Song Squad at Evensong

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The Cathedral Choir was once again joined for Evensong last night by the Cathedral's Youth Choir - the Wells Cathedral Song Squad! The children joined the choir with great gusto for the singing of the anthem, John Rutter's exquisite A Gaelic Blessing. Well done to them all! And we look forward to their next performance.

If your child is interested in joining the Song Squad, then CLICK HERE to visit the cathedral website for more information.

Promenade Concert in aid of WCCT

We are delighted that the Tallis Voices, conducted by Peter Leech, are again putting on a concert in aid of the Trust. The concert will be given as part of Wells Cathedral's series of Promenade Concerts. These take place throughout January when the nave has been cleared of all furniture, allowing the audience to wander through this wonderful medieval space.

The concert is at 7.00pm on Friday 18 January and is entitled Regina Coeli: Renaissance Music commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary. It promises to be a wonderful treat.

Tickets are £10 and are available from the Cathedral Shop Box Office (01749 672773) or by post from Dr C R Lovell, Green Farm Cottage, The Green, Farmborough, Bath, BA2 0BA (please enclose a stamped addressed envelope).

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Wells Angels Scheme Launched

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Over the past four days, our choristers have performed to well over 4,500 people over the course of two ‘Carols by Candlelight’ concerts and the two Cathedral Carol Services. Following tonight’s Midnight Eucharist and tomorrow’s Eucharist and Matins of Christmas Day services, the total number of people who have been touched by the choristers’ singing will number well over 6,000.

To help secure the future of our Choristers and Cathedral Choir, at the Candlelight Concerts we were excited to launch our new benefits programme for regular donors - Wells Angels!

Regular support is best. It helps the Trust to plan ahead and assist more children, to ensure that Wells Cathedral Choir will be singing at the Christmas services and those throughout the year for hundreds of years hence, and thus touching the lives of so many people.

Wells Angels are a special group of supporters who want to help choristers for the long-term. You become a Wells Angel by setting up a regular gift for as little as £10 a month and each donor tier comes with various unique and exciting benefits.

Please read more here or download a PDF brochure to discover more about the scheme as well as the range of donor levels and the angelic recognition that comes with each!

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Christmas at Wells Cathedral

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We’re approaching that wonderful festive time of year that is Christmas; certainly a highlight in the lives of all our choristers as they prepare to sing to thousands of people over the Christmas period. Details of all Cathedral music and services over this important period in the Church’s calendar can be found in the Music and Services List for December here.

Key Cathedral concerts and services are listed below.

Carols by Candlelight Concerts

Thursday 20 and Friday 21 December, 7.00pm

Wonderful feasts of seasonal music and readings sung by the Cathedral Choir in the nave of Wells Cathedral, lit by over 3500 candles. These extreme popular events are almost sold out but you might be lucky enough to get one of the few remaining seats by calling the Cathedral Box Office on 01749 672773.

Wells Cathedral Carol Services

Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 December, 6.00pm

Wells Cathedral’s carol services, previously named by Classic FM magazine as the ‘Top choice’ in the South West, take place on two days. Both services will start at 6.00pm. There will be plenty of congregational carols, as well as beautiful singing from the Cathedral Choir, and festive readings. There is no entry charge and it is suggested people may wish to arrive early as it is very popular. The doors open at 5.00pm. and we request that you are be seated by 5.40pm.

Eucharist of Christmas Night

Monday 24 December, 11.00pm

Midnight Mass sung by the Cathedral Choir. THIS SERVICE STARTS AT 11PM with Welcome at 10.55pm.

Tuesday 25 December (Christmas Day) services (the Cathedral is open until 1.00pm):

9.30am: Cathedral Eucharist
11.30am: Choral Matins

Cover Disc Special!

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The Cathedral Choir was specially selected to record music for this year’s Christmas cover CD for the December issue of BBC Music Magazine. The CD includes five previously recorded pieces, along with fourteen other works which were recorded by the choristers and Vicars Choral over two nights in early October. The December edition should be available in the shops from tomorrow (29 November). Be sure to get your copy!

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.

What a week that was!

The Cathedral’s festival new music wells 78-18 preceded the choir’s half-term break, and what a week it was! In its tenth anniversary year, the festival saw the choir performing in eight world premieres! And of course, building on the success of previous years, all music during the Cathedral’s services was selected from repertoire written over the last 40 years.

There were many highlights. This year’s distinguished Composer-in-Residence was Diana Burrell, who celebrated her 70th birthday shortly after the festival. She had two works premiered by Wells Cathedral Choir: a setting of the Collect, Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord (written for the Cranmer Anthem Book) and secondly, her new verse anthem Sing Alleluia forth in duteous praise for choir, alto and baritone soli, and organ which was given its premiere performance at the final service of the festival. This latter work was a real tour de force for the choir and organ, and particular credit must go to Mr Stephen Harvey and Mr Christopher Sheldrake, the Vicars Choral who sang the challenging solo parts.

At the Cathedral Eucharist service on Sunday 14 October, the choir also gave the first performance of a new mass by Lord (Michael) Berkeley CBE, entitled Missa ‘O Sacrum convivium’, as well as the first performance of its companion motet, O Sacrum Convivium. Again, these works were not without their challenges and the choir delivered committed premiere performances of each.

The festival also included world premiere performances of a wonderful new choral work by young composer, Kerensa Briggs, as well as two new anthems by Thomas Nettle and Rebecca Farthing, both of whom are students at Wells Cathedral School. Many congratulations to both the choir for their performance and to these young composers for their exciting new works; we look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

There were also five lunchtime recitals: a recital of music for trumpet and organ given by Oliver Chubb and David Bednall; students from Wells Cathedral School gave three lunchtime recitals, which included music by the school’s student composers. And our very own Assistant Organist, Jeremy Cole, gave a spectacular organ recital on the final day of the festival, 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 wonderful new work for organ and electronics by Barnaby Martin. You can listen to that last work by clicking here.

A New Deputy Head Chorister

Congratulations to Alexei, our new Deputy Head Boy Chorister

Congratulations to Alexei, our new Deputy Head Boy Chorister

Last week, amidst the excitement of new music wells, we said a fond thank you and farewell to the Cathedral Choir’s Deputy Head Boy Chorister, Tom, who is having to hang up his 'treble boots' as nature has inevitably taken its course. During Evensong, Matthew Owens, Organist and Master of the Choristers, and Canon Precentor Nicholas Jepson-Biddle, paid tribute to Tom who has given so much during his time as a chorister.

Equally, we were delighted that Alexei was inducted as Tom’s replacement. We know that he will carry out his enhanced duties with aplomb. Congratulations, Alexei!

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 musicoffice@wellscathedral.uk.net. 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 triciarj1@gmail.com 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.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL PROGRAMME OF EVENTS