BBC Choral Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral

On Wednesday 20 June the BBC were with us at Christ Church to record Choral Evensong from Christ Church Cathedral.

The service was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 in their weekly Wednesday afternoon slot, with the choir conducted by our Director of Music, Stephen Darlington, and organ playing by Sub-Organist Clive Driskill-Smith. The full music list is available below:

Responses: Byrd
Psalm 104 (Hawes, Martin)
First Lesson: Isaiah 5 vv.8-24
Canticles: St Paul’s Service (Howells)
Second Lesson: James 1 vv.17-25
Anthem: The Twelve (Walton)
Voluntary: Toccata quinta (Frescobaldi)

If you missed out on hearing the live broadcast, or would like to listen again, the service will be repeated on BBC Radio 3 this Sunday at 3pm, and will be available to listen to on BBC iPlayer for a further month.

BBC Radio 3’s Choral Evensong is the BBC’s longest-running outside broadcast, and will mark 92 years of outside broadcasting this autumn. Its enduring popularity is reflected in the fact that it is one of the most frequently requested programmes on the Listen Again service on the BBC Radio 3 website, which, combined with listeners tuning in live on Wednesday and Sunday, means that around 250,000 tune in each week.

Göttingen Handel Festival

The Cathedral Choir have just returned from the famous Göttingen Handel Festival where they gave two concerts, the second of which was conducted by Christ Church alumnus Laurence Cummings. This spectacular concert consisted of performances of Handel’s Choice of Hercules and the Dettingen Te Deum with magnificent soloists and the wonderful Göttingen Festival Orchestra, one of the outstanding Baroque orchestras of our time.  Both of the choir’s concerts received standing ovations and glowing reviews.

Please see the links below for photos, reviews, and further details:

Review of concert in Duderstadt

Review of concert in Göttingen

Göttingen Handel Festival Facebook page

Review of concert at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York

We were delighted to spot this glowing review of the choir’s recent performance at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York!

I must admit that Christ Church Cathedral Choir–performing at New York’s St. Thomas Church 5th Avenue last week to kick off a final tour with retiring Music Director and conductor Stephen Darlington–knocked my socks off with the first part of its program.

The men and boys of the choir–a 500-year-old institution founded in Oxford, UK, numbering just 27 voices–not only filled every inch of St. Thomas with amazing sound, as if they were many times that number, but performed the first half the program of British choral masterpieces a capella, and did so without a hitch.

These works included alternated works by John Sheppard (c. 1515-1558) and William Byrd (c. 1540-1643), with a solo for organ by Buxtehude thrown in for good measure. The pure sound of the choristers–soaring here, haunting there–was breathtaking, most spectacularly in the selections from Byrd’s four-part “Mass for Four Voices,” dating from 1592, an extraordinary example of English renaissance music from the time of the Tudors, ie, specifically the age of Elizabeth I.

According to the program, this was the kind of music performed in Catholic houses, against the edicts of the English Church (thus, it was published secretly and without title pages). The four-part composition was divided in three sections (the Kyrie and Gloria, then the Sanctus and Benedictus, and, last, and perhaps most formidable, the Agnus Dei) and shows the composer’s significant dramatic range. With no musical ensemble to hide behind, the chorus’s work was completely exposed and, under Darlington, came across as vigorous, yet brilliantly expressive.

The second half of the concert was filled with what might be called “crowd pleasers”: in particular, works by Purcell and Handel. I was particularly taken with an unfamiliar (to me at least) Handel, “Zadok the Priest,” an anthem composed for the coronation of King George II in 1727, which has since been sung at the coronation of every British monarch and is known as a British patriotic anthem. It seemed an unusual choice for non-Anglophiles, like myself; but in this assured performance, it was simple, yet powerful.

As if to say, “Now for something completely different,” the choir ended the concert with “Love is here to stay” (also known as “Our love is here to stay”), written by the Gershwins for “The Goldwyn Follies.” It was the last song written by George Gershwin before his death in 1937 and, here once again, the purity of the choristers’ voices gave the music a very special, lovely quality that I’ve never heard before.

Music Director Darlington–in this case, the title means chief organist of Christ Church Cathedral as well as conductor–has commented that anyone who hears the choir “senses that every member is singing from the heart.” That was certainly the case at the St. Thomas concert, which was a fitting sendoff for one of the UK’s leading choral conductors.

Richard Sasanow, BWW, 11 April 2018

Please click here to see the review on the BWW website.

Schools sing out to celebrate 10th Anniversary Outreach Concert in Christ Church Cathedral

Six primary schools from across Oxfordshire joined pupils from Christ Church Cathedral School and the Cathedral Choristers for the 10th Anniversary Outreach Concert in the Cathedral.

A record number of people attended this year’s concert on Monday, which celebrated the fact that more than 50 local schools have been involved in the project over the past decade.

The children performed two pieces of music written by composer John Madden for the occasion.

Christ Church Director of Music Dr Stephen Darlington said: “When we first started this project ten years ago, we could not have imagined the huge number of children who have since been involved.”

The Outreach project is a joint venture between Oxfordshire County Music Service and Christ Church Cathedral School. It is funded by Christ Church Cathedral School and aims to encourage more singing and instrument playing in primary schools and provides training for music teachers.

The schools involved this year were Appleton, North Hinksey, New Hinksey, West Oxford, St Francis, Botley, and Christ Church.

Pete Hughes, Oxford Times, 28 June 2017

Please click here to view this article on the Oxford Times website.


Three Choirs Evensong – rehearsal in Christ Church Cathedral

Some photos of the rehearsal for the Three Choirs Evensong which took place on Saturday 6 May 2017 in Christ Church Cathedral. We were delighted to welcome the choirs of Magdalen College and New College to join us in singing the service. The combined forces of the choirs numbered nearly 100 men and boys, and they were directed by Mark Williams, Robert Quinney, and Stephen Darlington. Josef Laming and Alexander Pott played organ music before the service, and Clive Driskill-Smith played during the service and afterwards. We were also delighted to see among the congregation many members of the Federation of Cathedral Old Choristers’ Associations, who were visiting Oxford and Christ Church for their Annual General Meeting.

Recording session photos: Durante’s Requiem with soloists from The Sixteen and Oxford Baroque

Photos by David Lee


Sir Andras Schiff and Christ Church Cathedral Choir

Some photos of rehearsals for our recent concert with Sir Andras Schiff in the Sheldonian Theatre:



Christ Church Cathedral Choir – BBC Choral Evensong

Here are some photos of Christ Church Cathedral Choir rehearsing for BBC Choral Evensong, which was broadcast live on Wednesday 4 May this year.

If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to it on BBC Radio iPlayer – but it is only available for ten more days!

Photos by David Stumpp Photography.


Video Diary: Christ Church Cathedral Choir at EU Project Workshops

Earlier this year Christ Church Cathedral Choir sang at two very exciting workshops as part of the EU-funded Old Hispanic Office project. The focus of the project is Iberia’s early-medieval Christian liturgy – this is being studied by an international group of musicologists and liturgical historians who are collaborating with contemporary composers. In December 2014 a competition was announced in which EU composers were invited to write short pieces that engage with the work of the project. Twenty composers were shortlisted, and their pieces were workshopped by Kokoro Ensemble, Bristol Cathedral Choir, or Christ Church Cathedral Choir in Bristol and Oxford in March this year.

To see the choirs and composers in action, please click on this video diary of the composition competition workshops.

To learn more about one of the pieces sung by Christ Church Cathedral Choir (Effundum Spiritum Meum – I Will Pour Out My Spirit – by Benedict Todd), please see this podcast.

For further details please see the Old Hispanic Office project website.