Devotional Performance of Rutter's Requiem

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This Remembrance Sunday, the Cathedral Choir are singing in what will be a very special devotional performance of John Rutter's moving Requiem. The work not only sets the familiar texts from the Requiem Mass but also from the Book of Common Prayer, including a sublime setting of Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) and also Psalm 130 (Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord). The Cathedral Choir are to be joined by the Wells Cathedral School Chamber Orchestra on this poignant occasion.

Rutter says of the work: “Requiem was written in 1985 and first performed in the United States. Following the precedent established by Brahms and Fauré, among others, it is not a complete setting of the Missa pro defunctis as laid down in Catholic liturgy, but instead is made up of a personal selection of texts, some taken from the Requiem Mass and some from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The seven sections of the work form an arch-like meditation on themes of life and death: the first and last movements are prayers to God the Father on behalf of all humanity, movements two and six are psalms, movements three and five are personal prayers to Christ, and the central Sanctus is an affirmation of divine glory, accompanied by bells as is traditional at this point in the Mass. Gregorian chant is used, in fragmentary or disguised form, at several points in the work. Each of the two psalm settings has an instrumental obbligato, a feature inherited from Bach.

“In style and scale, Requiem owes more to Fauré and Duruflé than to Berlioz, Verdi or Britten. It is intimate rather than grand, contemplative and lyric rather than dramatic, consolatory rather than grim, approachable rather than exclusive. I suppose that some will find the sense of comfort and consolation in it facile, but it was what I meant at the time I wrote it, in the shadow of a bereavement of my own.”

Sunday’s performance forms part of Wells Cathedral’s World War One Centenary Commemoration. Admission is free and there will be a retiring collection in aid of The Poppy Appeal and Wells Cathedral Music.

Experiencing Chorister Life!

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On Saturday, the Cathedral hosted a fabulous, free ‘behind the scenes’ day, where children were able to experience the life of a Cathedral chorister.

Thirty-seven girls and boys, aged between seven and nine, came from schools across Somerset and beyond for the annual Be a Chorister for a Day event where they met the Cathedral choristers and participated in singing workshops. The day culminated in singing Choral Evensong in the Quire of the Cathedral with the choir. The children performed the anthem The Lord is my shepherd by Howard Goodall, helped the Choir lead the two hymns in the service, and learnt to process in and out.

There were also events for the children’s parents, including a tour of Wells Cathedral School and Tea in the historic Vicars’ Hall.

If you are interested in the 2019 event, please contact the Cathedral Music Office via If you can’t wait that long you may like to join Wells Cathedral Song Squad, for children aged 7-11, or Wells Cathedral Song Squad Minis, for children aged 5-6, which meet on Tuesday nights. Contact Tricia Rees-Jones via for more details.

An inspiring start to new music wells 78-18

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new music wells 78-18 got off to a wonderful start today with an inspiring concert given by two Wells alumni - Dr David Bednall (former Assistant Organist) and Oliver Chubb (former choral scholar). This was followed shortly after by Choral Evensong, sung by the Boy Choristers, which included the festival’s first premiere - a setting of God be in my Head by Thomas Nettle, pupil at Wells Cathedral School.

Chubb and Bednall presented a recital of music for organ and trumpet and, in keeping with the nature of the festival, entirely of works that were written in the last 40 years. The concert opened with a performance of North Star (2002), written by the festival’s composer-in-residence, Diana Burrell. A piece of great contrasts, it was an audacious opening item, clearly presenting great technical challenges for both performers, challenges that were overcome with conviction. Chubb impressed with his long melodic lines and it was immediately clear that there was a strong performing relationship between both musicians as they brought the piece to its bright and powerful conclusion.

The Burrell was followed by a performance of Bednall’s own Sonata for Trumpet and Organ. Written in 2015 for Simon Desbruslais and Stephen Farr, the piece was inspired by Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The music was imbued with the poem’s great sense of joyful abandon and both Chubb and Bednall dazzled in the exuberant passages. Equally, there were contrasting, more sombre sections which Bednall chose to set for Flugelhorn to great effect, the transition from instrument to instrument handled seemingly effortlessly by Chubb. The climax of the work was particularly exciting and demonstrated the great technical mastery that both performers have over their instruments.

The concert closed with Petr Eben’s substantial and evocative work, Okna podle Marca Chagalla (Windows after Marc Chagall) (1978). Eben chose four of the twelve windows, representing the twelve tribes of Israel (Ruben, Issachar, Zebulon and Levi). In expressing the powerful spirituality of these windows, Eben chose to intensify their effect in sound by adding the brightness of a ‘real’ trumpet to the many colours available from the organ. There was real vigour to the writing here, matched by Chubb’s superbly projected playing. Even in the more spirited passages there is a sense of repose, of spiritual calm, that is very moving indeed and was handled expertly by both performers alike.

Later that afternoon first Choral Evensong to fall within new music wells 78-18 was sung by the Boy Choristers. The service included Malcolm Archer’s Berkshire Service (2003) as well as the premiere of a poignant and reflective setting of God be in my Head by Thomas Nettle, a student composer at Wells Cathedral School; a beautiful addition to the treble voice repertoire.


new music wells 78-18

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Once again, the Cathedral Choristers are heavily involved in this year’s new music wells festival, which will see them performing in the world premieres of no less than eight new works! This year is the festival’s tenth anniversary, running from Friday 12 – Thursday 18 October 2017.

Building on the success of previous years, all music during the Cathedral’s services and at five special concerts will be selected from repertoire written over the last 40 years.

This year’s distinguished Composer-in-Residence is Diana Burrell, who celebrates her 70th birthday shortly after the festival. She will have two works premiered by Wells Cathedral Choir, this first of which is a setting of the Collect, Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord for the Cranmer Anthem Book, which will be performed at the service of Choral Evensong at 3.00pm on Sunday 14 October. Secondly, her new verse anthem Sing Alleluia forth in duteous praise for choir, alto and baritone soli, and organ will be given its first performance on Thursday 18 October at the 5.15pm service of Choral Evensong. At the Cathedral Eucharist service at 9.45am on Sunday 14 October, Wells Cathedral Choir will give the first performance of a new mass by Lord (Michael) Berkeley CBE, entitled Missa ‘O Sacrum convivium’, and at the same service the choir will also give the first performance of its companion motet, O Sacrum Convivium. The festival will also include world premiere performances of works by William Drakett, Barnaby Martin and Kerensa Briggs, as well as Thomas Nettle and Rebecca Farthing, both of whom are students at Wells Cathedral School.


In other events, Michael Berkeley CBE – presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions will be in conversation with fellow composer Diana Burrell, on Wednesday 17 October: Composer Conversations with Michael Berkeley begins at 2.30pm in the Quilter Hall, Wells Cathedral School. Diana Burrell will give a public composition masterclass in Cedars Hall on the afternoon of Thursday 18 October, working with students from Wells Cathedral School. Admission to all of these events is free.

There will be five lunchtime concerts during the week, all starting at 1.05pm in the North Transept of the Cathedral: a recital of music for trumpet and organ on Friday 12 (with Oliver Chubb and David Bednall); students from Wells Cathedral School will give lunchtime recitals on Monday 15, Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 October, including music by the school’s student composers. Finally, Wells Cathedral’s Assistant Organist, Jeremy Cole, will give an organ recital on Thursday 18 October, featuring music by Judith Bingham (President of the festival), Diana Burrell, Tarik O’Regan (in his 40th birthday year), Lord (Michael) Berkeley CBE (in his 70th birthday year), and the first performance of a new work for organ and electronics by Barnaby Martin. Admission to all five concerts is free, with retiring collections to support Wells Cathedral Music.

Following on from the success of last year, the innovative new music bells will take place after Evensong on Sunday 14. The Cathedral’s bell ringers will perform the world premiere of a new bell ringing method, entitled new music wells 78-18 little bob caters. ‘Little bob’ is a class of method, and ‘caters’ refers to nine bells in changes.


Welcome back!

It was a great delight to welcome back the Cathedral Choir on Saturday for the start of the new academic year. The packed service in the nave gave opportunity to welcome the newest members of the Music Foundation; the new Probationers - Samuel, Alice, Estella, Sophie, and Petra; three new Choral Scholars - David Bevan, Peter Dockrill, and Edmund Le Brocq; and not forgetting our new Senior Organ Scholar, Harrison Cole. We offer them the warmest of welcomes to Wells.

It was also a delight to congratulate the new Head and Deputy Head Choristers who all received their medals of office at the service; Ross and Erin, the new Head Boy Chorister and Head Girl Chorister; and Tom and Madeline, who were appointed Deputy Head Boy and Girl Choristers.

Last but certainly not least, we offer our heartfelt congratulations to those choristers who have passed their year's probation and were admitted to the choir as full surpliced choristers - Woody, Charlie, Gabriel, and William. Bravo!

On Sunday there was more cause for celebration as Mr Alistair Tighe, the new Head Master of Wells Cathedral School was installed during Evensong. The Cathedral Choir was joined by the school’s Chapel Choir and Brass Quintet. The massed forces joined together for the anthem, Parry’s ever-stirring I was glad - it was something spectacular and a wonderful welcome for Mr Tighe, to which we add our own heartfelt greeting.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Tickets now On Sale!

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame is set to visit Wells Cathedral as part of a very exciting fundraising event happening this coming October! The great 1923 gothic silent movie is to be shown on the big screen in the atmospheric space of Wells Cathedral, England’s first Gothic cathedral. The musical accompaniment to the film will be improvised on the Cathedral’s great organ by David Bednall, one of Europe’s finest improvisers.

The concert will be held on Wednesday 17 October at 7.30pm as part of the Cathedral's annual new music wells festival.

Tickets Prices:
Front Seating Area - £20/£15 (£10 for under 18s)
Rear Seating Area - £10 (£5 for under 18s)

Running time: 102 minutes plus 20 minute interval, during which refreshments will be served.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Universal’s 1923 version of Victor Hugo’s novel, was one of the great super-productions of its day. The film makers built a life-size façade of the great French cathedral which, along with numerous other sets representing medieval Paris, took a year to build and remained in the Universal lot as an attraction for years to come. The film starred the great silent movie icon, Lon Chaney as Quasimodo, the cathedral’s spectacularly deformed bell-ringer, not to mention a huge cast of up to 3,500 extras!

The film is ultimately a tragic-triumphant story and was a huge success in its time. Lon Chaney’s performance is extraordinary; despite being hampered by a large amount of make-up, a body brace, and a total lack of dialogue, the attention to detail that Chaney puts into his acting is often more stunning that the film’s architecture. Together with veteran director, Wallace Worsley, Norman Kerry (a major talent of the day who plays the part of Phoebus), and young rising star, Patsy Ruth Miller (who plays Esmeralda), they took a classic story of archetypal heroism and love, and created an indelible piece of art that remains breath-taking in its scope and vision.

David Bednall has established an international reputation as an exciting and virtuosic organist and is particularly noted for his skills as an improviser, especially in providing the soundtrack to silent films. Bednall was formerly the Assistant Organist at Wells Cathedral and is now a Bristol-based performer, composer, and lecturer. His improvised organ accompaniments to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the Oxford Festival of the Arts and The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Bristol Film Festival were both sell-out performances and widely acclaimed. He has also performed improvised soundtracks to Faust, Metropolis, and J’accuse.

a fundraising event

The showing of this film is a fund-raising event for Wells Cathedral Chorister Trust. The Trust helps young singers from all backgrounds to train in a world-class musical environment. The Trust wants to be able to give any child with musical talents the opportunity to enjoy a unique all-round education at a specialist music school.

“Choristership: the single greatest leg-up a child can be given in life”
Alexander Armstrong
Television Presenter, Actor and Comedian

The gift to make music is innate and found everywhere, regardless of wealth and circumstance. Our responsibility is to give any child with musical promise the chance to benefit from this remarkable training for life.

To achieve our goal, we are seeking donations to build up our endowment and create a fund large enough to provide scholarships and bursaries in perpetuity. Only this level of financial support will ensure that no gifted child misses this opportunity. Please explore our website (link above) to find out more.

This will be an event not to be missed. Book your tickets now in the knowledge that all profits will go towards supporting the choristers of Wells Cathedral.

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The end of a wonderful year!

Matthew Owens, Organist and Master of the Choristers, writes:

Congratulations on a wonderful year for the cathedral choir. I would like to thank, once again, those who have completed their time in the Music Foundation for their commitment, dedication, hard work, and magnificent music making in service to the worship of the Cathedral: Choristers Bailey, Xavier, Taylor, Harriet, Mimi Beth, Jessica, and Sophie; Junior Organ Scholar Nicholas Tall; Choral Scholars Mr Oliver Chubb, Mr Harry Guthrie, and Mr Finn Lacey; Senior Organ Scholar Mr Joshua Stephens, and Countertenor Vicar Choral Mr Tim Wilson. We also say thank you to Raphael and Eliza, who are leaving us at this point. We wish them all the very best for the future.

Many congratulations to Ross on becoming Head Boy Chorister; Tom on becoming Deputy Head Boy Chorister; Erin on becoming Head Girl Chorister; and Madeline on becoming Deputy Head Girl Chorister. They will make an excellent leadership team for the choristers.

The following probationer choristers are to receive their surplice at the first Evensong of the new academic year: Woody, Charlie, Gabriel, William, and Amelia.

Congratulations to the following boys and girls for winning the plus point competition for the Trinity Term: George (Junior Boy Chorister); Alexei and Ross(Senior Boy Choristers); Amelia (Junior Girl Chorister); Jessica and Harriet (Senior Girl Choristers).

Finally, the Dean often talks about how important it is for the Cathedral to connect locally, nationally, and internationally. It seems to me that the Cathedral Choir is one of the very best ways of doing this. It connects with people every week during term time in singing nine services to regular members of the congregation, visitors, tourists, and pilgrims. During the Whitsun and Trinity terms it also connected with former choristers (some travelling from the USA) in the annual Wells Cathedral Choir Association Evensong; it connected with the Diocese through one of its regular Evensong visits (this term to St James, Winscombe) and through the annual Diocesan Choral Association Festival; it connected with the world of contemporary music through seven world premieres of works by Stuart Beer (Tu es Petrus), Washington DC-based composer, Gary Davison (Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee), Barnaby Martin (Fauxbourdon Service), New York-based composer, Thea Musgrave CBE (Missa Brevis, and Collect for the Birth of John the Baptist), Robin Walker (Mine Eyes for Beauty pine), and Paul Whitmarsh (The Call); it connected with people – including via reviews in the music press – through the release of its latest CD of works by Gary Davison; and it connected with people across the world during its broadcast of Evensong to well over a quarter of a million people on BBC Radio 3, in the final week of term.

These connections do not happen automatically. They all come about through hard work, teamwork, and dedication. As I mentioned on the final day, when thanking everyone, the most recent Gramophone review described Wells Cathedral Choir as “a crack team” – and it is. But it is not for show and, therefore, one of the nicest compliments after the BBC Radio 3 broadcast was from the Producer, The Reverend Canon Stephen Shipley, who commented that the choir sang with so much conviction and depth, and that it was liturgy combined with music at its best. We strive every day to achieve our best, and will continue to do so. And so my thanks to everyone who has played their part in this last academic year in order to help this happen.

Congratulations on a fantastic broadcast!


Congratulations to the Boy and Girl Choristers and Vicars Choral who sang on yesterday's BBC broadcast. Matthew Owens had masterminded a wonderful programme, including music with an trans-Atlantic connection for American Independence Day.


The service opened with the premiere of Gary Davison's new anthem, Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, written for the Cranmer Anthem Book. Davison (pictured below) is a great friend of our Cathedral Choir (they have recorded two discs of his works) and we were delighted that he was in attendance yesterday to hear this first performance of what was a beautiful setting of Cranmer's collect.

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Gary Davison with the broadcast choristers

The Preces and Responses were sung to the setting by Howard Skempton. Written for the new music wells 77-17 festival, these received their premiere broadcast. We were also delighted that Skempton also made the trip down to Wells to attend the service.

The psalms were beautifully sung, with the choir's usual crisp enunciation ensuring that not a word was lost over the airwaves! The Walford-Davies chant for Psalm 23 was a real highlight.

Herbert Howells's late work, The Dallas Service, provided the settings of the Canticles. These were the last of over 20 settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis that Howells composed. The choir's singing was electrifying throughout, with moments of great excitement and drama balanced by great pathos (the work was composed at a time of sadness for Howells as his wife was gravely ill and she died a few weeks after its completion). An innovation in the Magnificat, found nowhere else in Howells’ many settings is the repetition of the opening words, sung by a two solo trebles just before the Gloria - huge congratulations to both Jess and Harriet for their sublime singing here. Equally, mention must be made of the rich baritone of Vicar Choral Craig Bissex who sang the opening solo of the Nunc Dimittis.

The anthem was Eric Whitacre's soul-stirring setting of the American poet e. e. cumming's glorious text i thank You God for most this amazing day. The energy that the choir sustained in their singing was extraordinary given what had come before (and not to mention the heat of the day itself!).

There was one final choral treat to come: following the final hymn (sung to the tune Cloth Fair by John Scott - another American connection...), the choir sang Matthew Owens's gentle Holy Trinity Blessing with its dream-like organ part and gentle vocal lines.

And now mention must be made of the wonderful playing throughout the service of Assistant Organist, Jeremy Cole. He brought proceedings to a conclusion with a bravura performance of Duruflé's Fugue sur le thème du Carillon des Heures de la Cathédrale de Soissons.

Many congratulations again to one and all on a broadcast that reaffirmed Wells Cathedral Choir's well-deserved place on the world stage!


Live on BBC Radio 3 today!

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Join the Cathedral Choir on BBC Radio 3 at 3.30pm today when they will be broadcasting Choral Evensong live from Wells Cathedral. There is a fantastic line-up of music, this year on an American theme to celebrate 4 July: Herbert Howells' Dallas Canticles, i thank You God by Eric Whitacre, and the premiere of a new anthem by the choir's friend, American composer Gary Davison. Do tune in!

Erin shows that singing isn't her only musical talent!

It was a fantastic Diocesan Choral Festival at Wells Cathedral this afternoon. Singers from parishes across the Diocese joined with the boys and men of the Cathedral Choir for a moving service on a theme of remembrance. There were some wonderful moments but a particular highlight came during James Whitbourn's poignant anthem 'This is my commandment' when Girl Chorister, Erin (who nobly came in on her day off!) played the Last Post with great poise. Well done, Erin! And congratulations to all involved, particularly those singers who received the Dean's Award for their hard work and commitment.

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