Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015) was a boy chorister at Westminster Abbey, served in the Second World War (distinguishing himself at Normandy, being awarded the Military Cross), and was thereafter organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, under Boris Ord. After taking a music degree from Cambridge, he served as organist at Salisbury and Worcester Cathedrals, returning to King’s as organist in 1957, succeeding Ord. In 1974, after universal accolades earned at King’s, he took up the position of Director of the Royal College of Music, from which position he retired. In retirement he remained active as a guest conductor, composer, and clinician almost until his death late last year at the age of 95.
Mainly during his tenure as organist at King’s College, he wrote some of the most enduring arrangements of Christmas Carols for the world-famous Lessons & Carols services there. For many people, including myself, it isn’t Christmas until I’ve heard his descant to “Once in Royal David’s City,” and the harmonization of the final verse of “O Come, All ye Faithful.” Yet there are many more gems, including arrangements of obscure carols like “Blessed be that maid Mary,” “The Cradle,” and “The Lord at first did Adam make.” In my perusal of Willcocks’ arrangements and compositions for this concert, I had to discard as many worthy items as I was able to include; and even then, the riches are unparalleled in the work of any other arranger within my ken. The audience will recognize the beloved tunes – and perhaps even the arrangements – of more than half of the works on this concert, but will also discover new favorites among the more rarely heard pieces.
St. Martin’s Chamber Choir’s “Christmas in England: A Tribute to Sir David Willcocks” will be performed four times in December, over two successive weekends:
- Sat., Dec. 10, 7:30pm – Montview Blvd. Presbyterian Church, Park Hill
- Sun., Dec. 11, 2:30pm – Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village
- Fri., Dec. 16, 7:30pm – St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Denver
- Sun., Dec. 18, 3:00pm – Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Wheat Ridge