The Abbey Singers Platinum Jubilee Concert

An evening of celebration is planned for Platinum Jubilee by Carlisle choir.

The Abbey Singers are putting the finishing touches to the music for their concert on April 9.

To mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, they will perform all four of Handel’s Coronation Anthems together with other choral favourites such as Parry’s Blest Pair of Sirens and Vaughan Williams’ arrangement of the hymn All People That On Earth Do Dwell.

The choir was founded in 1962 by Andrew Seivewright, Organist and Master of the Choristers at Carlisle Cathedral from 1960 to 1991.

Their rehearsals were then held in the Song Room, a small room built onto the side of the Cathedral when it was restored in the late fifties.

The Cathedral precinct is generally known as The Abbey from which the choir takes its name.

Under Mr Seivewright’s direction the Abbey Singers soon rose to become one of Cumbria’s premier choirs.

During this time they undertook a number of overseas tours as well making a number of LP records.

They were also active on the broadcasting front on both regional and national TV and radio networks.

The choir continued to make strides under the direction of Elizabeth Lamb, who succeeded Andrew Seivewright as director of the choir in 1991, and later under Jeremy Suter, who was also Seivewright’s successor at Carlisle Cathedral.

Since 2012 the choir has been directed by Jonathan Millican.

Jonathan was a chorister at Carlisle Cathedral under both Seivewright and Suter and he is now senior bass lay clerk at the Cathedral and Assistant Musical Director and Vocal Coach at StagedRight.

Highlights during Jonathan’s first ten years at the helm have included a performance of J S Bach’s Magnificat and a trip to Bristol Cathedral to sing for Communion and Evensong services.

At Bristol they tackled Vierne’s Messe Solennelle, Herbert Howells’ challenging setting of the evening canticles for St Paul’s Cathedral (1950) and Jonathan’s own setting of the latin prayer Ave Maria.

“The singing part went very well,” says Jonathan, “although the clergy thought the service went on a bit too long.”

After weathering the challenges of Covid and lockdowns, the choir is back with an impressive and ambitious programme to mark the Platinum Jubilee.

The main feature of the concert will be the performance of Handel’s four Coronation Anthems.

Jonathan first got to know Zadok The Priest (the second of the four anthems) during his time as a chorister, and became familiar with My Heart Is Inditing (the fourth anthem) while working as a baritone soloist.

After purchasing the score he fell in love with all four anthems, which he describes as “cracking pieces.”

This is not the first time the Abbey Singers have staged a Jubilee performance of Handel’s music.

In June 1977 the choir performed all four Coronation Anthems with orchestral accompaniment in Carlisle Cathedral to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Their Platinum Jubilee concert next month promises to be every bit as spectacular with other coronation music such as Dyson’s Confortare and Parry’s I Was Glad also featuring on the programme.

One choir member who remembers the 1977 concert is David Gibson.

David, a bass, is the longest continuously serving member of the Abbey Singers having sung with the choir for 45 years.

Parry’s anthem Blest Pair of Sirens will make another impressive feature of the April concert.

The piece is a particular favourite of the choir and its director, who explained: “It’s just one of those pieces that as a lay clerk you look forward to.

“If you see it on the music list you know it’s going to be a stonking evensong.

“It’s long for an anthem but it’s just such a good, satisfying sing.

“It’s moment after moment of pure Parry brilliance.”

He continued: “If you’ve never come to a choral concert before, give it a go.

“We’re a good choir and we sing good music.

“There’s nothing quite like going to a choral concert and hearing some wonderful choral music sung live.”

The choir also welcomes new members.

Following an informal audition, singers can enjoy learning a wide variety of music at weekly rehearsals in Denton Holme.

The concert will take place on Saturday April 9 at 7.30pm in St James’ Church, Denton Holme, Carlisle.

Tickets are £10 at the door or can be obtained on Eventbrite.