Keeping you updated with the latest news


13 June 2024
2023/24 season finishes at Christ Church


28 June 2023
A Rousing end to the 2022/23 Season with Viva Italia!
9 June 2023
Cathedral Visits - Summer 2023
12 May 2023
Simon Toyne appointed as our new Musical Director
20 March 2023
Dame Ethel Smyth Mass in D - A resounding success!
13 February 2023
The Ethel Smyth full score has arrived











Howells in Lockdown

8 June 2020

Since the Covid-19 pandemic emerged and lockdown began on 16 March 2020, the choir has been very busy coming up with a plan of action to keep our music flowing. Following four experimental sessions on Google Meet, singing a wide variety of music from Campion and Purcell to extracts from Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, our Musical Director has pulled together his four choirs - alongside us the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic Choir, the Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir, and the Wellingborough Singers - and devised an eight-week programme exploring the music of Herbert Howells.

Howells Poster Background for Zoom

Why Howells? Well, firstly because it is great music. Secondly, because - being locked down at home - Lee had to use what he had to hand to create resources for us to use. A quick poll of members showed that we couldn’t even rely on something like Handel’s Messiah, as a good proportion of the choir didn’t have access to their own scores. Back in 2008, Lee - alongside our former repetietur Stephen Meakins - had been planning to make a recording of a number of as-yet unrecorded works by Herbert Howells with his choirs at All Saints Northampton, and so he had a bulging file full of music which he had been researching. This project was postponed, as other projects at All Saints took priority, and it was not completed when he went freelance in 2014.

We also have a connection with Howells, who came to hear us perform his undisputed masterpiece Hymnus Paradisi in 1971 (see photo of the programme below).

1971 Hymnus Paradisi Programme

Over the last week of May, Lee typeset eight of these pieces without their accompaniment, in such a way that we could easily print them at home - none of the eight works required more than two pages of printing - and gathered together recordings, biographies, contextual material, and contacted academics and performers with expertise in the field to help us on our journey.

Our First Howells - Sweet Content

And so, each week we will explore these works - now on Zoom rather than Google Meet - and with Lee equipped with state-of-the-art video camera, lighting, software, and microphones, in his home studio (that is to say, the grand piano corner in his living room!). We begin with Sweet content, before moving on to A New Year Carol, Delicates so dainty, A Golden Lullaby, The Saylor’s Song, Pink Almond, and Tune Thy Music, and we end in the last week of July with a virtual choir quiz!

In addition to our rehearsals, there are four Howells Hour sessions - one each fortnight - during the daytime (and recorded so that members who are working can watch them at another time). Our first session is with Dr David Hill MBE (The Bach Choir (London), Leeds Philharmonic Society, Yale Schola Cantor, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra) and the tenor Ben Hulett, who have recently recorded a number of Howells’s large-scale works for symphonic chorus and orchestra, including Missa Sabrinensis, which has just this week been released on Hyperion. Our second session focuses on the liturgical music of Howells, with The Revd Canon Dr Paul Andrews (whose PhD was on Howells, and who is now an ordained minister in the Church of England) and Judy Martin, formerly Director of Music at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, where she made an acclaimed recording of Howells’s choral music.

Dr David Hill MBE - Howells Hour 1
Judy Martin - Howells Hour 2

Our third session is with Dr Jonathan Clinch, who is on the staff of the Royal Academy of Music and is writing a Biography of Howells, and the pianist Matthew Schellhorn, who has recently recorded a whole CD of unrecorded (and only recently unearthed) piano music by Howells. The final session is with Dr Phillip Cooke, Head of Music at the University of Aberdeen, who is a composer and who also co-edited a book of essays on Howells, and Sarah MacDonald, Director of Music at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and of the Girls’ Choir at Ely Cathedral, both of whom will put Howells into the context of modern British choral music.

Dr Jonathan Clinch - Howells Hour 3
Sarah MacDonald - Howells Hour 4

We will continue to add more Howells songs into our repertoire after the August recess, and over time we will build up a programme of these unrecorded works, in the hope that we can find a way to bring them to life on in performance and perhaps even in a recording.