: An Evening with Catherine Bott and David Price

Portsmouth Cathedral is delighted to present In Tune With Heaven: An Evening with Catherine Bott and David Price on Wednesday 29 September in Portsmouth Cathedral.

Join us in the beautiful and historic surroundings of Portsmouth Cathedral’s nave for this very special event with renowned soprano and broadcaster Catherine Bott as she interviews Portsmouth Cathedral’s Organist and Master of Choristers David Price about his passion for music and career as an organist and choral director.

The evening will mark David’s 25th anniversary at Portsmouth Cathedral and all proceeds will support the Cathedral’s new fundraising campaign – Sing Joyfully – which aims to raise the funds for our choirs to flourish over the next 25 years and beyond.

“Sing Joyfully” aims to highlight all the work the Cathedral does with children and adults to foster music-making in the community and the cathedral’s patronage of music and musicians.

Tickets are £15 (£10 for children) and include a glass of wine or soft drink. Doors open from 6:45 pm with the conversation beginning at 7.15:pm. The event will conclude by 8:45 pm. Booking link below.


Chichester Cathedral lunchtime concerts resume

At 1pm on Tuesday 23rd February, Chichester Cathedral’s weekly lunchtime concert series will resume, online, for five weeks. Details of programmes and performers can be found on the cathedral website or by downloading the Chichester Cathedral spring 2021 lunchtime programme.

Each concert will be preceded by a short talk on the programme led by the Cathedral’s assistant organist Tim Ravalde. You can register for these by following this link: Register for pre-concert talks on Zoom.

Future concerts:
Tuesday 23 February, 1.00pm – Charles Harrison, organ – watch this on YouTube
Tuesday 2 March 2021, 1.00pm – Tim Ravalde, organ – watch this on YouTube
Tuesday 9 March 2021, 1.00pm – David Alexander, piano – watch the pre-concert talk and watch the recital
Tuesday 16 March 2021, 1.00pm – Louise Salmond Smith, recorder, and Charles Harrison, piano – watch the pre-concert talk by Louise and watch the recital
Tuesday 23 March 2021, 1.00pm – Maria Luc, piano

Tim says, “We look forward to welcoming our community and beyond back to the Cathedral’s Nave for the irreplaceable experience of enjoying live music in person. Until then, we invite you to join us online for music by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Franck, Handel, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Telemann, Widor and more.”


Lunchtime live recital by Karen Kingsley at St Thomas’ Cathedral

Watch Karen playing on St Thomas’ Cathedral’s Facebook page, see link below.

Karen’s programme consists of two piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven. Firstly, his Sonata in F minor, Op. 2 no. 1 (Allegro – Adagio – Menuetto and Trio – Prestissimo). Secondly, his Sonata in E, Op. 109 (Vivace ma non troppo – Adagio espressivo – Prestissimo – Andante Molto cantabile ed espressivo).


Singing to return to Chichester Cathedral

The lay vicars of Chichester Cathedral will return to singing services from Sunday 13 September.

Earlier this year, the Cathedral’s choir, which is made up of six lay (adult) vicars and 14 (boy) choristers, were silenced as the country went into lockdown.

However, following guidance on singing issued by the Government and Church of England, the lay vicars will return to sing their first service at 9.30am this Sunday.

Read more at the link below.


Profile: David Price, Organist and Master of the Choristers of Portsmouth Cathedral

I was a chorister at Bath Abbey and right from the start was enthralled by the noise from the organ. So, I started with piano at the age of nine. In those days one needed to be proficient at the piano before starting on the organ; these days, it’s easier: churches are welcoming to new organists, providing a performing space.

I recall the pain of finishing being a treble and having to leave the choir. I really sympathise with the plight of boy trebles whose voices are breaking during the current lockdown: they cannot complete their time as trebles.

But I carried on developing my skills as an organist, playing in a weekly service in the Georgian chapel of St John’s Hospice by the Roman baths. Once admonished by the vicar for starting a hymn too slowly, I now always ensure that hymns go at a good pace! I also played the organ in my village church.

My big break was when I attended the Royal School of Church Music 14-day course at Canterbury Cathedral, when I tried out being a chorister for 14 days, and loved it.

By the age of fifteen, I’d decided to be a church organist. This was met with some scepticism, though also support, by my parents.

Who have been the main influencers on your decision to pursue a career in music?

Marcus Sealy was assistant organist at Bath Abbey for 42 years, and a superb role model: he introduced interesting repertoire, and was a great accompanist.

I studied music at Trinity College, London. This was originally established as a training college for church musicians. It has some fabulous stained-glass windows with images of music in the context of worship.

I attended daily evensongs at Westminster Abbey. Its assistant organist Andrew Lumsden, now director of music at Winchester Cathedral, was also greatly influential, encouraging me to observe him playing its great instrument. Christopher Stokes (Organist of St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey) showed me how to be a grounded church musician, leading choirs as well as playing the organ extremely well.

After in the course of my studies I did an apprenticeship for two years at Croydon Parish Church, where I assisted with the running of a boys’ and a girls’ choir, followed by a stint as Organ Scholar at Rochester Cathedral. Barry Ferguson and Roger Sayer (now organist at Temple Church in London) showed me how to efficiently manage the interactions with the chapter and congregation. This was my first experience of a boarding choir school, where youngsters rehearsed and performed an evensong every day.

While I was at Rochester, we did some great tours to France, Germany and Switzerland – these were early days for choirs going abroad – which included some recordings. For my sins as the organ scholar I was the tour librarian, with quite a challenge to ensure that all the music needed for two weeks away was available! This was before the days of bespoke booklets.

I can recall how I had to play at a service in Trier Cathedral at short notice. Roger Sayer is a brilliant organist but he does not have a good head for heights. Its glorious and vast cathedral is set against a high Roman wall with the console 120 ft up in the air. In order to access the organ, one had to go onto the roof of the north transept, then descend to the triforium gallery down a ladder to reach the “eagle’s nest”. This proved too much for Roger. I also recall how difficult it was to synchronise with the choir, as they were so far away.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

After five years as Assistant Organist of Ely Cathedral, I became director of music at Portsmouth Cathedral, the youngest cathedral organist at that time. Young choristers need to learn the repertoire in time for the services, and there’s always a lot to do to arrange the experienced and less-experienced singers, as well as to manage the expectations of their parents.

Those early days were challenging, as I had to solve a lot of these challenges on my own, but we’ve developed strategies to improve things a great deal: there’s a whole supporting structure around the choristers, including three “choir matrons”, a librarian and gap year students besides the adult singers. The mixture of ages in the choirs gives them strength. The one remaining major challenge is around finance, especially because of Covid-19, where our income has been reduced by a third.

How would you describe your musical language?

I’ve a lot of interests in sounds, colour and textures, less on melody. I’m interested in the “stuff underneath” rather than a pretty tune, and how the voices interact with the texts.

How do you work?

Laboriously and slowly! I do envy people like David Briggs, who can Hear” music and transcribe a whole piece during one transatlantic plane journey! And cathedral musicians are still expected to write from time to time, for example if a new Bishop is being installed.

Which works/performances are you most proud of?

I am proud of my setting of the St John Passion we do most Good Fridays – much more of a prayer than a concert. Also we put on a Messiah every year, with the use of period instruments which always goes down well: it’s true to the original, with a neat ensemble of period instruments with voices from a wide range of ages.

There is a special relationship between the cathedral and the city of Portsmouth, with unique “threads”. I’ve been involved with many special events associated with the Royal Navy, including the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy in 2004.

On that occasion I led the voices singing a piece entitled D-Day 60: Valete in Pace by Harvey Brough in Caen Abbey, along with Fauré’s Requiem. The Brough piece was commissioned by Portsmouth City Council, and included a libretto by Lee Hall (he of Billy Elliot fame). It was most moving to hear French, German and British performers accompanied by the London Mozart Players. We also sang in the Bayeux Cemetery in the presence of HM The Queen, The Prime Minister and President of France.

Collaborating with Colin White from the Royal Maritime Museum, we recorded a CD with music to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Nelson’s funeral in 2006. We went on tour with it and also had it featured on an episode of BBC Radio 3’s In Tune.

This in turn led to repeat annual tours for the choir– I’ve actually completed 25 of these, culminating earlier this year with a visit to Finland.

The choir has been involved with various events on HMS Victory as well as the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the aircraft carrier, in 2018 again in the presence of The Queen. It was a particular delight to sing Byrd’s miniature Tudor masterpiece O Lorde, save thy servant, Elizabeth our Queen on board a Queen Elizabeth The First Class warship and to Queen Elizabeth The Second.

Over the years I have recorded eighteen CDs. I’m most proud of a recording made at Ely in the medieval Lady Chapel of the music of Restoration composer, John Amner which was selected as Editor’s Choice.

In Portsmouth we’ve been able to collaborate with two excellent recording companies; HeraldAV who have a huge international portfolio, and also with Convivium Records, run by one of our Lay Clerks that has been steadily building a most impressive catalogue over the last ten years. From these two I would select a CD of Plainsong: The Echo of Angels from Convivium Records – a selection of Gregorian Chant – music that is at the foundation of all Western Classical music and sung in its original form and context. Hear Missa de Angelis: Kyrie on YouTube.

The second would be a release in 2019 from Herald Av of the music of Advent and Christmas Verbum caro factum est– and for two years how this has featured daily on Classic FM. I’m hugely proud of all the young people, aged from 7 upwards who have taken part in these recordings alongside our professional adults. Hear Gaudete (arr. Fitzgerald) performed in Ypres Cathedral as featured on our CD on YouTube. The CD is available to buy via this link.

Are there any composers with whom you feel a particular affinity?

Given my comments about musical language above, you won’t be surprised that I love composers such as Jackson, Stopford, Gorecki, Pärt and Tavener.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Do it! Don’t be put off by relatively low salaries: it’s vital to find a job that makes you happy.

How would you define success as a musician/composer?

Feeling fulfilled and happy in a role.

There is something very special about being part of a community of musicians such as one finds here at Portsmouth Cathedral. Compared to jobbing musicians, for cathedral musicians here there’s continuity around the building and the rhythm of worship. And that is satisfying.

Continuing to work during lockdown

We are working hard to carry on with this tradition during lockdown via Zoom, which enables us to keep our skills sharp and to brush up on complex repertoire, although we need to get back together soon so as to craft the homogeneity of sounds. I’m part of a group of people working with the RSCM to advise church authorities on how to get music back in a safe manner. It’s hard work but we will get there. Here’s an article about my work with the Bishop of London’s Recovery Group.

If you want to know more about the music programme at Portsmouth Cathedral please take a look here. And if you want to support our work with youngsters whether through our choristerships, our gap year scheme or Cathedral Sing (our schools’ outreach project), take a look here.

David Price is Organist and Master of the Choristers at Portsmouth Cathedral. Before he came to Portsmouth he was Assistant Organist of Ely Cathedral having previously held Organ Scholarships at Rochester Cathedral and Croydon Parish Church.

During his time at Ely he toured Germany, Belgium, Holland, Poland and the Czech Republic with the Cathedral Choir. The choir’s John Amner recording for Hyperion was critically acclaimed and was the Editor’s Choice in ‘The Gramophone’ music magazine. His work with the choir also led to performances with John Rutter, The Britten Sinfonia, concerts at Snape Maltings, John Tavener, The Parley of Instruments and The Royal Academy of Music. Whilst at Ely he pioneered the use of the building for twilight tours using music, drama and poetry.

Since David has been at Portsmouth the profile of the Cathedral’s music has been raised to new heights through twenty international tours across Europe, numerous recordings, many flagship events with the Royal Navy and the City of Portsmouth as well as regular work for the BBC and ITV. The daily round of worship is now led by three cathedral choirs involving boy choristers, a dedicated team of Lay Clerks and Choral Scholars, girl choristers and a choir of mixed adults. The cathedral organ has been extensively refurbished and enhanced under his care culminating in the addition of a set West End en chamade Trumpets in 2017.

In addition to his duties at the Cathedral, David serves on the Council of the Royal School of Church Music. He served two terms on the Association of English Cathedral’s Music & Liturgy Committee and on term on the Church of England’s General Synod.

The University of Portsmouth conferred David Price with an Honorary Doctorate of Music in recognition of the significant contribution he has made to the development of music at the Cathedral and for his contribution to the cultural life of the city. In 2013 he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the Guild of Church Musicians and presented with this at a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral.

Recent recital venues for David include Westminster Abbey, Wells Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral, Chambery Cathedral and Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps and Trinity Church, Copenhagen in Denmark. His St John Passion for Good Friday was published by Encore Publications in a series of the gospel passions alongside John Scott, Philip Moore and Richard Lloyd.

He is married to Kitty and they live in an historic house in Old Portsmouth, though they can often be found with their dog Minstrel, in their small retreat in The French Alps.


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