The start of another difficult year and the choir are still unable to meet and practise together, nor are we able to even plan concerts. Vaccination may allow us to meet physically in the Autumn, but that is not guaranteed – until then we have Zoom!
The choir are now enjoying another term of singing using Zoom, skilfully guided by our musical director, Sebastian Thomson. We are singing Haydn’s ‘Te Deum’ and Mendelssohn’s ‘Verleih uns Frieden’ – two beautiful pieces. Although we cannot hear each other sing there is nevertheless pleasure in singing together and learning new pieces which will extend our repertoire. We also have the fillip of a social chat for a few minutes before practice begins when we can share some light-hearted conversation.
We had three sessions of Carol Singing via Zoom in December which helped foster a festive mood prior to a very different Christmas from usual.
The other social interaction we have enjoyed as a choir has been our excellent Quiz evenings via Zoom. We had one in November and another, a Christmas Quiz, on 18th December. Our quizmaster, Neil Weston, was on fine form, and both evenings went well. We hope that future quizzes will be on the agenda.
Sebastian was a chorister at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (alongside Gulliver Ralston, one of our previous Directors of Music) before moving to HarrowSchool with the top music scholarship. He was then awarded the Bristol University Organ Scholarship. After this, he moved to Chichester Cathedral as Organ Scholar. In 2005, Sebastian was appointed Director of Music at St Matthew’s Church, Northampton, a post held alongside teaching piano, organ, and theory at Eton College.
Sebastian is an accomplished choral director and teacher with a growing reputation. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and a prize-winner in the Choral Training Diploma examination from the College. He was recently Head of Academic Music and Assistant Director of Music at Bloxham School.
Whilst at Bristol University, Sebastian founded The Howells Voices, a mixed voiced choir inspired by the music of Herbert Howells. The choir recommenced in 2012, and they take occupancy 3 times a year in Britain’s Cathedrals. Recent venues include, Salisbury, Westminster Abbey and York Minster.
Based in Oxford, he is now pursuing a freelance career as a choral conductor and organist. His recent solo engagements include recitals at Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, King’s College Cambridge, and St Paul’s Cathedral. Sebastian has also made appearances as a performer and speaker on local and national television and radio.
Sebastian is gaining a reputation for commissioning new works for choir and organ. The Angels of Creation Commissions are a collection of organ works composed for and premiered by Sebastian. A recording made on the organ of Keble College, Oxford is out later this year and a recital at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris is booked for the summer of 2017.
Alexander Berry began his musical training as a chorister at Lichfield Cathedral, before winning scholarships to Bloxham School and King Edward VI School Stratford-upon-Avon. During his gap year he was Organ Scholar at Guildford Cathedral. During his 3 years (2009-12) at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he was Organ Scholar, he also held the posts of Organ Scholar to King’s Voices (the mixed-voice undergraduate choir at King’s College) and Accompanist to CUMS Chorus.
He then moved to Ely Cathedral, where he spent two years as Assistant Organist to the Girls’ Choir.
Alexander founded the Mercian Consort in 2008 and has conducted its concerts in the UK and on the continent, recording a CD of music for Lent and Passiontide which was released in April 2013.
Alexander works regularly as an organist and accompanist with a variety of ensembles. Recent musical ventures have included organ recitals in King’s College, Cambridge, St Bonifatius Wiesbaden and Kaliningrad Cathedral, and conducting the Mercian Consort in performances of works by William Byrd and Christopher Tye hosted by Cambridge Early Music.
Since January 2015, he has been the Assistant Organist at Magdalen College, Oxford and Tutor to the Choristers at Magdalen College School.