15 December 2018
Andrew Wright – Master of Music
Celebrating Andrew’s 40th Anniversary as a Cathedral Musician & 35 years at Brentwood Cathedral
This celebratory occasion was greeted with much anticipation by musicians, friends and colleagues on a cold and blustery Saturday in Essex. However, the weather did not affect the day, which was warm in its reception at Brentwood Cathedral and passionate in the musicians’ performance of the famous oratorio, Messiah, by George Frederic Handel (1685-1759).
Andrew Wright – Cathedral Master of Music
The day began with an afternoon of rehearsals for choir, soloists and orchestra, conducted and directed by Andrew Wright, illuminating not only the beautiful vocal and instrumental sounds, but also Andrew’s experienced skilfulness in guiding the preparation for the evening ahead. The number of times Andrew has conducted performances of the Messiah runs easily into double figures and it remains one of his favourite works, uniting the timbres and talents of a variety of musicians under one roof in a deeply spiritual journey. This is reflected in Andrew’s career of forty years in cathedral service, firstly at Westminster Cathedral (1979-82), as Organ Scholar and Assistant Master of Music to Stephen Cleobury and, since then, as Master of Music at Brentwood Cathedral and Director of Diocesan Music for Essex and several London boroughs. Those of us who met Andrew at Westminster will also recall his enthusiastic involvement in other music groups, such as his highly successful choir Westminster Camerata (patron: Cardinal Basil Hume). It then became clear that his appointment at Brentwood Cathedral would enable him to expand and fulfil his musical ambitions through a vast range of ideas and commitments, enriching the lives of performers, choristers, students, audiences and congregations. The Music Department holds regular concerts at the Cathedral, and is presently celebrating ten years of organ recitals given by students from the Royal College of Music, which are increasingly popular with lunchtime visitors.
For four decades, Andrew Wright has worked tirelessly as director for the outstanding cathedral choir, organising several CD and radio recordings, as well as a number of successful British and European trips to various cities and cathedrals. Worship at Brentwood Cathedral is richly enhanced by the high quality of music at numerous services each year; at Christmas, people travel from beyond the diocese to attend the Nine Lessons & Carols service. In addition to the Messiah, Andrew has conducted Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, Haydn’s Creation and Bach’s St. John Passion. He performs extensively as an organist and pianist and is a prolific composer of both sacred and secular music: A Requiem of Peace has been widely acclaimed in the UK and the USA and his very moving song cycle, Bliss of Solitude, has been recorded by tenor Richard Dowling. In recognition of his immense contribution to church music, Andrew was given a civic award by Brentwood Borough Council in 1995, and later received a papal knighthood, making him a Knight of St. Gregory. He has been similarly recognised by both the Guild of Church Music and the Royal School of Church Music, awarding him the titles of Hon FGCM and ARSCM respectively.
The concert was introduced by David Worsfold and Andrew invited professional musicians, colleagues, friends and Baroque enthusiasts for a traditional ‘scratch performance’ of Handel’s Messiah, given by the Anniversary Choir and ELMS Chamber Orchestra, with soloists: Julia Wilson-James (Soprano), Chloe Treharne (Contralto), Michael Bradley (Tenor) and William Semple (Bass). There are so many interesting and endearing facts about this work, which was the first oratorio Handel composed based on the New Testament. On completion, Handel is reputed to have said: “I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God himself”. It was first performed in London in 1743 in the presence of King George II, who stood up for the Hallelujah Chorus, a tradition maintained to this day. The Messiah has been a fundraiser for many good causes throughout the ages. It has provided much joy for thousands of music lovers all over the world and tonight was certainly no exception in the beautiful surroundings of Brentwood Cathedral.
Stephen King – Cathedral Organist
The orchestra began the three-part work with ‘Sinfonia’, followed by wonderful contrasting sections which soloists led in confident recitative announcements and arias, joined by uplifting choral singing. Andrew directed this oratorio feast brilliantly, with exquisite soloists, splendid choristers and superb instrumentalists, including organist Stephen King. Particularly poignant and exhilarating were: ‘O thou that tellest good tidings’, ‘Every valley shall be exalted’, ‘And the glory of the Lord’, ‘O thou that tellest good tidings’, ‘For unto us a child is born’, ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion’, ‘He shall feed his flock’, ‘But thou didst not leave his soul in hell’, ‘How beautiful are the feet’, ‘Why do the nations rage’, ‘Halleluja’, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ and ‘Worthy is the Lamb – Amen’. This said, after the performance the audience were heard commenting on how much they enjoyed every single section, and especially the spiritual bond which they felt united the listeners (who stood for the ‘Halleluja Chorus’), singers, instrumentalists, conductor and composer.
Just some of the superb instrumentalists of the orchestra
After a standing ovation and tumultuous applause, the celebrations continued at a party in the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the Cathedral Hall, with delicious food and eloquent speeches given by David Taylor and Andrew himself, who received gifts on behalf of everyone. It was an ideal opportunity for us all to share musical memories and to thank Andrew for his dedication to cathedral music over the years. Many thanks to Graham Hillman for all the group photos! In his speech, David seemed to echo all our thoughts, in describing how Andrew had “touched the hearts of so many people” and “uplifted us spiritually” through his music making. There is no doubt that Andrew’s great warmth, humour, generosity, musicianship and Christian devotion continue to affect all of us who know him and we value his friendship in our lives. He has always given encouragement and shown absolute faith in people’s abilities, bringing together musicians of all standards to appreciate music of all kinds. It is impossible to guess the number of musicians’ careers that Andrew has inspired and supported over the years with his expert guidance!
David Taylor making the presentation
Angela Harris – One of Andrew’s longest standing musical supporters
One of several gifts for Andrew
Andrew, we hope you felt the love and appreciation from everyone today, and that you will continue to enjoy your wonderful work at Brentwood Cathedral.
Thank you, best wishes and Happy 40th Anniversary!
Review by Julia Bentham