The world of Church Music was deeply saddened yesterday to learn of the death of John Scott, the Organist and Director of Music at St Thomas’s, Fifth Avenue in New York. Before taking up his position there in 2004, he was Director of Music at St Paul’s Cathedral in London for many years. The last time I met him a few years ago he had just given a spectacular recital at Westminster Cathedral. At the reception afterwards, you would never have realised that he was the man in whose honour we were all gathered. Despite his international stature and towering reputation, he stood awkwardly to the side, speaking quietly and modestly, as though embarrassed by the attention. His famous choral CDs from St Paul’s are now considered benchmark recordings of the Anglican repertory, uniting one of the largest Cathedral choirs of the English tradition with the magnificent Smith, Willis & Mander organ, in the lavish (if preposterous) acoustics of Sir Christopher Wren’s crowning glory.
And although the word ‘inspiration’ is one we tend to overuse, it should be applied here with its fullest meaning in respect of the elevating influence he had on the liturgy and particularly on the young choristers who were fortunate enough to sing for him. Generations of boys have been coaxed to the highest of standards of music-making by his rigour and determination, and many of them have continued as professional church musicians in later life, making his influence and legacy, literally, immeasurable. In particular our thoughts should be with those boys currently in the Choir of St Thomas’s, his last choristers, as the sense of loss for them must be acute and incomprehensible. Above all, we pray for John’s family: his wife Lily, who is expecting their first child, as well as two children, Emma and Alex, from his previous marriage.
John Scott’s organ recordings are known for their flair and virtuosity. He was an immensely accomplished organist with a phenomenal repertoire and an unparalleled technique. His recordings for the Hyperion label can be seen here. One particular favourite of mine is his disc of organ music by Marcel Dupré which includes Placare Christe servulis which you can listen to below (courtesy of Hyperion Records). Based on the Vesper hymn for All Saints, it is a fiery toccata in which John deploys St Paul’s famous Royal Trumpets towards the end. We pray that he will soon be in the company of those Saints. May he rest in peace.
In November, the Schola Cantorum of The London Oratory School will be singing a concert of music by Anton Bruckner, Josef Rheinberger and J.S. Bach. The concert, directed by Charles Cole, will take place at St James’s, Sussex Gardens, London W2 at 7.30pm on Friday 27 November 2015. The programme includes Sacred Motets by Bruckner, the Mass in E flat (Cantus Missae) by Rheinberger and J.S. Bach’s mighty motet Singet dem herrn. Tickets priced £15 (£10 concessions) will be available on the door or in advance, and children are admitted free. For more information see the poster below or visit the Schola’s Facebook page.
Photographs of the performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin (1610) which took place on 6 May 2015 at the London Oratory. The Schola Cantorum of The London Oratory School and The London Oratory Junior Choir were accompanied by The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble. The tenor soloists were Mark Dobell and Nicholas Mulroy, and the performance was directed by Charles Cole. The performance was generously sponsored by Rawlinson & Hunter and Maecenas. Photography by Paul Flanagan.
Tickets are selling fast for the performance of the Monteverdi Vespers at the London Oratory Church on Wednesday 6 May 2015 at 7pm.
The performance will be sung by the Oratory’s two children’s choirs: the Schola of The London Oratory School for boys aged 8-18, and the London Oratory Junior Choir, the Church’s own children’s choir for boys and girls aged 8-16. They will be accompanied by the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble and two tenor soloists, Mark Dobell and Nicholas Mulroy, directed by Charles Cole.
The concert is generously supported by Rawlinson & Hunter and Maecenas.
Tickets priced £20 (£10 concessions) are available in advance from the Oratory House, SW7, in the courtyard to the left of Brompton Oratory, and from The London Oratory School 020 7381 7684. Tickets will also be available on the door on the evening of the concert. All seating is unreserved and the Church will open at 6.30pm.
The Schola Cantorum of The London Oratory School toured Spain in February 2015. Details of the programme and schedule can be found here.
The first full day of the tour, Saturday 14 February, began with some sightseeing. There was a great sense of anticipation amongst the boys about visiting the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, home to Real Madrid, one of the most successful football teams in Europe.
The stadium is one of the largest ever built and the tour included the team’s remarkable trophy collection, representing hundreds of successes going back decades. Leaving the Bernabeu, we drove to El Escorial, the famous Monastery and Palace built by Philip II of Spain. Although the Escorial’s own choristers were away at the time, we were welcomed into the choir school by the headmaster and choirmaster who gave us lunch in the refectory.
We then went to rehearse in the Basilica before taking a guided tour around the Palace, visiting in particular the rooms of Philip II and the Royal Mausoleum, situated beneath the High Altar in the Basilica.
After the tour we returned to the refectory for hot chocolate before robing for the Mass.
Mass was followed by a recital sung from the steps of the Altar. Of particular significance was a performance of Alonso Lobo’s Versa est in luctum which was written for the Requiem of Philip II.
After Mass we went into the town for a wonderful supper at Las Viandas. We took the coach back to our hotel in Madrid.
The following day we walked to Almudena Cathedral in Madrid where we had a brief rehearsal before singing the midday Mass.
We sang from the vantage point of the high west gallery. Afterwards there was a chance for some of the boys to see their parents before we set off on a walking tour of central Madrid, taking in the Palace, the Opera House, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales where the composer Victoria served as Chaplain, and also the Church which is built on the site of Victoria’s grave.
The afternoon was spent in the Prado gallery and we divided into groups to go around, taking in the paintings which the boys had learned about back in London: The Last Supper by Juan de Juanes (1475-1545), The Cardinal by Raphael (1483-1520), The Annunciation by Fra Angelico (1395-1455), The Crucifixion by Velázquez (1599-1660), The Immaculate Conception by Murillo (1617-1682), The Annunciation and The Nativity by El Greco (1541-1614), Mary Tudor by Anthonis Mor (1517-1577) and the boys’ favourite, the gruesome Saturn devouring his son by Goya (1746-1828). The boys also enjoyed many other paintings which they had not seen before, including the Prado’s own version of the Mona Lisa, painted by students of Da Vinci. We spent a great deal of time in the shop afterwards and many of the boys bought posters of the paintings they had seen. In the evening we went for dinner at Los Galayos in the Plaza Mayor.
On Monday we had a very early start and set off for Segovia. The coach dropped us at the Roman Aquaduct, the largest remaining Roman construction in Spain, and we walked up to the Cathedral.
During the winter months, the Cathedral’s Masses are all held in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel due to the cold. We rehearsed before Mass at 10am. The elderly priest was moved to tears when he heard us sing Exsultate iusti by Viadana, a piece he remembered singing as a boy in the Segovia Cathedral choir some sixty years ago. We also sang two motets by Sebastián de Vivanco, who was Choir Master at Segovia Cathedral.
After Mass we gave a recital of movements from Victoria’s Requiem.
Segovia TV filmed some of our recital which you can see in their feature here:
Afterwards we were taken on a guided tour of the magnificent Cathedral.
We had lunch in the town before driving on to our next destination, Toledo, where we were to sing the evening Mass. Stopping outside Toledo, we enjoyed the wonderful view and took the opportunity to take some photos.
We then visited the church of Santo Tomé and saw The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, considered to be one of El Greco’s most famous works.
Then a brief visit to a sweet shop before we arrived at the Cathedral to rehearse in the San Pedro Chapel.
After our rehearsal we visited the Cathedral’s sacristy, adorned with fabulous El Grecos.
We sang the 6.30pm Mass in the main Cathedral, with the Schola situated in the Choir, at quite some distance to the Mass itself, which was celebrated at the High Altar.
After Mass we moved to the steps of the High Altar, standing beneath the extraordinary reredos for which the Cathedral is so famous. From there we gave a short recital, once again including Versa est in luctum, particularly appropriate as the composer, Alonso Lobo, was Choir Master at Toledo Cathedral.
We went for dinner at El Cardenal before returning to Madrid. Our final day involved the most travelling. We set off towards Salamanca where we were to perform in the evening, breaking our journey in Avila. There was some snow there as we walked through the walled city to visit the Convent of St Teresa of Jesus, the birthplace of the Saint better known as Teresa of Avila.
We also visited Avila Cathedral where the composers Vivanco and Victoria sang together as boy choristers.
After lunch we continued to Salamanca where the boys had some time to shop before our rehearsal at the Iglesia de la Purisima. Part of the rehearsal was filmed by Salamanca Television, after which one of our Spanish-speaking choristers was interviewed.
We had dinner near the church and then sang our concert to a large and appreciative audience.
It was a fitting way for our tour to end, and wonderful to return home the next day with so many happy memories.
I would like to express my gratitude to the school staff on the tour: Fr George Bowen, Sue Burden Griffiths, Dominic Sullivan & Christopher Wotherspoon. Also Anna Winstone our Tour Manager from ACFEA, Damian Stent our courier, and Maria Gonzalez-Merello our translator and Media Manager. And above all, the hard-working boys of the Schola. Charles Cole
The Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School will be going on tour to Spain tomorrow. The choir will be singing at the Basilica of San Lorenzo at El Escorial, Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, Segovia Cathedral, Toledo Cathedral and the Church of La Purísima in Salamanca. Full details are available in the brochure below. There is also an article about some of the music being sung at newliturgicalmovement.org.