Page 1

2018-19 – A YEAR IN REVIEW

FROM THE CHOIR OFFICE Welcome to this special edition of the Choir Association Newsletter, chronicling the activities and achievements of the Choir of St John’s during the 2018-19 academic year.

The College continued to champion the commissioning of new choral music from established and emerging composers, including one anthem by a current Chorister!

In October, we were delighted to welcome our new Dean, The Rev’d Canon Mark Oakley, who joined the College from St Paul’s Cathedral. We would also like to take this opportunity to say farewell to The Rev’d Carol Barrett Ford, Chaplain of St John’s College 2016-19, who took up the post of Vicar of St Martin with St Andrew, Kentish Town, London in July. We would like to thank Carol for her contribution to Chapel, Choir and College life during her time at St John’s College.

Former members of the Choir David Hill, David Pountney and Stephen Cleobury were recognised by the British Honours system, across both the New Year’s and Birthday Honours Lists. We are sure you’ll join us in congratulating them for their success and their support of the arts in the UK.

The Choir, Chapel and wider College celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the Consecration of St John’s College Chapel. To mark the occasion, the Choir released its latest album – Locus Iste – a recording of fifteen works composed since the Consecration. The President of the College – Dr Frank Salmon – wrote an insightful history of the College Chapel with reference to its impact on the Choir’s music-making, which can be found in the booklet for Locus Iste. Special services were held to mark the actual anniversary on 12 May 2019 by St John’s Voices and the College Choir.



The Choir returned to the Netherlands in December 2018 for a concert tour to mark the Christmas season, and toured across Sweden with a programme of music under the title ‘Give unto the Lord’. The annual Garden Party in the Master’s Lodge was an enjoyable opportunity for the Association to meet and celebrate the Choir’s work together, as was a special Evensong and Dinner for Choir Alumni hosted in mid-July. We hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter. If you would like to share your memories of the Choir, or have some news that you think would be of interest to fellow members, please contact the Choir Marketing & Communications Officer at choir@joh.cam.ac.uk or +44 (0) 1223 768176.


© Nic Marchant

The Choir Association of St John’s College

B Ealovega

New music from emerging and established composers On 25 May 2019, the Choir gave the first performance of Julian Anderson’s St John’s Service (see image below).. These canticles were commissioned in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Consecration of the Chapel. On 5 June, the Choir presented a new work by Anna Semple (see image left), a recent music graduate from the University of Cambridge and winner of the inaugural Composer Competition for the Cambridge Female Composers Festival. The work was generously supported by donations from Paul & Joanna Lindsell and Jeremy & Jodie Podger. The Choir performed new music from several composers this year. The Choir is grateful to the generosity of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College and other donors for supporting these works, and for their continued support of musicmaking at the College. Cecilia MacDowell composed A Prayer to St John the Baptist for the 2018 Advent Carol service. According to Oxford University Press, ‘the work sets an artfully crafted text that combines Thomas Merton’s eponymous poem with Guido d’Arezzo’s Ut queant laxis on the same suject. The organ’s flowing quavers represent Merton’s baptismal ‘rivers of water’. The Choir was delighted to premiere an anthem by one of its Choristers, ten-year-old Harry L’Estrange. His work – The souls of the righteous – was a joint winner of the Choir Schools Association Composition Competition in the Under 14 Age Group.


The year concluded with the premiere of Michael Finnissy’s complete Anthems & Voluntaries cycle, the result of his three-year collaboration with the Choir as Composer In Residence. The cycle was premiered in late June, and recorded in July for a release in 2020.

B Ealovega

Choir releases Advent Live In October 2018, the Choir released Advent Live, a compilation of recordings from four past Advent Carol Services. This service has been broadcast every year on BBC Radio 3 since 1981. The album features words and music composed and arranged by members of St John’s College, including former Choral Student James Burton, former Organ Scholars Stephen Cleobury and Ian Shaw, current Fellow Tim Watts, and William Wordsworth, who matriculated at St John’s in 1787. The Choir was joined in performance by Johnian violinists Stephanie Childress and Julia Hwang, whose debut album Subito is also on the ‘St John’s Cambridge’ label. Harpist Anne Denholm, who recorded Janáček’s Otčenáš with the Choir for the KYRIE album, also features. The Advent Carol Services are a very important part of the Choir’s year, this album providing an insight into the experience. Director of Music Andrew Nethsingha writes in his introduction to the disc, ‘A particular frisson comes from having members of the congregation surrounding the

Under Andrew Nethsingha’s inspired direction, the choir has retained its renowned clarity, flamboyance and readiness to take risks

choir, less than a metre away on all four sides, whilst the service is broadcast live around the world... In the 2016 service I remember finding that a distinguished former choir-member, Iestyn Davies, was sitting right opposite one of his current successors, Hugh Cutting, as Hugh was singing the big Gibbons solo heard here. You don’t get that kind of adrenaline in a recording session’!

The intensity of live broadcast gives this music an edge and vibrancy that can disappear in the normal recording process The Guardian

The album is available as a CD and digital download. You can also listen to the album on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.



B Ealovega

Locus Iste, the Choir’s 100th commercial album The Choir released its latest album – Locus Iste – in April 2019. The recording’s fifteen tracks reflect the past 150 years of choral music, chosen by Andrew Nethsingha to mark each of the ten-year periods since the Chapel’s Consecration in 1869.

A glint of sunlight, inspired and inspiring BBC Music Magazine

Favourites of the Anglican choral tradition such as Finzi’s God is gone up and Parry’s Blest pair of sirens are joined by commissioned works by Giles Swayne and Alex Woolf, a former Music student at St John’s. The Choir is also joined by cellist and St John’s College student Laura van der Heijden, who won the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition in 2012. The recording was also featured as as an ‘Editor’s Choice’ pick in Gramophone magazine. Andrew Nethsingha said of the release: ‘We are excited to be releasing the Choir’s 100th album, 60 years after the Choir’s first LP for the Argo label. This new recording celebrates 150 years since the consecration of the College Chapel and contains 15 contrasting pieces across that 150 year period.’

The album is available as a CD and digital download. You can also listen to the album on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

... this disc really soars, startling the ear into ecstasy with the sudden release of Rachmaninov’s Cherubic Hymn, the ‘bright Seraphim’ of Parry’s Blest pair of sirens and the ‘triumphant shout’ of Finzi’s God is gone up... Hopefully it’s a fanfare that will continue for another 150 years. Gramophone


B Ealovega

Cathedral appointments for Johnian Organ Scholars Earlier this year, we were delighted to hear that two Johnian Organ Scholars were appointed to prestigious positions at UK cathedrals. John Robinson (2002-05) has been appointed Director of Music at Blackburn Cathedral. He was previously Director of Music at St. Paul’s Choir School, Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

We’re also delighted that Glen Dempsey – former Herbert Howells Organ Scholar of St John’s College – has been appointed as the new Assistant Director of Music at Ely Cathedral.

John said of his appointment, ‘I’m absolutely delighted to be taking up the appointment of Director of Music at Blackburn from September’.

Glen took up his role in September 2019, working with the Cathedral’s newly appointed Director of Music, Edmund Aldhouse. Commenting on his new appointment Glen says ‘I am absolutely delighted to be joining the team at Ely Cathedral, with its fine organ and distinguished musical history. It is exciting for me to have the opportunity to contribute to that tradition’.

John Robinson

Glen Dempsey www.sjcchoir.co.uk

B Ealovega

CONCERT TOURS TO THE NETHERLANDS AND SWEDEN The Choir brought its trademark ‘St John’s Sound’ to Europe for two well-received tours.


This account of the Netherlands tour first appeared on the St John’s College School website: The Choristers embarked on a festive tour to the Netherlands with the St John’s College Choir before Christmas. At the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam the Choir performed an afternoon concert of Christmas favourites in one of the world’s finest concert halls. The St John’s Choir was accompanied by Herbert Howells Organ Scholar Glen Dempsey and two other Johnian musicians: cellist Laura van der Heijden and baritone Gareth John (a former Choral Scholar). Mrs Jan Fletcher, a


member of the Boarding House staff, commented, ‘The concert was a great success and the boys enjoyed performing in such a magnificent concert hall. We had a tram ride through Amsterdam with a stop off at a cafe for hot chocolate before heading off to perform live at the national TV studios.’ The Choir also performed at Tivoli Vredenburg in Utrecht, Kathedraal St Bavo in Haarlem (along with the St Bavo Kathedraal Choralen), Maria van Jesse Kerk in Delft and St Stevenskerk in Nijmegen. One Chorister enthused, ‘The tour was the best thing that had happened to me the whole time I have been in the Choir. We got to sing at so many different concert halls and, as well as the singing, we saw parts of the Netherlands too’.

B Ealovega


A concert tour outside of the UK is always a highlight for the Choristers and Gents of the Choir of St John’s. Their first outing for 2019 would be a short tour to Sweden, performing concerts in Örebro, Stockholm and Västerås. The concert programme was entitled ‘Give Unto the Lord’, after the Elgar work of the same name, exploring choral music in a variety of styles, from Byrd’s Mass in Four Parts to 20th and 21st century fare from Herbert Howells and Jonathan Harvey. Each concert was met with standing ovations and calls for encores by the Choir’s enthusiastic audiences, with the Gents singing their own arrangements of well-known hits like Surfin’ USA. The Stockholm concert was a particular highlight, taking place in the grand surroundings of Stockholm Cathedral. We were informed that it was traditional for choirs to ascend up the cathedral steps and sing in the organ loft with the Organ Scholars. The Choir duly obliged, maximising space in the loft as best they could around organists Glen and James to perform Walton’s The Twelve and Elgar’s Give unto the Lord.


B Ealovega

Honours Recognition for Choir Alumni The Choir of St John’s congratulates its Alumni on being recognised by the British honours system this year.

Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music at King’s College and former Organ Scholar at St John’s College (1967-71) has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to choral music. ‘I am profoundly honoured to have received this award. I have sought to nourish and support the precious choral tradition that we have in this country, and to be an advocate for the innumerable benefits of singing and choral music.’ – Stephen Cleobury


David Pountney, renowned opera director and former chorister in the Choir of St John’s (1956-61), received a knighthood for services to opera. David is an Honorary Patron of the Choir Association of St John’s College.

David Hill, conductor and former Organ Scholar (1976-80) and Director of Music (2003-07) at St John’s College was awarded an MBE for services to music. He was recognised in the New Year’s Honours List announced in January 2019. David is also an Honorary Patron of the Choir Association of St John’s College.

B Ealovega

Magnificat – the next recording from the Choir of St John’s Release date: Friday 25 October 2019 We look forward to releasing the Choir’s next recording – Magnificat – in October 2019. Magnificat invites listeners to experience the Evensong tradition as sung by the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge.

Magnificat invites listeners to experience the Evensong tradition as sung by the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge.

For this eighth album on the ‘St John’s Cambridge’ label, the Choir sings six settings of the Evening Canticles: the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis from the Gospel of Luke. As those familiar with services in St John’s College Chapel will appreciate, the singing of Canticles plays an important role in the Choir’s music-making. At services of Evensong, the Choir sings a different setting of these enduring texts, which have been said or sung at daily acts of Christian worship for over a thousand years.

Each setting has a personal significance to Andrew. The setting by Gabriel Jackson was commissioned by Andrew during his tenure at Truro Cathedral; Stanford was a Professor at the Royal College of Music, where Andrew had himself studied; Tippett’s setting was commissioned by one of Andrew’s predecessors as Director of Music at St John’s College, Dr George Guest.

Andrew Nethsingha has chosen Canticles composed by Stanford, Leighton, Sumsion, Howells, Jackson and Tippett for the Choir to record. As he explains in Magnificat’s booklet:

The Choir would like to thank the CD Recording Fund, in particular Mr Archie Burdon-Cooper, and our ‘Minute of Music’ campaign sponsors for supporting the recording’s production.

‘The album seeks to demonstrate the breadth of imagination with which composers have approached these enduring texts. Stanford’s starting point was the Germanic symphonic tradition; Howells took his inspiration from the architecture and acoustics of the Cathedral in Gloucester; Tippett was inspired by the unique Spanish trumpet stop [on the organ] at St John’s.’

The album will be available as a CD and digital download. You can also listen to the album on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Please contact the Choir Office at choir@joh.cam.ac.uk or +44 (0) 1223 338718, for more information about how to make a donation. www.sjcchoir.co.uk

B Ealovega

Obituary – Benjamin William Odom Chorister 1962-67, Choral Scholar 1972-75 Ben came to St John’s at the age of 8, where he joined his brothers Nick (1958-63) and Stephen (1959-64). His parents had met at Cambridge during the war, his father a Choral Scholar at King’s and former Chorister there under Boris Ord. Ben soon began to sing solos. His duet with his friend Michael Turner in the Monteverdi recording of 1966 was played recently on BBC Radio 3. It was a reminder of just how good they were. Ben went on to Shrewsbury School, where he met his future wife Judith who attended the nearby girls’ school. Then, after Shrewsbury, Ben returned to St John’s as a Choral Scholar. He joined some outstanding singers, a number of whom went on to careers in opera and professional choirs. He was known for his equable good humour. As one Choral Scholar friend recalled: ‘We were all quite laid back, but Ben took it to a different level’. Another friend remembered him as ‘a brilliant musician, very good looking, and with a beautiful baritone voice’. Following Cambridge, Ben took a job as manager of Church’s shoes in the Burlington Arcade, combining this with his singing career. Over the years he sang with many groups including the Monteverdi Choir and The Sixteen, and at venues from the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey to the Opera House in Lyon. www.sjcchoir.co.uk

In 1987, Ben’s first wife Judith very sadly died a few months after the birth of their fourth child Rebecca. Ben found himself both father and mother to four very young children, a role he took on with great fortitude and devotion. No longer able to work fulltime, he taught singing and piano at home and in schools, and continued to sing, conduct and play. Then in 1988 Ben met Janet, and his friends and family soon realised he had struck gold for a second time. They later married and were together for 30 years. They had two beautiful children, Jemima and Elliott. Ben was a born performer, whether singing or acting. He directed children’s and adult choirs and was an ABRSM examiner, and an accompanist and organist. He was loved by his many pupils. Ben was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s in 2015. He remained at home for a considerable time before moving into care in 2018. There were frequent visits home and to family, friends and musical events, and daytrips, holidays and singing with a neurological network choir. To the end he retained his sense of humour and caring attitude. Almost 200 people attended Ben’s funeral in Rochester on 11th June. Tallis’s If Ye Love Me was sung by a group of former Choral Scholars and other friends, and Richard Suart sang Wiegenlied by Brahms. It was a moving and fitting tribute. A friend has written: ‘Ben was a genuine gentleman, kind, thoughtful and sensitive. He was always fun to be with, a mine of useless information, highly intelligent and talented. We have lost a true friend.’ Contributed by Stephen Odom, Chorister 1959-64

B Ealovega

Evensong with the children’s choirs of St John the Divine, Kennington The Chapel of St John’s College was delighted to welcome back the children’s choirs of St John the Divine, Kennington for a special service of Evensong in May 2019. Both the College and School of St John’s College have developed a relationship with the Parish of St John the Divine in recent years. The choirs were established in 2013 with encouragement from two Johnians in the congregation; Jeremy Martin (Chorister 1992-96 and undergraduate 2001-04) and Tom Chigbo (undergraduate and CUSU President, 2006-10). The choirs visit Cambridge for a summer school every July. They stay at the College School and sing for services in the College Chapel with opportunities for enhanced music tuition and tutoring during their time. © St John the Divine, Kennington

This was the first time that the visiting Choir has sung a joint service with the Choir of St John’s. ‘It really was moving to see our children singing alongside this world-famous choir on an equal footing. We will never forget this service’, said Ben Vonberg-Clark, Director of Music at St John the Divine, Kennington, in an article written for the Choir Schools’ Association.


Choir Association Garden Party

Stephen Cleobury’s final joint evensong with the Choir of St John’s

The Choir Association Garden Party was another highlight for the Choir Association community, in which we welcomed back former Choir members, their friends, families and other supporters for a summer’s afternoon in the Master’s Lodge Garden. Guests were invited to join the current College Choir for a special Evensong in St John’s College Chapel.In the immortal words of Finzi’s God is gone up, sung at the service, the sound was truly a ‘triumphant shout’!

‘Guests were invited to join the current College Choir for a special Evensong in St John’s College Chapel.’


In July, the Choir of St John’s participated in a poignant joint Evensong with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, as it was to be the last under the direction of Sir Stephen Cleobury, who retires as Director of Music at King’s in September 2019. Sir Stephen was previously Organ Scholar at St John’s from 1967-71. The joint Evensong between the two choirs is an annual tradition, this year commanding a full congregation in the Chapel of King’s College.

B Ealovega

Bursary Awards from the Choir Association

Sponsor a Minute of Music on a future recording

The Choir Association is proud to provide bursaries to former Choir members who are looking to pursue a musical education at an external institution. This year, we were delighted to offer bursaries to the following individuals:

Help the Choir to release a recording of music by Michael Finnissy (Composer In Residence 2017-19).

Hugh Cutting has received support towards the cost of studying at the Royal College of Music James Quilligan has received support towards the cost of studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Jed Upjohn has received support towards the cost of studying at the Royal Northern College of Music. The Choir Association Committee meets once a year to review applications for bursaries from current and former Choir members. If you are interested in applying for a Bursary Award, please contact the Choir Office at choir@joh.cam.ac.uk or +44 (0) 1223 338718.

Farewells At the year’s end, we said farewell to some of our members: Choristers Jaylen Cheng, Lewis Cobb, Freddie Harrison, Toby L’Estrange, Philip Tomkinson Choral Scholars James Adams, Jack Bazalgette, Hugh Cutting, Benedict Flinn and Tom Watts Organ Scholar Glen Dempsey

Called Anthems & Voluntaries, the recording premieres Finnissy’s nine-work cycle of the same name, written for choir, organ, chamber organ, flute and violin. The recording is the culmination of the hard work, commitment and talent of both Choir and Composer, producing new music that is deserving of a wider audience through a commercial release. We are extremely grateful for the generosity of our Supporters in helping maintain the Choir’s commitment to recording excellence. How to support You can sponsor a minute of music with a gift of £100. In return we will: • Credit you in the recording’s booklet (for donations made by 21 October 2019) • Send you a complimentary copy of the recording as soon as it is released in 2020. Please contact the Choir Office at choir@joh.cam.ac.uk or +44 (0) 1223 338718, for more information about how to make a donation.

B Ealovega

A very special Choir Alumni reunion Evensong and Dinner In July 2019, Choir members past and present attended a special Evensong and Dinner, hosted by the Master and Fellows of St John’s College. Former Choristers, Choral Scholars, Organ Scholars, Lay Clerks and Volunteers of the Choir of St John’s were invited back to their alma mater for this event, celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Consecration of St John’s College Chapel. Many Alumni joined the current College Choir to rehearse for a service of Evensong conducted by Dr Christopher Robinson (Director of Music 19912003), and current Director Andrew Nethsingha in Chapel. As Christopher took his place before the Choir stalls, he found himself faced with a much larger Choir than usual: 76 Basses, 35 Tenors, 31 Tenors, 16 Choristers and 20 guest sopranos! The combined sound of Choir members past and present was extraordinarily refined, enthusiastic and hugely enjoyable for all involved as they rehearsed Stanford in C, Howells’ A Hymn for St

Cecilia and Parry’s epic anthem Hear my words, ye people. We greatly appreciated the support of our guest sopranos, who helped provide balance to our massed Choir! The service was attended by many more Choir Alumni, alongside their friends and family members, as well as both the Master and President of St John’s College. We are also delighted to report that the collection at Evensong raised £657.17 for the Choir Association Bursary Fund. The funds will be used to support former Choir members who continue their post-graduate studies at an external institution. Drinks were served in the Chapel Court for Alumni and guests following the service, after which dinner was served for nearly 200 guests in Hall. Grace was sung by the ‘Gents’ of St John’s, followed by a warm welcome from Professor Sir Christopher Dobson, President of the Association. Members of the Choir were seated by ‘eras’, giving our guests the opportunity to catch up and reminisce

with former comrades-in-Evensong. We were delighted to have been joined by so many Alumni from across the globe; one travelled from China; two from Germany; one from the United Arab Emirates and three from the United States of America. One USA-based Alumnus was in the UK for less than 24 hours, flying in to attend the celebrations before a swift flight back home! A special mention must be made of who we believe to be our oldest Alumnus in attendance, Neville Miller. He was a Chorister in the Choir during the War years of 1939-45, and in conversation with him, we learned that he had to keep his gas mask in his desk at St John’s College School! The keynote speaker for the evening was Dominic Collingwood (Choral Scholar 2008-11). Dominic’s address focussed on the importance of the bonds of fellowship enjoyed by our Alumni community, drawing upon the innovative approach and impact of the Choir’s activities. The Gents returned during coffee for a short set of a capella music, including the much-loved favourite,

Blue Moon. The Gents had even arranged for the lyrics to be printed on the back of the table cards, so fellow Alumni could join in should they wish! Our Choristers and younger ex-Choristers, meanwhile, were enjoying a well-earned feast of pizza and doughballs at Pizza Express on Jesus Lane. Chorister parent Sarah Upjohn reported that the boys ‘had a lovely evening… it was lovely to see them catching up and getting on as well as ever’. The Choir of St John’s College would like to thank everyone who attended for making the day so enjoyable. We would like to thank the Chapel and Choir offices and staff members across St John’s College for their great feat of organisation. We have been very grateful for the many messages of thanks and support we’ve received from guests in the subsequent weeks. There have been many requests for another Reunion event – this will take place in July 2024, to coincide with the 100th Anniversary year of George Guest’s birth. We hope to see you at a Choir Association event or service of Evensong very soon.

Matthew Cobb

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY Saturday 19 October 2019

Cantata Evensong

Sunday 10 November 2019

Remembrance Sunday

Saturday 30 November 2019

Advent Carol Service*

Sunday 1 December 2019 Advent Carol Service* Live broadcast by BBC Radio 3 Saturday 18 January 2020

3:30pm Annual General Meeting 4:30pm Epiphany Carol Service Tea 6:00pm Epiphany Carol Service*

Saturday 7 March 2020

Lent Meditation

TBC Spring 2020

London Drinks Party

Saturday 30 May 2020

4:00pm Garden Party 6:30pm Evensong

*Please note these services are ticketed.


The Choir Association, St John’s College, St John’s Street, Cambridge, CB2 1TP Pledge your support by sending a donation form or by contacting the Choir Office at: E: choir@joh.cam.ac.uk T: +44 (0) 1223 338718 Charity name: St John’s College, Cambridge. Registered charity number 1137428


Profile for St John's College, Cambridge

Choir Association 2018-19 Newsletter  

Welcome to this special edition of the Choir Association Newsletter, chronicling the activities and achievements of the Choir of St John’s d...

Choir Association 2018-19 Newsletter  

Welcome to this special edition of the Choir Association Newsletter, chronicling the activities and achievements of the Choir of St John’s d...