During the last decade, the choir of Lincoln Cathedral has established itself as one of the successes of English cathedral music.
Their performance of Handel’s Messiah (24 November, 7.30 pm, Lincoln Cathedral) marks the latest waypoint in that journey. Charles Harrison, Assistant Director of Music, tells how the cathedral’s music department was radically renewed ten years ago This readiness to embrace innovation has become one of it great strengths: Lincoln was only the second cathedral choir to accept girl choristers on equal terms with the boys, a bold, even a controversial step at the time, but one happily vindicated by the enhanced opportunities on offer, and the corresponding developments in performance. The cathedral and school music departments function as one body: this system is unique to Lincoln, offering a completely integrated structure for the education and pastoral care of the children. Former choristers, both boys and girls, are now studying at some of this country’s top conservatoires and universities.
So what is the significance for Lincoln of this forthcoming performance? The choir already has a roster of large-scale works to its credit: performances of Bach’s St John Passion in the last three years have brought leading soloists and period-instrument players to the cathedral. Messiah, perhaps the world’s best-loved work of choral music, is a logical new addition to the repertoire, not least because Handel conceived it for cathedral choirs with a top line of children’s voices. It is a very demanding work to sing: among the great oratorios, it has an unusually high concentration of choruses, and lots of fast, virtuosic vocal writing. Preparing the piece is a formidable task for any group, but especially so for a cathedral choir which maintains a schedule of eight sung services each week.
Among the soloists will number two former Lincoln choral scholars: Bozidar Smiljanic is now undertaking advanced study at the Royal Academy of Music, and Ben Clark was awarded a place in Harry Christophers’ prestigious training choir, Genesis Sixteen.
For Lincoln, the concert will serve as a celebration of the skills, musicianship and commitment of all the cathedral musicians who have worked to bring the choir to its current level.
Soprano – Lucy Roberts
Counter tenor – Jeremy Jepson
Tenor – Benjamin Clark
Bass – Bozidar Smiljanic
The Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra (leader Caroline Siriwardena)
The Choir of Lincoln Cathedral
Aric Prentice – Conductor
Follow the link for tickets