Bob Chilcott began his professional composing career in 1997, a er 12 years as a member of the King’s Singers. He has written for choirs of all shapes and sizes, for both children and adults. This Christmas he conducts the Huddersfield Choral Society and joins up with John Rutter for BBC Singers concerts at Milton Court and Sa ron Hall.
I was lucky enough to have a really great musical education.
I came from a time when postwar parents wanted a better life for their kids than they had. My family had no money but I got the chance to go to a choir school. And I had a really decent career as a performer. I now want to invest my time in getting people to understand that music is a wonderful thing.
We are brilliant at outreach programmes in the UK. I think we’re one of the only countries in the world that does it to the extent we do. I was involved with the BBC Singers when outreach was just being thought about, and it seems like ages ago. All over the country orchestras and choir are doing a huge amount of work, and it’s vital because there’s not been that example elsewhere.
Music has gone out of the picture for a lot of people. There used to be a real understanding of the idiom of contemporary music. We don’t see the importance of investing in the idea of what it is to learn a culture and become part of your own culture. It’s a shame it’s not seen as being important in education. There’s a huge energy for music in this country but there’s a kind of discourse in general life that music isn’t for many people.
I’ve just written a Christmas Oratorio for the Three Choirs Festival next year. I wrote a St John Passion a few years ago for Gloucester Cathedral, and for that I wrote new hymn settings of well-known words, like chorales. I’ve done that with this piece as well. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is a magnificent work and I love that it was a very functional piece in its time.
My favourite carols are O Holy Night and John Rutter’s What Sweeter Music. When you hear the Rutter you think everything is alright. I took part in BBC
Radio 4’s programme Soul
Music about O Holy Night. There’s something very special about it. I said to Rutter that I loved his choral arrangement of it, and he said he can’t stand the piece, which made me laugh. I love it.
What’s the score?: ‘There’s a huge energy for music in this country’