St Austin’s Choir, Wakefield from the Parish of St Martin de Porres Wakefield
St Austin’s Choir is a mixed adult choir comprising 23 singers plus two organists and Director of Music
About the choir
There has been a choir at the beautiful St Austin’s Church in Wakefield since the formation of the church there in 1829. For most of its history the choir has simply provided the music for the liturgy. In 1964 the choir was directed by Hubert Barber (Knight of St Gregory) who maintained the choir’s tradition. Alongside the traditional chant he also encouraged a wider repertoire including Renaissance polyphony. Hubert led the choir for forty years before his death in 2004. By this time there was a choir that was well versed in many styles of sacred music and a close knit but welcoming group. Moving up from the tenor section Patrick Ganley became the new director. Ably assisted by accompanists John Cuttell and Paul Granger, he has built on Hubert’s work to encourage a wider repertoire and membership. Recitals and public performances were introduced-many of these featuring Renaissance polyphony and works by twentieth century composers. Larger works such as Faure’s Requiem, Karl Jenkins’s Armed Man and Vivaldi’s Gloria were also performed as well as being sung in context in liturgy. The choir also regularly assists the Latin Mass society with liturgy in the extraordinary form.
In recent years the choir has undertaken recitals and performances outside their local area. Regularly singing at Leeds Cathedral for certain feasts they sang there for the Archbishop of Westminster, Most Rev Vincent Nicholls, in June 2013. Other venues for the choir have included Great Witley, Lady Chapel of Mount Grace Priory and Mount Grace Priory itself. The choir regularly perform at Wakefield’s historic Chantry Chapel-one of only four such chapels in the UK . Concerts and recital have also been given in Newcastle Cathedral and at Temple Newsam.
In October 2012 the choir undertook a tour to Rome to Rome. Beginning with Choral Evensong in the lovely Anglican church of All Saints the choir returned there to sing a recital. This was followed by the highlight of the weekend-singing at the Vigil Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. In the Mass they sang items from Tye, Palestrina, Byrd and daViadana in what the celebrant called ‘a perfect execution of polyphony’. The choir also sang a Sanctus composed by choir member Paul Granger. Finally the choir performed a short recital in the historic Pantheon before a large gathered audience.
Just recently the choir also performed recitals in several notable churches in Paris. Highlight of the tour was a recital in Notre Dame. This was followed by recitals and Masses in St Germain des Pres, St Sulpice and St Germain l’Auxerroise.
As well as a super group of singers the choir has several soloists who perform with St Austin’s and other choirs in Yorkshire. The choir is also fortunate to have two organists. John Cuttell has played in all the major Cathedrals in UK and some in Europe and Paul Granger is the regular organist at St Austin’s.