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David Fisher - LEICESTER CATHEDRAL LEGACY CONCERT, 12th October 2013

David Fisher - LEICESTER CATHEDRAL LEGACY CONCERT, 12th October 2013

David Fisher - LEICESTER CATHEDRAL LEGACY CONCERT, 12th October 2013



1. David Shaw & David Fisher

2. Darron Moore & David Fisher


Row 1. David Fisher [15]; Bob King; David Fisher [18]; George Gray

Row 2. Peter White; S S Wesley; Edward Bairstow; David Fisher [Uni Y1]; Chris Johns

Row 3. Edgar Bainton; Benjamin Britten; D G Davies; R Vaughan Williams

Row 4. Thomas Morley; Charles Wood; David Shaw; Roy Sawbridge; Michael White

Poster of the concert.

David Fisher [chorister from 1963-69] writes: “Having reached my seventh decade and having retired from a full-time position as the Head of a Performing Arts faculty, I naturally took the opportunity to look back over the last half century to partly evaluate how my life-long professional career in music was possible. Having a good treble voice was a good starting point, having gifted primary and secondary school music teachers certainly helped but it was the stellar training over many years in the cathedral choir with musicians of national standing which was to tilt the balance. This concert, therefore, is an opportunity to give thanks to those who created me as a musician and have helped to develop those skills in my formative years and beyond.”

A dictionary definition of ‘legacy’ embraces several meanings but for the purposes of this concert it is “something that someone has achieved that continues after they stop working or die”. It’s about sharing what you have learned that is handed down, endowed or conveyed from one person to another. It is something inherited or received from predecessors so, in fact, all those that taught me were themselves the inheritors of many centuries of musical training.

This philosophy was expounded by Michael Palin in recent days when he wrote: “I find as I get older I’ve learned more about the world and I want to share in with people…I just hope that the work I do does leave a mark, and just doesn’t blow away like the dust.”

This is not a new concept, however, as Lao Tzu – a Chinese philosopher who lived over 400 years before Christ stated:

If you know when you have enough, you are wealthy;

If you carry your intentions to completion, you are resolute;

If you live a long & creative life, you will leave an eternal legacy

One hopes that the young people in this concert, under the direction of Chris Johns’ superb team, will look back at this evening and their time in the cathedral with equal fondness and remember what it was to belong and to learn. If any of them go on to careers where they can pass on their musical skills to others, then their training will have been invaluable. Even if they follow non-musical careers, the choristers will take with them the benefits of a world class musical education whilst learning to organise their time and develop essential life skills such as self-reliance, self-discipline and working as a team member to produce the highest possible standards.

Apart from the musicians who are mentioned later, what were my musical highlights as a chorister? Singing the ripieno choir in Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion with the Leicester Bach Choir under George Gray; participating in the Three Choirs’ Festival alongside Lichfield and Birmingham with George Thalben Ball on the organ; being part of George Gray’s glorious last service at Easter 1969 and in awe at the equally brilliant first evensong of Peter White with Stanford’s anthem The Lord is my Shepherd; broadcasting six Choral Evensongs and a Songs of Praise from the Cathedral whilst learning some of the greatest music ever written for the church: O clap your hands together [Orlando Gibbons]; O, sing unto the Lord [Henry Purcell]; Turn thee unto me [William Boyce]; The Cherubic Hymn [L’vovsky]; Blessed be the God and Father [S S Wesley]; How lovely is thy dwelling place [Johannes Brahms]; Glory and honour and laud be to thee [Charles Wood]; O how glorious [Basil Harwood]; Let all mortal flesh keep silence [Edward Bairstow] with the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis settings by Stanford [in C], Bairstow [in D], Howells [New College setting] and Jackson [in C for trebles]. Now when I look back I remember singing arias from oratorios at the Monday evensongs with the other boys. Arias that I’d never dream we could have attempted when I started as a chorister: How beautiful are the feet [Handel’s Messiah] and I’ll follow [Bach’s St John Passion].

My fellow choristers and songmen and members of the congregation will have their own favourites but today’s choristers will have some by composers not even born when I was singing treble: Will Todd and Eric Whitacre, for example. What, I wonder, will you remember from tonight’s concert? Whatever comes to mind will become part of the Leicester Cathedral Legacy.”

The descriptions which follow contain enough detail to explain the work’s origins as well as making links between the vast network of interconnected musicians who have been influenced, often unknowingly, by the same musicians. I attempt to explain some of the relationships such as the fact that many years ago my brother Morris conducted a Puccini opera with a brilliant boy soloist singing the part of a shepherd boy. The opera? Tosca. The soloist? Dr Chris Johns. See how many other connections you can find…


Domine, non est     David Fisher [b.1952]

(Performed by Kingfisher Chorale directed by David Fisher)

This work is the earliest work I recognise from my output and this is probably because the sessions with Dr George Gray were having an effect on my textures and suspensions. I was 14 at the time when this was written for Mothering Sunday 1967 [5th March], yet it was not until my mother’s memorial service that the work was performed for the first time performed by Kingfisher Chorale in Castle Donington Methodist Church on 1st November 2001. A second performance took place at St James the Greater Church on 30th November 2002 at “Fisher at Fifty”. The Latin Domine, non est [from Psalm 131] is set in English as ‘Lord, I am not high-minded’. In this piece there is a baritone solo which was written with the voice of Dr. Robert [Bob] King in mind, one of the finest soloists in the Cathedral Choir. The Old Choristers are saddened to note that only this week we discovered that Bob King died on 25th September aged 90. Tonight’s performance is dedicated to his memory. His picture is taken from the 1968 photograph of the Cathedral Choir hanging in the choir’s Gardiner Room.

Adam lay ybounden     David Fisher

(performed by Kingfisher Chorale & Simon Headley directed by David Fisher) 

Another early piece, this one written early in 1970 for a group called Octave. This was a group of eight friends based at Holy Apostles Church where Alan Warren was the vicar and later Precentor of Leicester Cathedral. The Rev. Alan Warren commissioned my first professional work which was A Christmas Suite for all the children at his church. I received the grand sum of 10 shillings [50p]. This carol, however, is not connected and is in ternary form [accompanied, a cappella and accompanied again] and composed with the Leicester Cathedral organ in mind.

Mary Laid Her Child        David Fisher

(performed by Kingfisher Chorale & Simon Headley directed by David Fisher)  

This carol for Christmas or Easter is dedicated to Peter White & Leicester Cathedral Choir and is published by Roberton Publications. First performed by the Vienna Boys’ Choir under Anton Neyder at Gloucester Cathedral in 1972 and then in dozens of cathedral and chapels in the UK and Australasia. It can be performed with or without organ accompaniment and it is the latter version heard this evening. Other notable performances have been at Leicester cathedral under Peter White; Chichester Cathedral in 1982 under Alan Thurlow [Assistant Organist at Durham Cathedral when I was at Durham University]. The carol was recorded a cappella on CD by Kingfisher Chorale in 1999 and more recently by the Roder Jongenskoor on their CD released in November 2011. Rintje te Wies, the Musical Director, writes in the CD notes: Mary Laid her child is an especially atmospheric work in which a beautiful modal melody is heard in unison in the first verse and is followed by two and three voice settings, culminating in the six voice final verse with its exuberant final chord. The organ part provides the interludes which bind the work together."

Before the ending of the day   George Gray [1897-1981] 

(performed by Kingfisher Chorale directed by David Fisher) 

This gem by George Gray shows a real sensitivity for the words which are a translation of the ancient Latin hymn “Te lucis ante terminum”. Contrasting dynamics & a free use of tonalities highlight every line and the piece ends triumphantly. This was always a favourite with the choir and is so beautiful that it is a shame Dr. Gray didn’t write more although his sets of Responses are still very much in regular use at the cathedral.

Urbs beata    Peter White [1937-2007]

(performed by Simon Headley) 

Peter White recorded his first LP [later transferred to CD] in 1976 and as his principal page turner for many years, I was privileged to help in his recording. Alas, it had to be recorded overnight from 11 pm and 6 am so teaching the following day proved rather difficult. The album showed Peter and the organ off to brilliant effect and he included pieces by his predecessors Gordon Slater and George Gray as well as some of his showpiece recital repertoire. He added his own composition which is dramatic & well-constructed.  Sub-titled “Toccata for a Dedication Festival” it is dedicated to the Provost at the time, the Very Rev. John C Hughes. It has a prominent tune in the pedals which leans towards Peter’s love of the French repertoire, particularly Vierne and Messaien.

Lead me Lord         Samuel Sebastian Wesley [1810-1876]

(performed by Leicester Cathedral Choir & Simon Headley directed by Chris Johns)

A beautiful short work taken from the conclusion of Wesley’s larger work: Praise the Lord, O my soul. It is included in this concert as it was chosen by George Gray to represent the choir on a very early edition of “Songs of Praise”. Elizabeth Holden, a wonderful contralto pupil of George’s, performed the solo part. It proved to be a moving performance by the soloist and choir. Unfortunately I don’t know if the recording was ever kept but I doubt it. I believe the recording was probably 1963. The piece is in binary form with the soloists being followed by the choir repeating the same phrase. The first one is transformed when the choir enters by stunning suspensions in the first two bars. Interestingly, Elizabeth Holden’s legacy is that she became a vocal advisor to Leicestershire under Peter Fletcher and gave lessons to hundreds of singers including all those singing in the newly-formed Leicestershire Chorale.

Magnificat in D    Edward Bairstow [1874-1946]

(performed by Leicester Cathedral Choir, Simon Headley, Songmen Emeriti, Old Choristers & Kingfisher Chorale directed by David Fisher)

George Gray was articled to Edward Bairstow at York & his interpretations of Bairstow’s work had the seal of authenticity on them. We could always sense Sir Edward on George’s shoulder and this has been passed on to the all the singers in the choirs. This is a powerful setting of the Magnificat with broad melodies which contrast beautifully with the lyrical solo section of “He rememb’ring His mercy” before the mighty “Gloria” thunders in. In this performance, we will be performing the extended setting of the Nunc Dimittis “Gloria” after the Magnificat

Three Songs for Children  David Fisher

(performed by Darron Moore with David Fisher - piano)

The five songs for children were composed as a set of three and two individual songs which are not for children to sing but to make children think and to entertain them as well. ‘Boy Fishing’ [September 1971] was dedicated to Bill Snape – the Madrigal Group’s “gifted soloist’ and ‘Warning to Children’ [22nd November 1971 – St Cecilia’s Day] was dedicated to my brother Morris. Both are serious songs in C minor which comment on children from an adult’s perspective whereas ‘King David & King Solomon’, ‘What became of them?’ and ‘Do you know?’ were written as a set in June 1972 and are settings of comic poems. Songs 4 & 5 are in the second half.

1. What became of them?

2. Boy Fishing

3. King David & King Solomon

Peace to this House       Christopher Johns  [b. 1975]

(performed by Leicester Cathedral Choir & Simon Headley directed by Chris Johns)

Dr. John’s first piece this evening is, like The Legacy and Litany to the Holy Spirit, a pièce d´occasion and was “Written for the opening of St Martin’s House on 10th June 2011 and dedicated to the missing apostrophe”. In contrasts a deceptively simple refrain which becomes more richly harmonised as the piece progresses with psalm-chant-like sections, sometimes harmonised and on two occasions in unison. The words are mainly from the New Testament with two verses from the Book of Psalms.

And I saw a new heaven       Edgar Bainton [1880-1956]

(performed by Leicester Cathedral Choir & Simon Headley directed by Chris Johns)

Edgar Bainton’s output was considerable and yet this anthem, completed in June 1928, remains his most enduring and famous composition amongst many neglected works. Bainton was prolifically talented and when he was 19 he won a scholarship to study with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, at the Royal College of Music. And I saw a new heaven is a serenely beautiful work with melodies that flow effortlessly from the start. Interestingly there is a connection with Bairstow as Sir Edward awarded Bainton an honorary DMus at Durham University. It was, in fact, Durham Cathedral that I heard this piece for the first time on the recommendation of Andrew King (a friend and fellow singer in Schola Cantorum) who sang in the cathedral choir under the Organist and Master of the Choristers Conrad Eden and later in The Consort of Musicke with Emma Kirkby. Dr Robert Scandrett wrote: “It is impossible to listen to anthems like this without imagining them in the soaring acoustics of Durham”. Hearing the work will take me back to being a student again especially the intensely beautiful melody “And God shall wipe away all tears”.

The Father                      David Fisher

(performed by Kingfisher Chorale directed by Giles Turner) 

The Litanie, with its accompanying motet Ave Regina caelorum, was written between 1973-1976, and the quartet of movements won the Northern Sinfonia Chorus “Young Composer of the Year” award and was sung by the choir in March 1978. Set to mystical words by John Donne, the suite of four movements [the second being one of two works dedicated to Bob Prime the Assistant Organist at Leicester Cathedral] are all linked by the plainsong liturgy for The Litany which used to be sung at Leicester Cathedral. The Father, tonight’s piece from the four, had its world première by the Mixolydian Consort in 1973 and features a prominent soprano solo. The whole work was revised in 1979 for the Leicestershire Chorale under Peter Fletcher. The whole suite was recorded for the British Music Council by the Burrows Choir directed by Brian Blythe Daubney in 1988 and in his sleeve notes he wrote: “David Fisher’s The Litanie seizes on the devout yet sensuous quality of the verse of the dual-natured John Donne. There are moments of growth from gentle reflection to impassioned intensity.”

Ave Regina caelorum                 David Fisher

(performed by Kingfisher Chorale directed by Giles Turner)

This piece is the motet preceding The Litanie – see above. Dedicated to Philip Manser [of St George’s Chapel and then Lincoln Cathedral] & first performed St Asaph Cathedral, 1976. There have been many performances all over the world after it was issued by Roberton Publications and it was also recorded as an LP by Lincoln Cathedral Choir in 1982 and released on CD in 2007. Dr Philip Marshall [who, incidentally, succeeded Leicester Cathedral’s Gordon Slater to the position at Lincoln] wrote on the sleeve notes: “This short work, from the composer’s Introit and The Litanie, was written in 1974. The idiom is mystical and sensitive, showing and original mind, with a sense of vocal line and a deft and delicate handling of dissonance”. A richly harmonised chorus is sung three times and these frame two verses sung by a trio of soloists.

The Legacy     David Fisher

(performed by Leicester Cathedral Choir, Simon Headley, Songmen Emeriti, Old Choristers & Kingfisher Chorale directed by Chris Johns) 

Written for and: "Dedicated to Dr Chris Johns, Simon Headley, the Choirs of Leicester Cathedral, the Leicester Cathedral Old Choristers´ Association and the magnificent musical legacy these represent".

The whole piece in terms of words and music reflect the development of musicians in cathedrals and other environments. This legacy begins with meandering chords [showing the beginning of the learning process] under which, in the pedals, is the tune taken from Tallis reflecting the legacy from that composer to the present day. The discords, nevertheless, suggest the keys to be used later. The young voices are contrasted with a mature choir showing both ends of the process. The next interlude is still discordant but with more shape and the Tallis melody still in the pedals is dissipating. Here the cathedral choir(s) are now contrasted with ‘older’ [generally] gentlemen of the Songman Emeriti and the Old Choristers touching on the passing on of wisdom. The next interlude shows the Tallis has almost gone and a new, more confident, style begins. This leads in to a massive section [again, like the other two sections, a cappella] in up to eleven parts. The original Tallis canon is contrasted by all the melodies used earlier with the addition of another much faster canon of my own in the cathedral altos and basses whilst the second choir sings homophonically. At the end of this section the organ and choirs come together in a coda in which the full organ (with the addition of the tuba) comes to the fore in a very noisy conclusion. The rising keys [E, G & B flat] show upwards steps of learning too.

VERSE 1 [Boys & Girls of Choir 1 with Choir 3]

CHOIR 1: Awake, my soul, and with the sun Your daily stage of duty run; Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise To pay your morning sacrifice (F.H. Barthélémon [1741-1808]) CHOIR 3: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it … (Proverbs 22:6)… But, as for you, continue in what you have learned … because you know those from whom you learned it. (2 Timothy 3:14)

VERSE 2 [Choir 1 with Choir 2]

CHOIR 1: Redeem your misspent time that’s past; And live this day were it your last; Improve your talent with due care; For the great day yourself prepare. (F.H. Barthélémon [1741-1808]) CHOIR 3: By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established … a wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might … (Proverbs 24:3,5) … Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding. (Proverbs 14:33-15)

VERSE 3 [All voices]

CHOIR 1 [S & T] & CHOIR 2: Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (Bishop T. Ken [1637-1711]) CHOIR 1 [A & B]: Awake, awake, ye heav’nly choir, May your devotion me inspire, That I like you my age may spend, Like you may on my God attend. (F.H. Barthélémon [1741-1808]) + plus ALL the previous biblical references: 11 individual voice parts singing at once.



Jubilate Deo           Benjamin Britten [1913-1976]

(performed by Leicester Cathedral Choir, Kingfisher Chorale & Simon Headley directed by Chris Johns) 

In 1934 Britten composed his first canticle setting, Te Deum in C, and followed that quickly with a companion piece, Jubilate Deo in E flat major. It was not published until after the composer’s death. In 1961, however, he composed a new companion piece: the Jubilate Deo in C. In the words of Paul Spicer [Conductor of the Leicester Bach Choir from 1986-1992, a choir which was founded by Gordon Slater at Leicester Cathedral]: “With its lively and spirited organ accompaniment and its simple and direct vocal phrases it positively bubbles with the joyful mood of the words” (Britten Choral Guide). The Jubilate Deo, written for St George’s, Windsor, at the request of the Duke of Edinburgh but first performed in Leeds Parish Church, is full of interesting tonalities, bright organ flourishes, and contrasts of tempi and texture that combine to create a festive atmosphere.

The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard                 Benjamin Britten

(performed by the men of Kingfisher Chorale with Sian Loyns - piano - directed by David Fisher)

1943, the year in which he composed his cantata Rejoice in the Lamb Serenade for tenor, horn and strings, was an especially fecund one for Britten. Having returned to Britain from America, he had given various wartime recitals and in the autumn received a commission to write a piece for men’s voices and piano. With a dedication to ‘Richard Wood and the musicians of Oflag VIIb’ (a prisoner-of-war camp in Bavaria) The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard is an anonymous tale of adultery, betrayal and regret. It had immediate appeal to the incarcerated officers and is so beautifully set that it is almost like a miniature choral opera. Over an initial tolling bell accompaniment it tells of the seduction of Lady Barnard by Musgrave after Matins where ‘he had more mind of the fair women than he had of our Lady’s Grace!’ An eavesdropping page informs Lord Barnard of the liaison and, with much galloping from Lord Barnard’s steed, a duel inevitably ensues and ends with the death of both lovers. This little masterpiece demonstrates Britten’s superb ability to match words with high quality music at the appropriate skill level for amateur performers which was to hold him in good stead with many of his later works. Its first performance took place in February 1944 during part of a month-long camp music festival with Lieutenant Richard Wood conducting about thirty men.

The Tiffany Anthem        David Fisher

(performed by the ladies of Kingfisher Chorale & Simon Headley directed by David Fisher)

This anthem was commissioned by Jonathan Gregory [former Director of Music at Leicester Cathedral and Deputy Head Chorister when I joined the choir] and the Leicester Old Choristers’ Association with help of a grant from the Arts Council England and first performed in Leicester Cathedral on Saturday 18th September 2004 by the Cathedral Girls’ Choirs of Coventry, Derby & Leicester on the occasion of the 74th Festival of The Federation of Cathedral Old Choristers’ Associations. The anthem was subsequently performed at St Paul’s Cathedral, London in May 2007 and was also performed to the Archbishop of Canterbury in June 2009. Peter Gould [Master of the Music], Tom Corfield [Organist] and the Girl Choristers of Derby Cathedral Choir released the world première recording of the anthem in 2009. I didn’t know at the time that a former chorister and protégé of Peter Gould and Tom Corfield would, only a few years later be conducting the first performance of my new work as a Director of Cathedral Music in his own right. The words of the anthem can be found on the chapel designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It is an amazing interior which has all the words set in the mosaics around the chapel. The inspiration for me, when I knew I was writing for young voices, was the line on one of the steps of the chapel: “I will go to the altar of God, to God who gave joy to my youth.” I set the anthem with English and Latin texts alternating and overlapping. The piece is in ternary form with an introduction and coda and the accompaniment is designed to test the organ in terms of virtuosity and its timbres.

One of the best choirs I have ever sung in was the Leicester City Schools’ Madrigal Group which consisted of the top eight singers from The Teachers’ Choir and eight hand-picked students from city schools. Directed by D G Davies [pictured above - a gifted Welsh conductor with an ear for the fluency and style of the music we performed and whose son sang in Leicester Cathedral Choir in the 60s] we performed an amazing array of music from many centuries and the next three pieces sing by Kingfisher Chorale are a small selection. Our first concerts were in and around Krefeld, Leicester’s twin city and we sang to packed audiences and gained critical acclaim. It was singing in this choir that I met two of the musicians who were to have a profound effect on my musical development: Bill Snape & Peter Farrands.

Now is the gentle season          Thomas Morley [1557-1602]

(performed by members of Kingfisher Chorale)

A lovely secular four-part madrigal by Thomas Morley in two halves. The first to the words: “Now is the gentle season freshly flow´ring, to sing and play and dance while May endureth, & woo and wed too, that sweet delight procureth” The second, imitative, section begins with the words “The fields abroad”. This was also a popular madrigal at Alderman Newton’s Boys’ School alongside masterpieces like Gibbons’ The Silver Swan and Weelkes’ As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending which matched the great English Renaissance pieces learned at the cathedral.

The Cloud-capp’d Towers     Vaughan Williams [1872-1958]

(performed by Kingfisher Chorale directed by Giles Turner)

This is the middle setting of Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs, dating from 1951 and written for a choral competition connected with the Festival of Britain. The elderly composer creates a hypnotic atmosphere with a succession of tonally conflicting chords which, when combined with dramatic changes of dynamics, produce an effect of light and shade of dazzling assurance and sensitivity. Shakespeare’s powerful lines [a setting of Prospero’s great speech from Act IV of The Tempest] are transformed into a musical dream – one of the most impressive of Vaughan Williams’ choral output.

The Turtle Dove          Vaughan Williams

(performed by Darron Moore & Kingfisher Chorale directed by Giles Turner) 

Sometimes known as Ten Thousand Miles, this folk song was collected in 1904 by Vaughan Williams who recorded the singing of Mr. Pendfold, landlord of the “Plough Inn”, Rusper, Sussex on a wax cylinder. The present arrangement was made in 1924 and features a solo voice in the first and last verses, some stunning textural writing in verse two and the soloist joins the choir in verse three. The Turtle Dove is a traditional symbol of constancy and faithfulness and, whilst mentioned several times in the Bible, is most popularly sung about in The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Two Songs for Children    David Fisher

(performed by Darron Moore with David Fisher - piano)

4. ‘Do you know?’

5. ‘Warning to Children’

The Angel Aria      David Fisher

(performed by Emma Trounson, Kingfisher Chorale & Simon Headley directed by Giles Turner)

Laudate Dominum was written and performed in 1996 as a commission for Dame Emma Kirkby, Derby Choral Union and an authentic Classical orchestra. Later in 1999, it was performed by the Leicester Bach Choir with Alison Smart in a new accompaniment for organ. Leicester Bach Choir, again conducted by Giles Turner, performed the entire work at that time in 2002 as part of the Leicestershire Composer’s concert accompanied by a modern orchestra (with soprano Kate Tansy) rather than for the authentic Classical orchestra for which it is written. The universality of the text “O praise the Lord all ye people” is emphasised by the use of four languages: Latin, German, English and French. It is in ternary form with an introduction and coda. The first section closes with the whole choir singing the fanfare figure before the soprano soloist begins the French text in a slow and lyrical melody in C major accompanied by pulsating strings, oboe solo and flutes. This anthem version of the "Angel Aria" was first performed at the memorial service for the composer´s mother in 2001. The English translation is: “O praise the Lord all ye nations: praise him all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.” [Psalm 117]

The Christ-child                  David Fisher

(performed by the ladies of Kingfisher Chorale & David Fisher - piano - directed by Giles Turner) 

Written specifically for Dame Emma Kirkby and Herr Joachim Diessner von Isensee, this carol was performed at the Evangelische Versöhnungskirche, Ehrenfeld, Köln on December 16th 2012 by the dedicatees. Tonight’s performance is the British première and the first to be performed by a choir rather than soloists. The words are taken from "A Christmas Carol," by G.K. Chesterton [1874-1936], was first published in "The Wild Knight" in 1900. The first three verses are set independently and in different keys although the home tonality returns in the last verse. The opening vocal figuration represents the fluttering of angels’ wings.

Pie Jesu                          David Fisher

(performed by Kingfisher Chorale & Simon Headley directed by Giles Turner)

The première performance of Requiem was at Holy Cross Church Daventry by the Daventry Choral Society conducted by Giles Turner [the longest serving and youngest Head Chorister under Peter White] on 31st March 2001 with the organist Tom Corfield [who taught Chris Johns]. Derby Choral Union also performed the Requiem at Derby Cathedral on 16th November 2002. It is not a standard setting of the Requiem Mass in that it comments on the journey towards death and the effect of death upon those left behind. “Pie Jesu” is movement 6 and is a calm setting of the famous words. Described in Neil Crutchley’s review as showing “the composers natural gift for melody”.  Here the rise and fall of the opening melody is contrasted with the peaceful hymn-like section of the central section.

Litany to the Holy Spirit   Christopher Johns

(performed by Leicester Cathedral Choir & Simon Headley directed by Chris Johns)

Dedicated to “the very Reverend David Monteith on the occasion of his installation as Dean of Leicester. Eve of Pentecost, 18 May 2013.” The melodic and harmonic structure of this piece is based on a complex code derived the words ‘David Monteith’. In a short extract from Dr Johns’ explanation at the beginning of the score he rationalises the basic concept thus: “The German system of note names uses the letters A to H for the for the seven ‘white notes’ pitches plus our B-flat and the letters I to L were assigned to the remaining four ‘black note’ pitches. The next twelve letters of the alphabet were interpreted in the same way”.

“Translated in this way, ‘David Monteith, Dean of Leicester’ gives the following sequence of notes and the melody for each line of the first and second verses and all but the third line of the fourth verse is made up of contiguous strings of notes taken from this sequence, as follows”:

Without getting too involved in this ingenious method of construction, the work is very striking with wonderful textural contrasts and an exquisite final cadence.

O thou, the central orb      Charles Wood [1866-1926]

(performed by Leicester Cathedral Choir, Simon Headley, Songmen Emeriti, Old Choristers & Kingfisher Chorale directed by Chris Johns) 

Irish-born Charles Wood became one of the inaugural group of fifty students at the newly-instituted RCM. There Wood studied with Stanford and Parry and later became a teacher of note himself including both Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells amongst his pupils. O Thou, the central orb, published in 1915 is an exuberant setting of a text by Henry Ramsden Bramley. It is wonderful anthem in which the paean’s reverential setting of the words builds to a mighty conclusion of real splendour. Apart from the fact that this piece shows the direct legacy from Stanford and Parry to Vaughan Williams and Howells (which is the basis of this evening’s celebration), it is included because when I was due to retire as a chorister Peter White asked if I’d like to choose an anthem. I selected this powerful piece so that I could sing that top A-flat and finish my treble career in a blaze of glory. Those are the memories that last a lifetime and some 44 years later I still remember that choral evensong with great fondness.

The Leicester Cathedral Legacy Concert would not have been possible but for these people who over the years have given me the skills and/encouragement for my life in music:

George Gray was vital in my development and has been mentioned several time in this programme already. He taught me four-part harmony and as a young teenager I revelled in the exploration and study of Bach chorales. I composed several works at the time. When Dr Gray retired from the cathedral I wrote a huge "Gloria" for him in up to eight parts with organ accompaniment. After that I wrote an a cappella anthem [O praise the Lord] for Bob Prime, who was the Assistant Organist at the time, to mark his move to the Lake District. Bob [or Mr Prime to me!] always showed an interest in the work I was doing and often gave valuable advice on structure. Peter White, who followed George Gray as Master of Music, was also my teacher at Alderman Newton’s Boys’ Grammar School, and he refined my skills. He was a perfectionist in harmonic construction and his precision and brilliance in explaining unusual modulations stay with me now. Possibly the earnest believer in me since the early years, however, is my brother Morris who is a gifted musician. He is a professional conductor, singer and arranger and his active encouragement of my pieces right from when we were both adolescents has been of enormous benefit to me. I continue to be extremely grateful for his support. knowledge and experience and for his unerring sense of constructive criticism. My sister, Elizabeth, whilst a good choir mezzo herself was an arts management supremo and it was she alone who gained the funding for composition of my Requiem which, to date, is still my largest work. I am also fortunate to be married to Pauline, the most patient woman on the planet, who not only inspires my compositions but has written superb lyrics for the three Farnham commissions and as a result has been commissioned herself to write lyrics for four more Farnham pieces, two of which were composed by inspirational Will Todd.

I should also point out that had Miss Joyce Moon (an amazing teacher who spotted and developed my singing talent at primary school) and Mr David Shaw (whose wonderful musicianship and enthusiastic brilliance at my grammar school encouraged a wider love of music) not been so good in their vocations I might not even have been in the profession long enough to write this paragraph! Much the same applies to Bill Snape [Leicester City Schools’ Madrigal Group] and Roy Sawbridge [long-serving ex-cathedral chorister and songman]. These introduced me to a far wider knowledge of musical genres and each, as gifted teachers and performers in their own rights, have given me advice which has developed my musical and educational skills. Neil Crutchley is justifiably well-known to people involved in almost every genre of the Arts in Leicester. A noted author and public speaker with an encyclopædic knowledge of all music, especially choral music, it has been his perceptive and incisive critical comments over the years which have helped not only me but many musicians in similar professional backgrounds.

The Leicester Mercury previewed the event under the heading "Cathedral choir has left a lasting legacy" and this text:

Composer, conductor and retired music teacher David Fisher has sent me this photo of Leicester Cathedral Choir, taken on Easter Day in 1966... at 5.13pm!

Mr. Fisher, who appears fourth from the right on the front row, tells me he is trying to track down all the names of the choir members.

In the photo, behind Mr. Fisher is George Gray the organist and master of the choristers from 1931 to 1969. To Dr Gray´s left is Jonathan Gregory, Leicester Cathedral´s Director of Music from 1994 to 2010. Another notable is Michael White, back row, third from right, who was Mr. Fisher´s first head of music at New Parks Boys´ School. If you love English choral music, then you might be interested in the Leicester Cathedral Legacy Concert, at 7.30pm on Saturday.

"It will be a celebration of the vast legacy created by musical training in places such as Leicester Cathedral," says Mr. Fisher. "In a concert which covers a wide variety of the most popular choral music, all the choirs of Leicester Cathedral, directed by Dr Chris Johns, will be joined by the Songmen Emeriti and old choristers of Leicester Cathedral, plus the Kingfisher Chorale, to celebrate the enduring effect singing in a cathedral choir can have on lives and careers." Focusing on Mr. Fisher, the music will feature an anthem written when he was 14 and another composed especially for this concert. The latter, The Legacy, features all the choirs and is to be directed by Chris Johns and accompanied by Simon Headley. "This is a world première of some significance and its theme mirrors the evening perfectly," says Mr Fisher.

The photo accompanying this article can be accessed by clicking HERE:



The following is part of an e-mail sent to the Leicester Mercury. The Leicester Mercury don’t do reviews anymore but printed the letter [in a heavily edited version] on 26th October 2013. It is reproduced here under the heading given by the editor: 



     My family and I were privileged to be at the Leicester Cathedral Legacy Concert and we were rewarded by a concert of exceptional quality. 

     Produced and mainly directed by David Fisher and Leicester Cathedral’s Director of Music, Dr Chris Johns, the choirs of Leicester Cathedral, including their Songmen Emeriti and Old Choristers and the renowned Kingfisher Chorale were all brought together to celebrate the legacy of the musical training at the cathedral.

    Mr Fisher was a chorister during the 60’s and founder of Kingfisher Chorale and he felt that it was his time with the choir at Leicester Cathedral that gave him the musical skills that dominated his artistic career.

    We were treated to a wonderful selection of choral and organ pieces. There were many highlights, but those that stood out were pieces by Bainton, Bairstow and Wood with Mr Fisher’s and Dr Johns´ not suffering in comparison.


     There were superb solo contributions from baritone Darron Moore.


     The climax of the evening, though, was the première of The Legacy,  written by Mr Fisher. Featuring all the performers, the work demonstrated choral singing at its best and proves that Leicester truly has first-rate musicians who will indeed create a lasting legacy.