Renowned for his fine musicianship, David Hill is widely respected as both a choral and orchestral conductor. His talent has been recognised by his appointments as Chief Conductor of The BBC Singers, Musical Director of The Bach Choir, Music Director of Southern Sinfonia, Music Director of Leeds Philharmonic Society and Associate Guest conductor of The Bournemouth Symphony orchestra. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate by the University of Southampton in 2002 in recognition of his Services to Music.
Born in Carlisle in 1957 and educated at Chetham’s School of Music, where he is now a Governor, he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at the tender age of 17. He took an organ scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge in 1976 under the direction of Dr George Guest where he returned as Director of Music. David Hill’s previous posts have included Master of the Music at Winchester Cathedral (1987-2002), Music Director of The Waynflete Singers (1987- 2002) Master of the Music at Westminster Cathedral, Musical Director of the Alexandra Choir (1980-87) and Associate Conductor and then Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Chorus (1986-1997). He is in great demand for choral training workshops worldwide and his handbook on the subject Giving Voice as published in 1995. He is a choral advisor to music publishers Novello, for whom he has edited a number of publications. As an organist, David Hill has given recitals in most of the major venues in he UK and has toured extensively abroad.
David Hill’s broad-ranging discography of over 70 recordings, including many award-winners, can be found on the for Decca/Argo, Hyperion, Naxos and Virgin Classics labels. The discs span repertoire from the renaissance to the present day. With The Bach Choir David Hill has contributed to the film sound tracks of Kingdom of Heaven, The Chronicles of Narnia and Shrek the Third. He is engaged in a series of recordings of major English choral composers with The Bach Choir and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for Naxos.
David Hill has appeared as guest conductor with the London Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Zagreb Philharmonic, Ulster Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, English Chamber Orchestra, The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Sinfonia 21, the Northern Sinfonia, BBC Symphony Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Orchestra, The Minnesota orchestra and the Orchestre Philharmonqiue de Strasbourg as well as the Netherlands Radio Choir and RIAS Kammerchor, Berlin. His commitment to new music has led to his conducting first performances of works by Judith Bingham, Carl Rütti, Francis Pott, Patrick Gowers, Jonathan Harvey, Philip Moore and Naji Hakim, Sir John Tavener and Philip Wilby amongst others.
On returning to St John's in 2003: "I can be myself, but knowing that I'm working within a tradition which I've grown up with."
"I aimed for an earthier sound, and tried to bring out the fun and the passion"
Christopher Robinson was educated at Rugby and Christ Church, Oxford, where he was Organ Scholar. After a period as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Worcester Cathedral, where he was also conductor of several Three Choirs Festivals, Christopher Robinson moved to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, where he was Organist and Choirmaster until 1991. He was conductor of the Oxford Bach Choir from 1976 to 1997 and of the City of Birmingham Choir from 1964 to 2002. As well as conducting most of the large-choir repertoire with the City of Birmingham Choir, there were also concerts of special note. For example, Christopher Robinson’s expertise in and affinity for Elgar’s music produced several highly praised performances of The Dream of Gerontius. In 1981 he conducted Messiaen’s La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jesus Christ and in 1989 two highly acclaimed performances of Tippett’s Mask of Time. The Choir gave a widely praised first performance in England of the Jacobite Rising by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
what I value most of all is expressive phrasing.Christopher RobinsonGramophone Magazine
George Guest was born in Bangor, Wales. His father was an organist, and George assisted him by acting as organ blower. He became a chorister at Bangor Cathedral, and subsequently at Chester Cathedral, where he received organ lessons from the sub-organist, Dr. Roland Middleton. He passed the examination for ARCO in 1940, and FRCO in 1942. By this time he had become the organist and choirmaster of Connah's Quay parish church, Flintshire. George Guest was always proud of his Welsh roots and from the 1970s onwards took a personal interest in the Cambridge University Welsh Society (Cymdeithas Y Mabinogi), sponsoring many of its events and providing a welcome face for Welsh students away from home. At the age of 18 he was called up for military service, and joined the Royal Air Force, being posted to India in 1945. On leaving the services in 1947 he took up the post of sub-organist at Chester Cathedral. The cathedral organist, Malcolm Boyle, encouraged him to apply for the Organ Scholarship at St John's College, Cambridge, in which endeavour he was successful. At Cambridge he studied under Robin Orr. In his final year as Organ Scholar, Robin Orr announced that he intended to retire, and the College Council offered the post to Guest.
George conjured up a unique soundworldAndrew NethsinghaGramophone Magazine
During World War II, Robin Orr served in the RAF; during this time, Herbert Howells was appointed Acting Organist of St John’s. While Howells’s Music was rarely performed during his tenure, his substantial compositional output includes two works which have particular significance for St John’s: A Sequence for St Michael was a commission for the College’s 450th anniversary, and a setting of the evening canticles was later dedicated to St John’s (Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense). Respected and remembered fondly by his Choristers, Howells took great care over the singing of the Psalms, for which St John's were already renowned.
Born 1909 in Brechin, Scotland, Robin Orr studied at the Royal College of Music before becoming Organ Scholar of Pembroke College; he subsequently received lessons in composition from Alfredo Casella and Nadia Boulanger. Orr was University Lecturer in Music from 1947 to 1956, after which he became Professor of Music at Glasgow University. Orr returned to Cambridge in 1965 to take up the Chair of Music, a position he retained until his retirement in 1976. Among his compositions (including three operas and three symphonies) are several works written for St John’s Choir, including A Festival Te Deum and the anthem Jesu, Sweet Son Dear.
Following undergraduate study at St John’s (where he read Classics), Rootham studied at the Royal College of Music. He succeeded Walford Davies as Organist of Christ Church, Hampstead, in 1898. In 1901 Rootham became Organist of St Asaph Cathedral, returning to St John’s in the same year; he subsequently became University Lecturer in Music, and was made a Fellow in 1914. Rootham worked closely with the Cambridge University Musical Society in the promotion of contemporary music, leading performances of works by Kodály, Honneger and Pizzetti. Although he composed widely, Rootham is remembered for his encouragement of contemporary composers, as well as the revival of forgotten works by Handel and Mozart.
Prior to St John’s, Edward Thomas Sweeting held positions as Organist at St Mary’s Kensington and Rossall School, Lancashire, where he taught the future Sir Thomas Beecham. Following his tenure as Organist at St John’s, Sweeting became Organist of Winchester College. He died in 1930.
The son of a Lay Clerk at Winchester Cathedral, George Garrett was a Chorister at New College, Oxford. After a brief period as Organist of two churches in Winchester, Garrett was appointed as Organist of Madras Cathedral. Two years later, he was appointed to St John’s, where he stayed for over forty years. In 1873, Garrett was appointed University Organist; he died in Cambridge on 8 April 1897. Garrett’s compositional output is wide-ranging (including a St John’s College ‘Boat Song’, no less), though he is chiefly remembered for a particular Anglican chant setting, used by choirs throughout the country.
Alfred Bennett took up his short-lived appointment as Organist of St John’s on 24 June 1856. On 27 December of the same year, he left England to take up the post of Organist of St John’s Church, Calcutta.
The son of Thomas Forbes Walmisley (Organist of Croydon Parish Church), Thomas Attwood Walmisley was born in Westminster in 1814. He took up the joint appointment of Organist at St John’s and Trinity Colleges in 1833 at the age of 19. His premature death was, as John E. West has suggested, “hastened by an unwise indulgence in lethal remedies”. Stanford commented that “Walmisley…was a victim of four o’clock dinners in Hall, and long symposiums in the Combination Room after; and being a somewhat lonely bachelor, the excellent port of the College cellars was, at times, more his master than his servant.” As a composer, Walmisley is chiefly known for his setting of the Evening Canticles in D minor.
Samuel Matthews’s musical career began, as with Beale, as a Chorister at Westminster Abbey. He was subsequently a Lay Clerk at Winchester Cathedral. He became joint Organist of St John’s and Trinity Colleges in 1821 and died at the early age of 36.
William Beale was a Chorister at Westminster Abbey and later a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. He became joint Organist of St John’s and Trinity Colleges in 1820. Less than a year later, he became Organist of Wandsworth Parish church, and was later Organist of St John’s Church, Clapham Rise.
John Clarke-Whitfeld held posts at Ludlow Parish Church, Armagh Cathedral and Christ Church and St Patrick’s Cathedrals, Dublin. Following the Irish Rebellion of 1798, he became joint Organist of St John’s and Trinity Colleges. He subsequently became Organist of Hereford Cathedral, but was dismissed on the grounds of the following minute passed by the Chapter: “In consequence of the long and increasing deterioration in the choral services of the cathedral…the Dean and Chapter now feel it to be their indispensable duty to communicate to him…that the office of Organist will be vacant at Midsummer next.”
Little is known about Jonathan Sharpe; Guest comments upon his important work on the Choir Library in A Guest at Cambridge.
William Tireman took up the post of Organist at St John’s having first been dismissed from service at Doncaster Parish Church “in relation to playing the organ and accompanying the voices in the choir”, and subsequently holding the post of Organist at Trinity College. He took up the post of Organist at St John’s in February 1777 but died in March of that year.
Bernard Turner was the son of the German organ builder Heinrich Tolner (Henry Turner) who settled in Cambridge. The length of Turner’s tenure as Organist is not known.
During his tenure as Organist at St John’s, Thomas Williams also sang in the choirs of King’s and Trinity Colleges. He is recorded in the College rentals for having been “paid a stipend for teaching the Quire from 1682 to 1729”.
James Hawkins was a Chorister at St John’s, becoming Organist in 1681. The following year he took up the same post at Ely Cathedral, where he remained until his death in 1729.
The College records mention John Brimble as an Organist of St John’s. He matriculated at St John’s on 13 July 1668, but died aged 19.
George Loosemore is mentioned in the College rentals as being paid for “learning the Choristers” from 1661 to an unknown date. He may be the George Loosemore who became Organist of Trinity College after the Restoration.
The second son of the composer Orlando Gibbons, Christopher Gibbons was a Chorister at the Chapel Royal under Nathaniel Giles, and sometime Organist of Winchester Cathedral. As a composer he bore a huge influence on such Restoration composers as John Blow, Pelham Humfrey and Henry Purcell. The exact length of his tenure at St John’s is not known.
Little is known about James Dunkin; he is the first Organist of St John’s College to be noted by Watkins Shaw in The Succession of Organists.