Stephen Darlington in Oxford Mail article

Farewell to Stephen Darlington – interview in Oxford Mail

We were delighted that the Oxford Mail visited us to interview Stephen Darlington on the occasion of his retirement. James Roberts of the Oxford Mail writes:

One of Britain’s best known choral conductors, who directed the theme music for The Vicar of Dibley, is retiring from his job in Oxford after 33 years.

Professor Stephen Darlington has been Christ Church Cathedral organist since 1985 but is retiring this summer, with a series of events marking his departure.

The cathedral choir has gained international recognition under Professor Darlington, including performing the music for the BBC comedy.

In recent years the conductor has helped establish the Christ Church Cathedral Music Trust, which offers scholarships to choristers to ensure the choir continues to attract the best voices.

The conductor, 66, has spent half his life as Christ Church organist and admits it will be hard to say goodbye.

He said: “When you take on a job at that age you don’t think how long you’re going to stay somewhere.

“But there are certain moments you realise you’re conducting in Christ Church for the last time.”

In addition to overseeing the cathedral choir, Professor Darlington is Christ Church’s director of music and is in charge of academic music.

The choir has become renowned for its quality and variety and Professor Darlington revealed this was his aim from the start.

He said: “I’ve tried to commission a lot of types of music from different composers.

“The great thing about working with young people is that they haven’t got the established prejudices that one develops when you get older.

“They don’t have the feeling that there’s one way of approaching music making.”

Professor Darlington’s passion for young voices was one reason he helped spearhead the cathedral’s music trust, which is more than halfway to its £13m target.

The trust funds up to 100 per cent of school fees, including the £63,500 Stephen Darlington Organ Scholarship.

Professor Darlington said: “The object is to create the opportunity for music making accessible to all.”

One of Professor Darlington’s more unusual projects was recording The Vicar of Dibley’s theme music with Howard Goodall, who also composed the themes to Mr Bean and Blackadder.

The pair, both former Christ Church undergraduates, are good friends and as a result Professor Darlington’s choir was asked to perform the sitcom’s soundtrack.

It is one of many reasons the cathedral is honouring Professor Darlington by holding special events.

Concerts were held on Friday and last night, while a celebratory Evensong at 6pm on Saturday sees the conductor take his final bow.

The service is open to the public and will be attended by former pupils and singers to give Professor Darlington the best possible send-off.

He said: “I think they’re very likely to raise the roof.”

Please click here for the online version of this article.

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