1 Coventry Cathedral


Last updated:
14 Nov 1998


Home  

Cathedral name

NEW! Own web-site
NEW! Pictorial tour of the cathedral, pictures by Fransnet

St Michael

The Cathedral has a long musical tradition stretching back to the original 14th century building.

Throughout this period the musical life of the church has centered upon its organ and choir. The only breaks in this chain were caused in the 17th century by the upsurge of Puritanism in favour of simpler worship, and again more recently by the destruction of the Cathedral on 14 November 1940, in the notorious night-bombing raid on the city of Coventry.


Organist:


Director of Music: Kerry Beaumont (2006) (e-mail)

Assistant:


Organist:

Music Adviser:


Paul Leddington Wright
(previously Organist and Master of the Choristers, 1984-1995)

Paul Leddington Wright started conducting at the age of 15 when he was appointed conductor of the Maidenhead Schools' Orchestra. At the same time he held his first church appointment and at 17 made his first organ recital tour of the USA, Canada and Jamaica. He was an organ scholar at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge and on leaving university worked in the professional theatre for several years.

A pupil of Sir David Willcocks, Peter Le Huray and Peter Hurford, he first came to Coventry in 1977 as Sub Organist, and after 2 years as Director of Music for the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs, he returned to Coventry as Director of Music in 1984 until 1995.

An increasingly busy schedule as a conductor for the BBC Songs of Praise series resulted in his accepting a new part-time position as Music Adviser at Coventry Cathedral where he still conducts the Saint Michael's Singers and now directs the Cathedral Chapter House Choir.

He is also Artistic Director of the International Church Music Festival.

He has made many recordings and now spends much of his time working for BBC radio and television as a conductor and musical arranger. His outside interests include travel, good food and sport - he is an ardent supporter of the Coventry Crusaders Basketball team.


Organ:

Harrison & Harrison of Durham (1962)
4 manuals. Sited at the East end, either side of the Tapestry.

Cathedral Choir:


36 boys (trebles and altos), 6T, 6B.

The post-WWII history of Coventry Cathedral Choir started in 1958 with its re-birth under the guidance of Rev. Canon Joseph W. Poole, then the newly appointed Precentor of the Cathedral.

During the years when the new Coventry Cathedral was being constructed, its services were held firstly in the Crypt Chapel beneath the Ruins, and later in the Chapel of the Cross - a chapel formed in the undercroft of the present building. David F. Lepine was the first organist and choirmaster appointed in 1961. By the Consecration of the new Cathedral on 25th May 1962 the foundations of the modern choir were complete.

The modern architecture of Sir Basil Spence demanded a brilliance of sound to match its design and acoustic qualities. The continental pattern of boy altos was introduced, unusual for English cathedral choirs but producing a sound ideally suited to the building.

The outstanding architecture has also attracted outstanding new music commissions over the years, including a Missa Brevis by William Walton, the Coventry Antiphon by, Herbert Howells, and the patronal festival anthem War In Heaven by Neil Cox. The choristers are always in demand to sing the treble chorus of Britten's War Requiem, his recognized masterpiece that was first performed in Coventry Cathedral in 1962.

Today the choir's formal duties include singing Evensong each Wednesday and Sunday, in addition to the Sunday morning communion service.

Coventry Cathedral Choir has made many recordings, is in constant demand for concerts both at home and abroad and broadcasts regularly on radio and on television.

The Pursuit of Excellence

The sun rises over the City of Coventry, and a group of young schoolboys glance up at Epstein's giant sculpture of St. Michael and the Devil, as they carry their school bags up the Cathedral steps. This is the daily scene as each weekday morning the boy choristers of Coventry Cathedral Choir arrive for their hour's singing practice before school.

There are about 40 boys in the choir, some of whom travel several miles from outside the city. After joining the choir at the age of 8, the boys receive a thorough musical training during the four years or so before their voices break. The training equips them as competent all-round musicians, well versed in general theory, as well as in voice production and singing.

The boys are encouraged to take up at least two musical instruments during their time in the choir. This training has in some cases led boys on to careers in music - some in classical music, and some in popular entertainment.

There is no traditional choir school in Coventry, so after their morning practice the boys continue their journeys across the city to their various schools. This timetable calls for considerable commitment from both boys and their families. Nevertheless, the choir's reputation and the value placed upon the disciplined music training means that there is never a shortage of suitable applicants at the annual entrance trials.

When their voices change, some of the choristers continue to sing alongside the tenors and basses, and some of them join the Chapter House Choir. The City of Coventry Youth Orchestra gives boys the opportunity to extend their instrumental training and experience. Their experience of the pattern of Cathedral life often leads choristers to join other Cathedral activities, perhaps with the Cathedral youth groups, or the Cathedral Servers.

The Choral Clerks are older men from a variety of walks of life. They give generously of their free time and in some cases travel considerable distances to support the choral services of the Cathedral.


St Michael's Singers:

The Cathedral's choral society, the Saint Michael's Singers was formed in 1963. Currently conducted by the Cathedral's Music Adviser, Paul Leddington Wright, other guest conductors who have worked with the choir include Sir David Willcocks, Dr. Jane Glover, Paul McCreesh, Mistislav Rostropovich and Yehudi Menuhin.

Saint Michael's Singers rehearse weekly and in addition to a full concert season have made four recordings of their own as well as six albums in The Hymnmakers series for Kingsway. The regular performance venues are Coventry Cathedral and the University of Warwick and in addition the choir has also performed in Symphony Hall (Birmingham), the Royal Festival Hall (London), the Royal Concert Hall (Nottingham) and Colston Hall (Bristol).


Chapter House Choir:

The Chapter House Choir sings occasional services at the Cathedral and maintains its own programme of concerts and tours abroad. There are currently 30 members aged between 16 and 30. The choir sings frequently at Gloucester Cathedral as well as other churches, including Westminster Abbey. In 1995 Geoffrey Holroyd retired and Paul Leddington Wright was appointed its Music Director.

Girls' Choir:

David Poulter (Cathedral Cirector of Music 1995-1997) established the newest of the Cathedral choirs in 1994.

There are 40 singers in the Girls' Choir in the age range 9 to 16 years. They sing Evensong in Coventry, Cathedral each Thursday as well as participating in other Cathedral services and events.

In August 1997 the Girls' Choir's first tour was to sing services for a week at St. David's Cathedral (Wales). The Choir's director is Rupert Jeffcoat, the Cathedral's Director of Music.


Chamber Choir:

In 1984 the Cathedral Chamber Choir was formed and provides a small auditioned choir to sing Cathedral services in the absence of Coventry Cathedral Choir, as well as maintaining its own schedule of concerts. The Chamber Choir consists 24 voices and is directed by Daniel Moult, the Cathedral Organist.

Services:

5:00 on Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat.
Sunday: 10:30 Eucharist, 5:00 Evensong.
Telephone: 01203 227597

Recordings:

  • Priory :
    • Organ - Elgar and Howells - Christopher Bowers Broadbent (PRC 151 cassette ONLY)
  • Lammas 
    • Easter Alleluias
    • Carols from Coventry, LAMM 088D
      The first recording from David Poulter as Director of Music with both the Boys' and the Girls' Cathedral Choirs. Full track list on Lammas' site.

Commissions:

Britten's War Requiem was premiered in Coventry Cathedral on 30 May 1962 and was part of a whole philosophy of encouraging composers to commit themselves through their music to the Church's mission.

Below is a substantial list of works written especially for Coventry Cathedral.

Campbell And there was War in Heaven 1960
Campbell Responses 1962
Howells Coventry Antiphon 1962
Hotchkis The Tablets of the Word 1962
Easdale Communion Service 1962
Whettam Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis 1962
Darke Propers of the Communion 1962
Williamson Vision of Christ Phoenix (for organ) 1962
Cruft Communion Service 1963
Whettam Communion Service 1963
Bliss The Beatitudes 1963
Rodney Bennett Litanie 1965
Hewitt-Jones Mass of the Reconciliation 1965
Lutyens Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis 1965
Walton Missa Brevis 1966
Howells Coventry Mass 1968
Burgon And there was War in Heaven 1970
Lord Prayer for Peace 1971
Ridout He is the Way 1975
Ridout Lift up your heads 1979
Cox War in Heaven 1980
Leppard Communion Service 1981
Hinnigan Liberation Mass for South America 1983

Previous
Organists:

Walter Hoyle (1898-1927)
Harold Rhodes (1928-1933)
Alan Stephenson (1933-1940)
David Lepine (1961-1972)
Robert Weddle (1972-1977)
Ian Little (1977-1984)
Paul Leddington-Wright (1984-1995)
NEW! David Poulter (1995-1997)



Top

 
The site owner is particularly grateful to Rupert Jeffcoat for supplying so much information about the music at Coventry. Much of the above is extracted from an excellent, full-colour A4 brochure entitled Music at Coventry Cathedral - well worth buying for its splendid photography and additional information. It was designed and printed by Kall Kwik of Leamington Spa.