Calling composers for cathedral's New Music Week

Ripon Cathedral is showcasing new talent and new music in a week long festival from May 13 until May 20. 

The week culminates in a Choir Open Day, offering young people the unique opportunity to meet the cathedral’s choir, rehearse with them and then sing with the choir at a service of Evensong.

This year for the first time, composers have been invited to submit new choral or instrumental pieces – with a special competition category for junior composers – with a chance to have their work played or sung during Ripon New Music Week.

Organiser and renowned composer Prof Philip Wilby said: “As church musicians we’ve got a wonderful history – a lot of our church music comes from the time of Shakespeare – the Golden Age of church music – but we want to ensure that we have a future as well.”

The festival from May 13 to May 20 will see only hymns and music written in the last 50 years performed at services – at 10.30 am and 3.30pm both Sundays and at 6pm Tuesday to Friday.

The pieces will include those written by the winners of the cathedral’s ‘Hymn Factor’ style competition – Sarah Cattley, 22, from Cambridge and Amy Coates, 17, from York.

Combining ancient and modern the two young composers set to music words by Yorkshire’s own Richard Rolle (the mystical and religious writer who died in 1349). Their pieces have been selected to be performed by Ripon Cathedral Choir during the May festival and both winners will be attending the premieres of their work.

In addition a new work for lay clerks (the cathedral’s professional adult singers) will also be performed. It’s been written by Rebecca Farthing, a young composer featured in last year’s BBC Proms series on Radio 3.

Canon Wendy Wilby, Acting Canon Precentor explained: “Ripon Cathedral has a long and distinguished history of encouraging its musicians to provide new pieces for worship. This year our Director of Music Andrew Bryden will be providing a new set of canticles for our boy choristers to sing and there will be pieces by Ripon composers featured during the week.

“Of course we are delighted to welcome musicians from further afield to visit our cathedral services during Ripon New Music Week – but we also have a great deal to celebrate amongst our home team.”

Amongst the many things the cathedral has to celebrate is its highly acclaimed choir and as New Music Week draws to a close – children aged six to 11 are invited to join the choir for the afternoon of Sunday May 20. The open day also gives parents a chance to hear first hand the advantages of being a chorister – namely first class musical training – including free singing and music theory lessons and a bursary to play a musical instrument.

Being a chorister demands time and commitment but is both fun and rewarding. The children are reimbursed for their time with regular payments and a savings plan which accrues over £1,000 for them when they have completed their term in the choir.

The cathedral’s Director of Music Andrew Bryden said: “Not only do choristers receive free musical training, they also learn organisational skills and the ability to work as part of a team. Being a chorister builds confidence and provides a life-long skill.

“Choristers are highly prized by schools. Previous choristers have gone on to sing in the National Youth Choir and have obtained choral and music scholarships to universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Durham.”

The Open Day runs from 1pm til 4pm and will include presentations, a guided tour of the cathedral, refreshments and goody bags. To book a place contact the Music Office on 01765 603496 – email choiropenday [at] 

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