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 – Saint John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Denver
- Sun., Dec. 18, 3:00pm – Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Wheat Ridge
There are several pitfalls here for the unwary:
- Last week I erroneously switched two venues, so disregard the info I provided last week
- Note the unusual start time of the Dec. 11, Bethany Lutheran performance – 2:30pm, rather than our usual 3:00.
- The parking situation for the concert at Saint John’s Cathedral (Fri., Dec. 16) is difficult, so we are performing an experiment this year, with a reserved $5 shuttle service from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (2015 Glenarm Place, where there is plenty of free parking) to the Cathedral and back, with departures at 6:15 and 6:45, returning at 9:30 and 9:50. A reservation for the shuttle is required:call (303) 298-1970 to reserve a spot. Wassail and Christmas cookies will be served at St. Andrew’s while you wait for the shuttle.
Reserve tickets for these concerts by clicking on CONCERTS in the menu bar above and then clicking on the performance you wish to attend. We fully expect the St. John’s concert to sell out, and the others to come close (possibly with the exception of Bethany Lutheran).