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The Tudor Choir Book Volume II

George Richford, Romsey Abbey Choir

  • Catalogue
    CR040
  • Composer
    Various
  • Conductor
    George Richford
  • Choir
    Romsey Abbey Choir
  • Organ
    St Teilo Tudor Organ
  • Engineering
    Adaq Khan
  • Mastering
    Adaq Khan
  • Producer
    Adrian Green
  • Creative Dir
    Mike Cooter
  • Exec Producer
    Adrian Green

Introduction

This recording represents a culmination of 12 months intensive work and study for the boy choristers of Romsey Abbey. In May 2016, seven existing choristers were swamped by an influx of 18 new boys and so began the meticulous process of retraining the top line from scratch.

It has been my long-held belief that 21st century boys can love and be engaged with renaissance literature (it doesn’t have to be all Howells and Rutter). The verse-anthem genre immediately presented a suitable departure point as they are differentiated in a way that can engage older and newer boys alike. The prospect of having the St Teilo Tudor Organ in residence (thanks to Professor John Harper and Dominic Gwynn) gave us an opportunity to enthuse the boys further by performing music liturgically and in context with this remarkable instrument. This CD is not just an eclectic array of music from Tudor-era composers; it is a record of the first year of chorister training and a scheme of work that has almost exclusively concentrated on English Tudor music. And it has a wider significance too.

Choristers in today’s churches and cathedrals are expected to be ‘generalists’ and able to lead and deliver music from early chant to modern-day masterpieces; majestic Victoriana, rumbustious descants, and hearty hymnody – all alike. The demands and stresses of this repertoire on the developing voice and the ‘choral sound’ are significant. If one can imagine Byrd’s Lincoln choristers, the diet was much more slight: Byrd, Tallis, perhaps Taverner and plenty of chant would have formed the daily menu, but that was in no way comparable to the expectations of today’s choristers. Examination of Byrd’s own music, written whilst at Lincoln Cathedral, reveals that it is most likely Byrd’s choristers were lower Means and not high Trebles as we think of choristers today. For the first time, Byrd’s well-known Second Evening Service has been recorded in a reconstructed version by Andrew Johnstone at the original pitch with Means on the top line. This reveals a very different way of singing and a rather richer and more wholesome sound.

In essence then, the Romsey Choristers on this disc are Means and not Trebles (the highest note sung on this disk is an F). Although the boys are regularly warmed up to a high C, for the past 12 months their average operating tessitura has been on average a 3rd lower than a more typical, generalist repertoire of Victoriana and 20th Century fair. Perhaps this is a futile attempt to capture something lost or an indulgence of curiosity — but at very least it has demonstrated the effectiveness of training and inspiring a top line of 21st century boys, twice a week for 12 months on a diet of English music from the ‘Golden Age’. The next steps for these boys is to develop their repertoire further to encompass more music from the 19th and 20th centuries whilst maintaining a sense of specialism and focus.

I extend my thanks to Canon Tim Sledge and the Church Wardens of
Romsey Abbey, The White Horse Hotel, Romsey, Chris Pritchard, FoRAM, Archie Jesty, Andrew Johstone, Professor Martin Ashley, Edward Tambling, Dominic Gwynn, Peter Wilton and Professor John Harper as well as the numerous supporters of this project through Crowd Funding.

George Richford

Director of Music, Romsey Abbey

George Richford

George Richford is a multi award-winning composer and conductor, living
and working in Hampshire. He has been Director of Music at Romsey Abbey since September 2015. George was born and raised in South London and studied at Durham University and Christchurch Canterbury and has held MD posts at Newcastle Cathedral, St John’s College, Durham, St Mary Magdalene Church, Newark and Dartford Parish Church. He has directed choirs to wide critical acclaim and has recorded and broadcast widely earning a reputation for reinvigorating and transforming choirs and for his success recruiting boys and girls. He is also the Director of Southampton University Chamber Choir.

His compositions have been performed and broadcast around the world, and have received premières on television and radio, at the 300th Anniversary of the Three Choirs’ Festival and for the Commonwealth Service of Remembrance for WW1 from Glasgow Cathedral. His music is published by Universal Editions, Music Sales Novello and Shorter House, London.

Ramsey Abbey Choir

Romsey Abbey can trace its first choir back only as far as 1869 when, responding to the Tractarian fashions of the time, a robed choir of men and boys was introduced.

A healthy choir, rooted in the Anglican Tradition continued throughout much of the 20th century. In 1997 a top line of Girl Choristers was incorporated into the choirs at the Abbey, and they now sing with the altos (male and female), tenors and basses on alternate weeks. In 2016 the boys’ line enjoyed something of a renaissance, with 24 choristers filling the choir stalls and a separate training choir established to cope with the demand. There are over 120 singers engaged on a weekly basis at Romsey Abbey, including the Boy Choris- ters, Senior and Junior girl Choristers, choir adults, the Quavers training choir and the Abbey Consort.

The choir has broadcast on BBC Songs of Praise and has toured widely. The 2016 CD release of Adoration, celebrating 20 years of the girl choristers at Romsey Abbey, won widespread critical acclaim.

The choristers of the choir are drawn from schools in the local area and are generously supported by the PCC of Romsey Abbey and the Friends of Romsey Abbey Music.

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