“…speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit.
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord”
Lancaster Cathedral Choir in 2019
The Ladies choir at The Cathedral has a long and varied history and is very well established, with some ladies who have been with the choir for many years, and across two generations. In 2017 the choir invited male voices to augment the ladies, and the addition of the gent’s voices on a regular basis represented a considerable change for this well-established choir. However, throughout 2017 the gentlemen were warmly received and made to feel very welcome. Good progress was made in integrating new voices and adopting a slightly wider range and repertoire, and happily, the choir has adjusted to become a well-integrated mixed-voice choir. Beginning 2019, the choir number around 25 members with a wide range of age, experience and musical ability.
Recent repertoire has included music by Thomas Chilcott, Owen Alstott, Peter Thomas Nardone, Herbert Howells and several Taize pieces. Damian has also composed several unique pieces to augment the choir’s repertoire and also commissioned a piece by Malcolm Archer, which was performed in 2018 as a Lancaster Cathedral first.
At present the choir sings every week on Sunday at 10.30am mass, typically maintaining two sung mass settings. Several key members also sing at Vespers, which follows The Exposition of The Blessed Sacrament on Sunday at 16.15pm
2019 will also see the return of Clement Lee to Lancaster Cathedral as sub-organist. Clement’s profile is included in the Music Staff section
Lancaster Cathedral – Diocesan Choir
For larger events The Cathedral choir is always delighted to welcome members of the wider Diocese and this will typically increase the choir to around 40 voices. The inclusion of choir members from around the Diocese is a great blessing and one which we hope will continue to thrive. One of the highlights of 2018 was the privilege of performing music at the Episcopal Ordination & Installation of Bishop Swarbrick as Seventh Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster.
Lancaster Cathedral – A Parish Choir
In many traditional Cathedrals the choir members perform directly in front of the nave and are therefore very much “on show” - quite daunting especially for people who are naturally more reserved. Lancaster Cathedral, with the choir loft and organ under the beautiful West Window is more in keeping with the role of Cathedral Parish: the choir can be heard and not seen. This creates a more self-contained and safe space for the choir and hopefully that is reflected in the performances. That said, there are also times when it is nice to have the choir placed much closer to the congregation. For this the Grand piano is used and also, the arrival of the new Box Organ (see below) could allow this to happen more frquently.
The choir is delighted to have the assistance of professional voice coach, Charlotte Kempster. “Charlotte studied at Chetham's School of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music and at the National Opera Studio, London” Charlotte’s coaching has already helped the choir to advance in confidence and technique, making quite a remarkable difference with relatively little time and we very much hope that Charlotte will continue to assist us.
In September 2018 Lancaster Cathedral acquired a small box organ, also known as a Positive Organ. Commissioned in 2016, this was one of the last instruments to be built by English Organ builder, the late Peter Collins. These small instruments are to be found in many churches and will hopefully bring another dimension to Lancaster Cathedral’s music repertoire. Being small and portable, the organ can be used in the Cathedral Nave rather than in the choir loft.
Currently the Choristers sing primarily at Christmas and Easter masses. They are taken from the Cathedral Primary School and are chosen by invitation. They have performed music by Saint-Saens, Elgar and our own Dr J. H. Reginald Dixon. They number around twenty, with five chosen as senior choristers; some are former Cathedral Primary pupils who have moved on to secondary schools.
The Cathedral would like to be able to fund musical scholarships / sponsorships which would include active choir membership, encouraging and enabling talent to be nurtured in a Christian environment. For a young person, the benefits of performing music in a choir are well documented: confidence, discipline, the aptitude to work in a team, good voice control and an appreciation of harmony.
Former Cantors have gone on to serve as Choral Scholars at other Cathedrals those include Brendan Harris (Newcastle Anglican Cathedral), whilst others such as Michael Ramsden and John Williams have acted as Assistant Organists at their respective Oxford Colleges.
New Choir Members
The choir is always happy to welcome new members. Key to becoming a choir member is the wish to raise up prayer in song and praise to the Lord and sharing the enjoyment of the gifts of music and harmony.
Ordinarily, the choir meet to rehearse at 19.00 for between 1 and 2 hours each Thursday evening at Cathedral House with additional rehearsal at 09.45am on Sunday mornings before the 10.30am mass. Attendance at rehearsal is essential for the introduction of new music, especially where there are more challenging parts for the different sections in the choir. Whilst a reasonable level of attendance is needed to be a member of the choir, there is always flexibility and understanding of other commitments. The level of rehearsal tends to increase for the busier seasons of the ecumenical year with up to 6 hours per week and occasional Saturdays to rehearse with the wider Diocesan choir. However, if you enjoy singing the rehearsal times will be more of a pleasure than a chore!
If you are interested in joining the choir please come and have a chat with Damian after mass on Sunday. We are often in the social centre after mass, or you could ask the clergy or call the Cathedral office 01524 384820.