Skip to content

St Albans Nowell

St Albans Nowell cover picture

St Albans Cathedral Choir

Director: Andrew Lucas
Organ: Simon Johnson
Benedicamus Domino Peter Warlock
Once in Royal David's city H J Gauntlett arr. Willcocks
A spotless Rose Herbert Howells
Adam lay y-bounden Treble solo only Peter Warlock
Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen Jan Sandström
Of the Father's heart trad. arr. David Willcocks
Ding dong merrily on high trad. harm. Charles Wood
Riu, riu, chiu Men only Spanish trad.
The Lamb John Tavener
O little town of Bethlehem H Walford Davies
Sing lullaby Herbert Howells
The Little Road to Bethlehem Treble solo only Michael Head
Sussex Carol trad. arr. David Willcocks
The little drummer boy Men only arr. John McCarthy
I wonder as I wander trad. arr. John Rutter
The Three Kings Peter Cornelius
Here is the little door Herbert Howells
Silent Night Franz Grüber arr. Barry Rose
O come all ye faithful trad. descant Barry Rose

Total playing time 63m 54s

St Albans Nowell

St Albans Nowell

Every year the Cathedral is packed on two consecutive evenings for the annual Service of Lessons and Carols for Christmas held on the 22nd and 23rd December at 8pm. This service is lit entirely by candlelight and takes the traditional form of biblical readings, carols and hymns and prayer meditating on the miracle of our Saviour's birth in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. For the Cathedral Choir it is the highlight of their musical year; the boys of the choir, in particular, take great pride in their effort and achievement at this service, perhaps more than on any other occasion. This is wonderful to experience and gives the service a very special atmosphere. So it is no wonder that its popularity means that seats are available only by application and are ticketed (over the two nights that means more than 3,000 people attend this service). It is the choir's great pleasure to offer this recording to a wider congregation and audience than we could ever achieve 'live' and to include one or two items from our Christmas repertoire that are not usually sung at this service.

The making of this recording came about chiefly for two reasons. The last Christmas recording from St Albans was made ten years ago and there have been many requests for a more recent recording. The second reason was the catalyst. The choir was to have made a tour to the United States of America in October 2001, but the tragic events of September 11th that year in New York and Washington eventually caused the tour to be cancelled. So we found ourselves in St Albans during an extended half term needing something to do musically. Lance Andrews of Lammas Records came to the rescue and this is the end result. We are very grateful to him for offering to turn the recording around from initial conception to release in less than ten weeks. We hope that you receive great joy from this recording, finding it uplifting, inspiring and full of Christian hope.

Andrew Lucas
St Albans, October 2001

St Albans Cathedral Choir

The history of St Albans Cathedral Choir only stretches back 120 years, although the Benedictine monastery of St Albans Abbey had a distinguished musical history stretching back before 1539 when the Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII. In those days the boys were press-ganged from all over the country; today they are all local schoolboys who are committed to sing services and attend rehearsal every day of the week, except one, during term time.

Unlike many ancient cathedrals there is no residential choir school, and the rehearsals and services are fitted in around a normal school week. The day begins at 7.40 am and ends after evensong at 5.45 pm on three weekdays. Friday nights are taken up with two hours of rehearsal and the services on Saturday and Sunday (usually three but sometimes four in all) take up a major proportion of the weekend.

The dedication of the boys and their parents is tremendous and the high standard of the choir and its international reputation has been hard won. The boys themselves receive in return an unparalleled free musical education and team spirit. For the weekends, greater Feast days, concerts and tours the 24 boys are joined by the 12 Lay Clerks to make up the full Cathedral Choir. The Lay Clerks are themselves a dedicated and highly skilled group of musicians who nevertheless, in the main, earn their living outside the music profession. The choir has made several recordings and six tours of the USA in the last ten years. Previous Masters of the Music of the Cathedral include Meredith Davies, Peter Hurford, Stephen Darlington, Colin Walsh and Barry Rose.

Since 1998 under their current director, Andrew Lucas, they have toured Sweden. In 2000 they sang in the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy in St Paul's Cathedral with the choirs of St Paul's and the Temple Church. The choir itself plays host to two other Cathedral Choirs in the biennial St Albans International Organ Festival in the Festival's Three Choirs Concert. In 2001 the choirs of Westminster Abbey and Southwark Cathedral joined them in St Albans in July 2001. For 2002 plans are being made for concerts and services in Italy.

Andrew Lucas

Andrew Lucas has been Master of Music of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban since February 1998, after eight years as the Sub-Organist of St Paul's Cathedral in London. He is also conductor of the St Albans Bach Choir and Artistic Director of the St Albans International Organ Festival.

Born in Wellington, Shropshire in 1958, Andrew studied Organ at the Royal College of Music with John Birch and composition with Herbert Howells and is a graduate of London University. He continued his organ studies with Peter Hurford and was awarded the WÊTÊBest Scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Musicians enabling him to study with Piet Kee at the Sweelinck Conservatoire in Amsterdam.

Andrew's career at St Paul's Cathedral began in 1980 as organ student, and then subsequently Assistant Sub-Organist (1985) and Sub-Organist and Assistant Director of Music (1990). His accompaniment of the St Paul's choir in concerts and over twenty commercial recordings has received critical acclaim. He has also made two solo recordings on the world famous organ of St Paul's.

As a soloist he plays concerts throughout the UK, and has given recitals in Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Bermuda and the USA. In 1997 he spent three months as Acting Organist and Master of the Choristers at St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia.

With St Albans Cathedral Choir he has toured Sweden and recorded music by Stanford on the Priory label. Since moving to St Albans he has concentrated on choral direction with the three choirs directly in his charge at the Cathedral, as well as other local choral groups and at the Purcell School of Music.

Simon Johnson

Simon Johnson was born in Peterborough in 1975. He returned there as chorister and subsequently Head Chorister of the Cathedral from 1986-89. He was awarded a music scholarship to Bloxham School, before going on to hold organ scholarships at Rochester, Norwich, and St Paul's Cathedrals. He holds the organ diplomas of the Royal College of Organists, having won several major prizes at both.

At Norwich Simon enjoyed three periods as Acting Assistant Organist of the Cathedral, during which time he took part in the premieres of works by John Tavener, Philip Wilby and Diana Burrell. His work accompanying both the Girls' Choir and the Cathedral Choir is reflected in two CD recordings, and he has played for both choirs on BBC Radio 2, 3, and 4. In addition to his responsibilities at the Cathedral Simon also gained a first class degree from the University of East Anglia, and founded the University Chamber Choir - a twenty-strong ensemble specialising in the performance of contemporary music.

Following a year working with John Scott at St. Paul's Cathedral, Simon moved to his next position at All Saints' Northampton. His work there involved running the choir of men and boys, and also the separate girls' choir. He made two CD recordings with the choirs on the Lammas label, and undertook tours to France, Germany and Italy.

Simon is an active organ recitalist, recent engagements including St Paul's, Westminster, Norwich and Ghent Cathedrals, and also Westminster Abbey.

Simon became Assistant Master of the Music and Director of the Abbey Girls' Choir at St Albans Cathedral in September 2001.

Recorded in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban
on 25th, 26th and 27th October 2001
by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter.

Produced by Andrew Parnell
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photograph by David Kelsall