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Choral Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral

Choral Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral

Wednesday 22nd May 2024

On Monday 20th May, a group of singers from the choir enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience of singing choral evensong in St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Over forty members of the choir took part, conducted by our Musical Director, Lee Dunleavy, and ably supported as ever by Colin Druce on the organ. Preparations for the event involved three additional evening rehearsals, over and above our normal weekly commitment, and a ‘dry run’ at All Saints’ Church, Leamington Spa, the day before. Yet planning had to start long before that; competition for opportunities to sing at St Paul’s is understandably very high, so we had to apply well over a year in advance even to be considered.

The music chosen for the occasion by Lee included the Gloucester Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis settings by Herbert Howells. We had worked on some pieces by Howells during lockdown, when we were only able to ‘meet’ on Zoom, so it seemed appropriate to take this opportunity to sing some of his music together. As the anthem, the choir sang Spiritus Sanctus Vivificans, which was specially written for us by David Bednall. The psalm was Psalm 52, and the responses were by Humphrey Clucas.

Penelope Holroyde, one of the choir members who sang at St Paul’s, tells us what it was like to be part of this very special occasion:

“So, off it was to St Paul's where we had the incredibly special opportunity to sing choral evensong. It was a brilliantly sunny day as we gathered for photos on Sermon Lane, where the multitude of tourists were at the same time curious and obliging, before weaving among the many tour groups to the song school in the crypt for a rehearsal and the receipt of myriad instructions from the very friendly verger. Like a lot of people, I've visited St Paul's, but nothing could quite prepare me for the magnitude and majesty of the building, and the task of delivering evensong began to weigh when I took my place in the choir stalls. We had been well prepared by Lee as ever, but the nerves were certainly starting to prick this chorister when who should arrive but David Bednall, the composer of our anthem, cue more nerves! A quick break after rehearsal before assembling in the Dean's aisle to process in for the service to a congregation of around 700 people (verger's estimate). All my nerves were laid to rest when I heard the reverberation of our first response around this magnificent building. We owe a huge debt of thanks to Lee for his thoughtful and careful preparation of the choir, always delivered with patience and kindness, and the same to Colin for his brilliant playing. I will never forget the surround-sound echo of his final chord of the anthem, which perhaps echoed a little of the triumph I felt in my heart. It was all so worth it and I will cherish this memory.”

Featured News

Jim Bate to be the RLSBC’s 19th Musical Director

Jim Bate to be the RLSBC’s 19th Musical Director

Wednesday 29th May 2024

The RLSBC is delighted to announce the appointment of Jim Bate as its 19th Musical Director, to succeed Lee Dunleavy from the start of the 2024-5 concert season.

Jim is increasingly making his mark in the musical life of the area, both as a choral conductor and also as a singer. His successful appointment follows a three stage recruitment process, consisting of a written application, an interview with the committee, and an audition with the whole choir. Jim passed every stage with flying colours!

Music has been a vital part of Jim’s life from a very early age. He started learning the piano when he was four, and later he took up the organ, studying under Leeds Minster Cathedral Organist, Alex Woodrow. He gained an organ scholarship and a place to read Music at Lady Margaret Hall in the University of Oxford. It was while he was at Oxford that he developed his passion for choral conducting, through his involvement with his college’s sacred and secular choirs.

After graduating, Jim took a Master’s in Choral Conducting at the University of Birmingham, studying with Simon Halsey OBE and Julian Wilkins. He sings in the CBSO chorus, and was a lay clerk at Birmingham Cathedral, alongside starting work at PwC in Birmingham. He set up a choir in his workplace, delightfully named 'In-Voice', and in 2022 he became Musical Director of the Warwickshire Singers. He also co-founded and co-directs the Elgar Scholars with Laura Bailie, and conducts the B:Music Workplace Voices, formerly the Birmingham City Council Choir which was set up by Gareth Malone.

Jim says: “I am extremely excited to get started with RLSBC. Whilst studying for my conducting master's degree, this very choir was quoted as one to look out for later down my career and so applying for this role was an easy decision. I am very grateful to my mentors Julian Wilkins and Simon Halsey for all of their support and leadership in the run up to this post. I aim to continue the choir's superb trajectory in becoming one of, if not the best choir in the region. I think it is important not to lose touch with the choir's roots in the music of the Bach family, but I also believe that RLSBC's acclaim is an ideal platform for promoting new and exciting music as well as music by underrepresented composers.”

We are looking forward enormously to working with Jim, and to exploring unfamiliar musical territory under his leadership as well as revisiting old favourites, in this exciting new chapter in the history of the choir.

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