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So Rich a Crown

So Rich a Crown cover picture

The Choir of St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Director: James Thomas
Organ: Michael Bawtree
St Edmund Prayer James Thomas
Say where is he born / There shall a star Felix Mendelssohn
Prevent us O Lord William Byrd
Sing joyfully William Byrd
Blessed city, heavenly Salem Edward Bairstow
Justorum animae Charles Villiers Stanford
Coelos ascendit hodie Charles Villiers Stanford
O sacrum convivium Thomas Tallis
Vox dicentes: Clama Edward Woodall Naylor
If ye love me Thomas Tallis
Verily verily Thomas Tallis
Lord let me know mine end Maurice Greene
Hail gladdening light Charles Wood
Oculi omnium Charles Wood
My soul, there is a country Hubert Parry
Never weather beaten sail Hubert Parry
I know my soul hath power Hubert Parry
When I survey the wondrous cross Traditional adapted Edward Miller

Total playing time 73m 12s

So Rich a Crown

So Rich a Crown

This recording, made in early July 2004 was undertaken for several reasons. It provides each singer (and his family) with a permanent record of his time in the Cathedral Choir; it provides visitors to our Cathedral with a memento of their journey to Bury St Edmunds; and it enables us, in due course, to raise sufficient funds to make another in two years’ time.

The wide choice of music has no particular theme. They are simply pieces we enjoyed singing and wanted to record. A couple of requests from our clergy and congregation have been incorporated, as have one or two rarities (the first recording of the St Edmund Prayer, for instance, sung here for canonical occasions and the like. The words are by our former Precentor, now Bishop of Argyll and the Isles), and several old favourites.

There is a lot of organ noise, as you will hear when we fade into the accompanied items. Plans are afoot to restore and complete the instrument, which you can read about on our website.

James Thomas

The Choir of St Edmundsbury Cathedral

St Edmundsbury Cathedral Choir is a voluntary organisation working to the highest standards to provide music for the worship in St Edmundsbury Cathedral. The boys attend many different local primary and middle schools, although about half attend St James’s Middle School in the town. They rehearse most mornings before school, and twice a week after school. The Lay Clerks come from many different walks of life; all are volunteers. The full choir sings four services a week, the boys sing an extra one each week on their own and rehearse most mornings before school. On top of this considerable commitment, the Cathedral Choir also provides music for special civic and diocesan events, termly visits to parishes in the diocese, and occasional concerts.

They have broadcast annually live on BBC Radio 3 have appeared many times on Radio 4, and live on national television.

In the last six years they have undertaken tours to Picardie, Massachusetts, and Washington DC & Virginia. The Friends of the Cathedral Choir are extremely active in helping to raise funds for such undertakings.

James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Banbury in 1963. He studied music at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was Organ Scholar. During this period he received organ tuition from Nicolas Kynaston, and gained the Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists in 1986 winning the Dixon Prize for extemporisation. After a year at Homerton College studying for the Post Graduate Certificate in Education, James lived in Caen, Normandy, for two years, as assistant teacher of choral singing at the Conservatoire. During this time he studied the organ in Rouen (on Tuesdays) with Louis Thiry, gaining a Premier Prix de Perféctionnment. Moving back to the UK in 1988, James was Assistant Organist at Blackburn Cathedral, and later Assistant Director of Music at St Wilfrid’s High School. He then moved to Chichester Cathedral in 1991, again as Assistant Organist, and Director of Music at the Prebendal School (the Cathedral’s Choir School).

In 1997, James was appointed Director of Music at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. The choir is a voluntary one, there being no choir school. Nevertheless, they manage to achieve enviably high standards and do all the sorts of things that people expect Cathedral Choirs to do. From 1998 - 2004, James conducted the Cambridgeshire Choral Society.

James and Katharine were married in Chichester Cathedral in 1993. Katharine, herself an highly accomplished musician (formerly Organ Scholar of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), was daughter of one of James’s music teachers at Prebendal. They have three daughters.

Michael Bawtree

Michael Bawtree was born in Devon in 1975. He spent the year before university as Assistant Organist at King's School in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1994 he became Organ Scholar at Christ's College, Cambridge University, and graduated with a degree in music in 1997; earlier the same year, Michael became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, winning three prizes as a result of the examinations. Whilst in Cambridge he travelled extensively, performing with the Chapel Choir in Switzerland, France, Ireland, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Canada.

For five years, Michael was Assistant Director of Music at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. With the Cathedral Choir, he broadcast frequently on BBC Radio 3 and 4, toured to Washington and New England, and made three CD recordings. In addition to his Cathedral work, Michael was heavily involved in the choral and orchestral life of the county. In September 2004, he moved to Glasgow to take up a two-year postgraduate scholarship at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama studying orchestral conducting.

Recital engagements have taken Michael to cathedrals across the British Isles (including Westminster, St Paul's, Carlisle, Dublin, Edinburgh, Hereford and Truro), as well as to New England, Bermuda and Switzerland. In September 2003, he was invited to perform in Copenhagen as part of a festival of English music. Future engagements include concerts in San Francisco, Richmond VA and Washington National Cathedral.

He is one half of the Busch-Bawtree piano duo, a collaboration with American composer Richard Busch which has recently included duet recitals in Massachusetts and East Anglia. Outside his musical life, he has a passion for travel and enjoys photography and reading, when time allows!

Recorded in St Edmundsbury Cathedral on 5th, 6th and 7th July 2004 by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter.

Producers: Michael Bawtree, Katharine Thomas
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews

Cover photograph of the 12th Century “Cloisters Cross” (almost certainly carved in Bury St Edmunds) by kind permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York