Six con­duc­tors of the Nine Lessons

The half-dozen King’s College Choir di­rec­tors since 1918

BBC Music Magazine - - Nine Lessons And Carols -

1876-1929 Arthur Henry Mann

The founder-di­rec­tor of King’s Nine Lessons fes­ti­val stayed with the choir un­til his death, trans­form­ing it from Cam­bridge’s worst to one of the world’s finest. Among his achieve­ments there was to per­suade the pow­ers that be to set up the college’s choir school. Away from King’s, Mann was the first to pub­lish a singing edi­tion of Tal­lis’s 40-part motet Spem in al­ium.

1929-57 Boris Ord

The com­poser of the peren­nial Adam lay y-bounden, his only pub­lished carol, con­sol­i­dated Mann’s work, tak­ing the choir to new heights with de­mands for the high­est pro­fes­sional stan­dards. He also in­sisted they sing a wide range of reper­toire from early mu­sic to con­tem­po­rary works.

1941-45 Harold Darke (Boris Ord’s sub­sti­tute dur­ing World War II)

Darke took the reins for the years that Ord spent in the RAF dur­ing the war. In his day, Darke was a for­mi­da­ble or­gan­ist, his rep­u­ta­tion stem­ming from his days at St Michael’s Corn­hill where he gave pop­u­lar weekly recitals. His choral set­ting of In the Bleak Midwinter was voted in our Christ­mas 2008 is­sue as the finest carol of all time.

1957-73 David Will­cocks

Will­cocks, who died in 2015, was born just one year af­ter King’s College’s in­au­gu­ral Nine Lessons and Carols. Among his many achieve­ments with the choir were mul­ti­ple in­ter­na­tional tours, ra­dio and TV appearances and dozens of record­ings in­clud­ing a now leg­endary disc of Allegri’s Mis­erere. Above all, it was his hu­mour and warm­ness of per­son­al­ity that made him one of King’s most revered and adored di­rec­tors.

1974-82 Philip Ledger

Con­tin­u­ing Will­cocks’s great work of record­ings and tours, Ledger’s prin­ci­pal legacy was his in­sis­tence on fos­ter­ing a sense of oc­ca­sion for ev­ery ser­vice. Ledger was sub­se­quently chair­man of the As­so­ci­ated Board of the Royal Schools of Mu­sic and was pres­i­dent of the Royal College of Or­gan­ists and the In­cor­po­rated So­ci­ety of Mu­si­cians.

1982-2019 Stephen Cleobury

Cleobury will leave the ship in fan­tas­tic shape af­ter his 37 years nur­tur­ing and train­ing gen­er­a­tions of choir mem­bers. On top of his many achieve­ments, his in­tro­duc­tion in 1983 of a spe­cially-com­mis­sioned carol ev­ery Christ­mas has proved es­pe­cially pop­u­lar over the years and will doubt­less re­main a King’s tra­di­tion. In 2012, Cleobury helped the choir set up its own la­bel, which has since put out over 30 records.

Sense of oc­ca­sion: Philip Ledger in 1980 and (left) David Will­cocks

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