The choristers gave a fantastic performance on Saturday of Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo to a capacity audience in the North Transept of the cathedral. They sang with obvious enjoyment and exuberance and did real justice to Joseph Horovitz’s imaginative score. Congratulations to them all: to the many soloists, to the Senior Organ Scholar, Harrison Cole at the piano; and to Assistant Organist, Jeremy Cole for his enthusiastic conducting. The concert was a great demonstration of the choristers’ talent, skill, and expertise, and we are very grateful to all those who were moved to give so generously to the retiring collection in aid of the Trust. With your help, we continue to be able to support these talented children today and for the future.
Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo, Saturday 4 May at 1.05pm
in the North Transept of Wells Cathedral
Admission is FREE (with a retiring collection for the Chorister Trust)
We all know how beautifully the choristers sing for the daily services but here’s a chance to hear them singing something quite different in quite a different style! Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo was written and composed towards the end of 1970, the first collaboration between librettist Michael Flanders and composer Joseph Horovitz. The work is a lighthearted oratorio on the Noah story as you’ve probably never heard it before. The musical style of the work is unashamedly eclectic and exploits all well-known types of popular music, giving our choristers a chance to show you truly how versatile they are! This short concert is free with a retiring collection in aid of the Wells Cathedral Chorister Trust.
The Junior Choristers spent a fascinating time this afternoon exploring Wells Cathedral's library. They were shown many of the amazing and unique ancient books, as well as some of the early choir partbooks that their predecessors would have sung from. Many thanks to Cathedral Librarian, Kevin Spears for the tour!
The choristers took part in their annual Egg Hunt in glorious sunshine after their final service on Easter Sunday afternoon. Following evensong they were released into the Camery Garden to track down their Easter treats; and they certainly deserved them after a week of wonderful singing and exceptionally hard work - twelve sung services over the course of Holy Week, all filled with the most wonderful and inspiring music.
The week began on Palm Sunday with the first performance of Philip Wilby’s An English Passion According to St Matthew. The choristers did themselves proud, as did the whole choir. Particular mention must go to the four Vicars Choral who sang the main solo roles - Matthew Minter, Stephen Harvey, Craig Bissex and Christopher Shekdrake. They were joined by Head Girl Chorister, Erin who sang a number of challenging solos in her role as Narrator. Congratulations also to the other choristers who took the other smaller but crucial solo roles: Cecilia, George, Ross, Madeline, Miranda, James, and Sophie. It was an exciting and moving performance and one that was much appreciated by the composer who was in attendance.
There were many other musical highlights as the week progressed but perhaps the most mentioned of all by members of the congregation was Finzi’s Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice which the choir sang during the Three Hour Devotion on Good Friday. It was an exquisite and deeply moving rendition of this wonderful work.
The week culminated in Easter Sunday’s three services and the choir delivered glorious performances of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel’s Messiah, Elgar’s colossal settings of the Te Deum and Benedictus, Howell’s St Paul’s Service, and Stanford’s wonderful Easter anthem, Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem. It’s no wonder that the choristers were ready for some chocolate confection after all that!
It was heartening to hear that attendance at the Easter services was up again this year and more people than ever experienced the wonderful singing of our Cathedral Choir. Congratulations once again to them all and to their conductor, Jeremy Cole, and to the organists for the week, Dr David Bednall and Senior Organ Scholar, Harrison Cole.
It should also be mentioned that it hadn’t been a week of all work and no play: as well as Sunday’s Egg Hunt, following the services on Good Friday, the choristers were treated to a Film & Pizza Night at St John’s Church, Glastonbury, courtesy of the vicar there who also happens to be a Chorister Parent!
Holy Week is one of the busiest times of year for the cathedral and choir. Below is a guide to the services taking place during this important time. A list of these services can also be downloaded by CLICKING HERE and a list of the music being sung at each service is available HERE.
Palm Sunday 14 April: Cathedral Eucharist and Procession, 9.45am
The Cathedral Eucharist recalls the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with the blessing of palms and a procession into and around the Cathedral. The Cathedral Choir will sing an introit from outside the Great West Doors and a cantor will continue the tradition here at Wells of responding through the ancient singing holes behind the West Front (at 9.45am). As the service unfolds, the Cathedral Choir sings the story of Christ’s Passion and Death as it will be told throughout Holy Week. The beginning of Christ’s journey is the beginning of our journey too as we seek to make sense of the momentous events of Holy Week which have shaped the world.
Palm Sunday 14 April: An English Passion by Philip Wilby (first performance), 3.00pm
A devotional and dramatic performance of Philip Wilby’s passion according to Saint Matthew, sung by the Great Choir. All are invited. There will be a retiring collection following this event.
Maundy Thursday 18 April: The Eucharist of the Last Supper and the Watch, 7.30pm
As evening gathers in the Cathedral, the Last Supper and Jesus’ gift of himself are remembered in the Eucharist. Like many of the Holy Week liturgies, the feel of the Eucharist changes throughout the service. The Gloria in excelsis is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent, but after the foot-washing (all are welcome to take part) and the eucharist the altars are stripped as the choir sings psalms of lament and the sacrament is moved to a simply but beautifully adorned place, where, with the disciples, we are invited to watch with Christ ‘for one brief hour’. The Cathedral, in semi-darkness now, remains open until 10pm for prayer and reflection, when the final gospel of the day is read and Christ is left alone.
Good Friday 19 April: Three Hours, 12 noon
The first two hours of this service contains hymns, readings and addresses on the theme of the Passion, given this year by the Right Reverend Alastair Redfern, former Bishop of Derby. During the final hour the Cathedral Choir sings and there is an opportunity to walk to the cross and to pray before it, as the Choir sings. As the death of Christ is commemorated at 3pm, the service finishes suddenly and the congregation leaves, as so many fled the crucifixion. All are welcome to come and go during any part of the service. Hymns are sung on each quarter to allow for unobtrusive movement.
Holy Saturday 20 April: The Easter Vigil with Fireworks, 9.00pm
The congregation gathers in the darkened Cathedral before this service and the Light of Christ is kindled outside and carried ceremonially into the Cathedral. The Easter hymn of praise, Exultet is sung as the Paschal candle is set in the midst of the Cathedral and then dramatic hymns and readings precede the Proclamation of Easter. A candlelit procession moves around the Cathedral to the font where baptismal vows are renewed, before the procession moves to Cathedral Green for fireworks. There will be a party in the North transept, following the service to which all are invited to bring a bottle!
Easter Sunday 21 April: Eucharist, 9.30am; Matins, 11.30am; Evensong, 3.00pm
The three services of Easter Day will be full of the sense of joy in the resurrection, with music to match!
We’re delighted to share our latest newsletter with you. Our Wells Angels received their copies a couple of weeks ago and we’re now delighted to share it with our wider audience of supporters. With dates of not-to-be-missed forthcoming events, as well as news of both current and former choristers, we hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
There are two ways in which you can access the newsletter:
Hard copies will also be available in Wells Cathedral from Sunday 14 April.
Some of our choristers had a break from their lessons and duties yesterday to take part in a Shrove Tuesday pancake race, as part of a photoshoot with local media! We’ve been given access to some of the final photos and they are brilliant! Thankfully, the choristers involved were all expert flippers and there wasn't too much pancake to clear up from Vicars Close or the Cloisters!
With thanks to Jason Bryant.
It's been quite the day at Wells Cathedral! This morning the Boy & Girl Choristers and Vicars Choral performed the premiere of Stuart Beer's new setting of the Mass. It was warmly received by the congregation and is a wonderful new addition to the repertoire. Congratulations to both the composer and the Choir on a superb first performance!
On top of this, we were again thrilled that another of our talented young choristers has completed her time as a probationer and was today installed as a full chorister.
Shannon is pictured here with the Head Girl Chorister, Erin, and Assistant Organist, Jeremy Cole, who conducted today's service. We offer the warmest of congratulations to Shannon and her family and look forward to hearing much more of her!
We offer our warmest congratulations to Lloyd, one of the probationer boy choristers, who was today invested as a full member of the choir during the Eucharist at Wells Cathedral, where he received a welcoming round of applause from the congregation. We offer him our warmest congratulations!
Unfortunately the harpist for tomorrow's performance of A Ceremony of Carols has been working away and is unable to get back to Wells because of the weather. It is with regret therefore that the concert has had to be postponed. The choristers have worked very hard on this wonderful work over the past few weeks and so we will announce a new date for their performance as soon as we can and hope you will forgive us if it is somewhat out of season!
On Saturday 2 February, the Feast of Candlemas, the choristers will be performing Benjamin Britten's magical A Ceremony of Carols at a FREE lunchtime concert at 1.05pm. The performance will take place in the beautiful candlelit space of the Lady Chapel in Wells Cathedral and there will be a retiring collection in aid of the Chorister Trust.
British composer Benjamin Britten wrote his cantata, A Ceremony of Carols, during World War II while he was crossing the Atlantic in 1942 aboard a cargo ship. Since then, the choral work has become a staple for choristers across the land during the Christmas season.
The cantata is made up of 11 movements: 10 with voice and one for solo harp. It was written originally for a three-part boys’ choir, with soloist and harp accompaniment. Some of the carols are in Latin; some are in Middle English based on poems from the 15th and 16th centuries.
As the threat of World War II loomed, Britten decided to leave England in 1939 with his personal and professional partner, tenor Peter Pears. They spent time in Canada and the United States before returning to England in 1942. While in the U.S., Britten composed several major works. His decision to go back home was prompted after reading a collection of poems by George Crabbe called The Borough. Published in 1810, this collection was set on the Suffolk coast where Britten was from.
Britten and Pears boarded the Swedish cargo ship Axel Johnson in March 1942 to return to England. The voyage was dangerous with Nazi submarines inhabiting the Atlantic but the composer completed two choral works during the crossing: Hymn to St. Cecilia and A Ceremony of Carols.
The musical sequence begins with the plainchant “Hodie Christus natus est,” sung in unison and unaccompanied as a processional. That is followed by several poems from the Middle Ages that Britten chose to tell the Christmas story: from the jubilant exultations of “Wolcume Yule”, to the pastoral solos of “That yongë child” and “Balulalow,” and the to the martial urgency of “This Little Babe's” expanding canon - whose vivid "holy war" between the infant and Satan must surely have been inspired by the real-life world war. Halfway through the cantata, the harp solo “Interlude” not only unifies the entire work by including themes from various movements but also displays the versatility of the harp. After the harp solo, the choir continues with the chilling “In freezing winter night,” the lighthearted “Spring Carol,” and the joyful “Deo Gracias.”