THE 9TH CONDUCTOR OF THIS 142-YEAR-OLD CHOIR. WHOSE PREVIOUS LEADERS HAVE INCLUDED OTTO GOLDSCHMIDT, RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, ADRIAN BOULT, DAVID WILLCOCKS, REGINALD JACQUES
The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) has appointed David Hill as international chair in choral conducting.
British conductor and organist David Hill is musical director of The Bach Choir, principal conductor of the Yale Schola Cantorum, musical director of Leeds Philharmonic Society and associate guest conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
He was chief conductor of the BBC Singers from 2009 to 2017 and is a former music director of Southern Sinfonia.
A champion of new music, he has premiered works from composers including Judith Bingham, BobChilcott, Gabriel Jackson, James Macmillan, Philip Moore, Sir John Tavener and Jonathan Dove.
Chair of The Bach Choir, Katharine Richman, says: “David is an inspirational choral conductor and choir trainer, and I am delighted that he now adds the RNCM International Chair of Choral Conducting to his other prestigious positions both in the UK and USA. The Bach Choir has always been unique in appointing a musical director who conducts both its rehearsals and its performances, and David – now in his 21st year with us – has built on the work of his illustrious predecessors, developing the Choir’s sound and taking it to new heights of excellence.”
Other former Musical Directors of The Bach Choir include the following great names:
SIR DAVID WILLCOCKS 1960 -1998
Musical Director of The Bach Choir for 38 years, and Conductor Laureate from his retirement in 1998 to his death in 2015, Sir David Willcocks was not only responsible for taking the Choir to new levels of excellence during his time at the helm, but was also a very good friend to many of the Choir’s singing and associate members.
To mark The Bach Choir’s centenary in 1976 David Willcocks conducted the Mass in B minor on April 26, the date of the first performance, and the Choir’s excellence was marked by the Prince of Wales becoming its President.
David Willcocks was also responsible for taking the Choir to new performance venues outside London. The Choir gave concerts in Cambridge – a strong link with King’s College continued even after David Willcocks resigned his post there in 1974 – as well as the West Country, Wales and Yorkshire, and toured abroad to the United States, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, Israel and to many countries in Europe.
REGINALD JACQUES – MUSICAL DIRECTOR 1931-1960
Reginald Jacques was born in 1894. Despite suffering severe injuries in the First World War, he recovered and went on to read music at Queen’s College, Oxford. In 1926 he was appointed organist and Director of Music there, and became conductor of the Oxford Orchestral Society a few years later.
Applying for the position of Musical Director of The Bach Choir, Jacques and the two other shortlisted candidates were each required to conduct a private concert at the Royal College of Music. Jacques chose an all-Bach programme including the motet Komm, Jesu, komm. Although many members and trustees favoured Jacques, there were others who wanted to invite Sargent to take on the role, but Jacques was appointed after the Chairman exercised his casing vote.
ADRIAN BOULT – MUSICAL DIRECTOR 1928-1931
Boult was 39 at the time of his appointment, and had been conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra since 1924, and much sought after for appearances elsewhere. His first season with The Bach Choir included Bach’s Magnificat, Kodaly’s PsalmusHungaricus, and Schubert’s Mass in A flat and he went on to programme new works including The Prison by Ethel Smyth.
Vaughan Williams sent his successor some practical advice on managing the Choir:
“Don’t wait to start practice till everybody is ready – or you will never start at all. I always used to kick off at 5.30 sharp whoever was or wasn’t there and however much row was going off at the bargain counter behind the curtain.”
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS – MUSICAL DIRECTOR 1921-1928
Ralph Vaughan Williams (pictured here in 1910) was 49 when taking up the appointment; he had established himself as one of the leading composers in the English musical renaissance, and whilst he did not have Boult’s conducting experience, he knew the Choir well, and had conducted regularly at the Leith Hill Festival for some years. He took over a Choir which was by now one of the leading choruses in London. Like his predecessor, Hugh Allen, he was devoted to the music of Bach, but had very strong views about its performance practice. He was keen to programme the St Matthew Passion, but was concerned about its transfer “from the Thomaskirche to a London concert room”.
The other four Musical Directors of the Bach Choir have been: Hugh Allen 1908-1921; HenryWalford Davies 1902-1908; Charles Villiers Stanford 1885-1902: