The men and boys of Cathedral Choir of Worcester will perform in Medford under the direction of Adrian Lucas. - Photo courtesy of St. Mark's

Worcestor Cathedral Choir at St. Mark's

On Friday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m., Music at St. Mark's will present the Worcester Cathedral Choir, from Worcester, England, directed by Adrian Lucas. This choir of 16 boys and 12 men will sing a program of music for Lent, Holy Week and Easter.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church is located at 426 W. Sixth St., Medford. It is rare in this country to be able to hear an English men and boys cathedral choir. Fortunately the choir is on a singing tour of the Pacific Northwest.

Music at St. Mark's Music Director Margaret Evans says of the choir's distinctive sound: "The English cathedral choral tradition goes back hundreds of years. It features boys (before their voices change) singing the soprano part, and men singing the alto, tenor and bass parts.

"The result is a sound unique from regular mixed choirs -— a soaring soprano line that is clear and pure, plus the straight male alto sound. Much of the English choral literature was written for this kind of choir, so hearing it performed by a fine choir brings us very close to what the composer had in mind. Also seeing young boys enthusiastically singing is a joy."

The program will include music by Franz Jose Haydn, Felix Mendelssohn, Hugo Distler, Patrick Gowers, Walford Davies, Pierre Villette, Thomas Tomkins, Orlando Gibbons, Charles Wood, William Byrd, J. S. Bach, Francis Poulenc, Carlo Gesualdo and Dieterich Buxtehude.

Worcester Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral situated on a bank overlooking the River Severn. Its official name is The Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester. The Cathedral was founded in 680.

The first cathedral was built in this period but nothing now remains of it. The existing crypt of the cathedral dates from the 10th century and the time of St. Oswald, bishop of Worcester. The current cathedral dates from the 12th and 13th centuries.

The cathedral's choral tradition dates back to the 1400s. Today there are three choirs: the Worcester Cathedral Choir (the main choir which has both a boys' and a girls' treble line, which normally work independently), Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir; and the Worcester Cathedral Voluntary Choir. There also are junior choirs for boys and girls ages 7 to 13.

The Worcester Cathedral Choir consists of 18 choristers and 12 lay clerks (singing men). The choir has been enhanced by the inclusion of 18 girl choristers who sing their own schedule of services with the lay clerks.

The choir's primary purpose is to sing the daily services in the cathedral (the Opus Dei) together with the principle services for major festivals. This continues a tradition of daily worship that has taken place for more than 900 years.

In addition, the choir performs concerts internationally, as well as appearing in television and radio broadcasts. The choir was the first choir to tour South Africa after the abolition of apartheid.

The present tour is the fifth tour of the United States, although the first in the Northwest. Worcester is one third of the Three Choirs Festival (with Gloucester and Hereford), the oldest choral music festival in the world, in which the cathedral choirs play a leading part. The festival in Worcester during August 2008 was the 281st festival.

Leading the choir will be Adrian Lucas, who was appointed organist and master of the choristers at Worcester Cathedral in 1996. Before that, Lucas held positions at Salisbury Cathedral, St. John's College, Cambridge and Norwich Cathedral, and he was organist and master of the choristers at Portsmouth Cathedral.

In addition to his work at the cathedral, Lucas is conductor of the Worcester Festival Choral Society and the City of Birmingham Choir, and is a guest conductor with many major orchestras including the Philharmonia, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

The choir will be accompanied by organist Christopher Allsop. Allsop was appointed Assistant Organist of Worcester Cathedral in 2004, following positions at St George's Chapel Windsor, Trinity College Cambridge and Birmingham Cathedral. He is responsible for the girls section of the Cathedral Choir as well as directing the men and boys of the Cathedral Voluntary Choir.

Doors will open at 7 p.m. This concert is free and a reception will follow.

For more information, call Music at St. Mark's at 858-8037.

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