Music from the Royal Wedding and more
James O’Donnell, conductor
Daniel Cook, organ
Gibbons Hosanna to the Son of David
Tallis Videte miraculum
Tallis Loquebantur variis linguis
Howells Like as the hart
Matthews To what God shall we chant our songs of battle?
Finzi Lo, the full final sacrifice
Walton The Twelve
Harvey I love the Lord
Parry I was glad
Mealor Ubi caritas
Parry Blest pair of sirens
The Choir of Westminster Abbey is directed by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers. It appears by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, and by arrangement with Karen McFarlane Artists Inc.
The Choir of Westminster Abbey
The Choir of Westminster Abbey is renowned worldwide as one of the finest choirs of its type. Comprising some 30 boy choristers (all of whom attend the Abbey’s dedicated residential Choir School) and 12 professional adult singers (lay vicars), the Choir plays a central role both in the daily choral services in the Abbey and in the many royal, state and national occasions which take place there. Notable recent events have included a national service to mark the Centenary of the Outbreak of the First World War and a service celebrating the life and work of Nelson Mandela, both of which were televised nationally, and the Wedding of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April 2011, which was seen by a worldwide television audience of over two billion people.
Westminster Abbey traces its early foundation to the mid-tenth century when a small community of Benedictine monks was established on the present site by Saint Dunstan. The following century the Abbey was re-founded by King Edward and a new church built. The present Gothic church was erected in the mid-thirteenth century by King Henry III, who also built a Lady Chapel which maintained a separate schedule of services sung by its own musicians. During the late fourteenth century boys from the Abbey’s almonry school were introduced into the Lady Chapel choir, thus forming the basis of the choral foundation as defined in Queen Elizabeth I’s charter of 1560, which established the collegiate structure which survives to the present day.
The musical tradition of the Abbey is uniquely varied. Over the centuries some immensely distinguished musicians have been closely associated with it, including Orlando Gibbons (Organist of Westminster Abbey from 1623–5), Henry Purcell (Organist 1679–95), and John Blow (Organist 1669–79 and 1695–1708). The Abbey has seen the first performances of countless works, not least those composed specially for coronations and other great occasions by such figures as Handel, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Howells, and Walton. The practice of commissioning new music continues to this day: premieres in recent years have included works by Julian Anderson, Judith Bingham, Bob Chilcott, Jonathan Harvey, Gabriel Jackson, David Matthews, Peter Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett, John Rutter, and John Tavener.
In addition to fulfilling its responsibilities in Westminster, the Choir undertakes an extensive programme of broadcasts, recordings, and concerts, both in the United Kingdom and overseas. Recent tours have included performances in Budapest, Moscow, Sydney, Nuremberg, Hong Kong and several cities in the United States. The Choir has appeared at many other major festivals including the BBC Proms and, annually, the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music in London. In June 2012 the Choir was invited by Pope Benedict to sing with the Sistine Chapel Choir at the Papal Mass for the Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
The Choir of Westminster Abbey’s celebrated series of recordings for Hyperion includes the complete Great Service by William Byrd, choral works by Edward Elgar, and the critically acclaimed Mary and Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey, chosen by Gramophone as a Critics’ Choice and hailed as ‘a showcase for English choral singing at its most charismatic’. The latest addition to the catalogue, Music for Remembrance, is a programme of memorial music composed in England and France in the shadow of two World Wars, the centrepiece of which is Duruflé’s Requiem with Britten Sinfonia and soloists Christine Rice and Roderick Williams.
James O’Donnell is Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey. Internationally recognised as a conductor and organ recitalist, he has given concerts all over the world and appeared as organ soloist in the BBC Proms and at many other festivals.
James O’Donnell was a junior exhibitioner at the Royal College of Music and subsequently Organ Scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge, where he read music and studied the organ with Peter Hurford, Nicolas Kynaston and, later, David Sanger. He was appointed first Assistant Master of Music and, six years later, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral. During his twelve-year tenure as Master of Music, the Choir of Westminster Cathedral became one of the most highly regarded choirs in the world, winning many plaudits, including the Gramophone magazine ‘Record of the Year’ award and the Royal Philharmonic Society award (1999), both of which were unprecedented for a cathedral choir.
In January 2000 James O’Donnell took up his present appointment at Westminster Abbey, where he is responsible for the direction of the music at the daily choral services and state occasions for which the Abbey is renowned, and conducts the Choir of Westminster Abbey in its concerts, broadcasts, recordings and tours.
Alongside his responsibilities at the Abbey, James O’Donnell has worked widely as soloist and director with many of the country’s leading orchestras and ensembles. In 2011 he became Music Director of St James’s Baroque. He is Visiting Professor of Organ and of Choral Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, and in November 2010 he was Artist in Residence at Yale University. He was awarded the papal honour of Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory in 1999. He received Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music in 2002, and a Fellowship of the Royal College of Music in 2009. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge in 2011 and received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Aberdeen in July 2013.
Daniel Cook is Sub-Organist of Westminster Abbey, where he is the principal organist to the Abbey Choir, playing for the majority of services, recordings, broadcasts and concerts, and assistant director of music to James O’Donnell. In addition to his Abbey duties he is Artistic Director of the Mousai Singers and maintains a busy schedule of recitals, concerts and recordings as well as being in demand as a teacher and singer. Prior to his appointment to the Abbey, Daniel was Organist and Master of the Choristers of St Davids Cathedral and Artistic Director of the St Davids Cathedral Festival, before which he spent six years as Assistant Director of Music of Salisbury Cathedral.
Daniel is a prizewinning graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied with Nicolas Kynaston, James O’Donnell and Patrick Russill. While at the Academy, he worked as Organ Scholar of Southwark Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. He was subsequently Assistant Organist of Westminster Abbey from 2003 until 2005.
Daniel has twice been a finalist in the St Albans International Organ Competition. As a recitalist, he has played across the UK and Europe. Increasingly in demand as an ensemble performer, recent engagements have included concerts with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Onyx Brass. Daniel has made many recordings, in particular of British music, and in 2013 was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.