coventry cathedral chorus
Coventry Cathedral Chorus was formed in 1963 shortly after the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral and is regarded as one of the UK’s leading choral societies. From its formation until September 2017 the choir was known as Saint Michael’s Singers, taking its name from the saint to whom the cathedral is dedicated.
However, the choir has felt for some time that it would like to be more closely aligned to the iconic building it calls home and all it stands for. With its new name the choir will now be instantly recognised for what it is and where it is based. The name change will put the choir more firmly on the musical map, particularly in the English Midlands, where most of its concerts are presented. It will also be more identifiable to a wider audience, both within the UK and beyond.
The choir has a membership of around ninety auditioned singers from all ages and walks of life and promotes its own season of concerts in Coventry Cathedral and at other venues in the English Midlands area. Over the years the choir has performed with numerous professional soloists, conductors and orchestras in many of the famous concert halls, cathedrals and great churches of the UK, as well as in mainland Europe.
Coventry Cathedral Chorus has made many recordings over the years, featuring in the Hymnmakers series for Kingsway Records which has been critically acclaimed in the UK and USA. Most recently it released a new recording of its own – ‘Carols from Coventry’ – which includes arrangements of Christmas carols in tribute to the late Sir David Willcocks. Tracks from the choir’s recordings are played on radio stations around the world.
The choir broadcasts on both radio and television and form part of the stage choir for BBC television’s annual Songs of Praise Big Sing, recorded in the Royal Albert Hall, London, and conducted by Paul Leddington Wright.
Coventry cathedral chorus musical director
After 37 years under the stewardship of Paul Leddington Wright, Coventry Cathedral
Chorus welcomes Rachel Mahon as the new Musical Director from January 2022.
Introducing Rachel Mahon
Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how you came to be working in Coventry?
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada and moved to the UK after finishing my undergraduate
degree to work as Organ Scholar at Truro Cathedral. Positions at St Paul’s Cathedral in London and Chester Cathedral followed that and I came to Coventry Cathedral in 2018 as Assistant Director of Music. Aside from music, I love ballet and enjoy socialising!
It sounds as if you were born to be a musician. How did you come to the organ?
My parents are both singers and conduct choirs and my siblings and I grew up singing in church choir and learning piano. It was a natural progression to the organ and I’ve been playing since I was 14 years old. There were lots of opportunities for young organists which really led me to this career.
You recently put out an album of organ music by Canadian composers. Do you think we might find the choir singing some Canadian choral music?
Absolutely! I don’t know when, but I’m certain that some Canadian repertoire will creep in at some point. In fact, I have put down O Lord, our Governor by the famous Toronto composer (and British ex-pat) Healey Willan for the summer concert this year.
The programme for the next year is already in place. Is there something on your bucket list that you would like to conduct if the opportunity rises?
St Matthew Passion is definitely one. It’s my favourite work and I’d love to have the chance to direct it. Bach is also my favourite composer which, as I’m an organist, isn’t really a surprise I suppose….
What are you most looking forward to in working with CCC?
Getting to make music with a whole new group of singers is very exciting to me. Also the repertoire will be very different from what I do day-to-day in the Cathedral, so that’ll be interesting.
Finally, if you were not a musician, what career do you think you would be following?
Property investor, carpenter or surgeon. Or ballet dancer.
Paul Leddington Wright
At the end of December 2021, Paul retired as Coventry Cathedral Chorus’s Director of Music after 37 years. Rachel Mahon, Director of Music at Coventry Cathedral, has taken over the role vacated by Paul as he becomes Conductor Emeritus, ensuring that the link between the Chorus and Paul is maintained.
Although Paul conducted Coventry Cathedral Chorus (formerly Saint Michael’s Singers) for 37 years, he has been associated with the choir since 1977. At that time he was appointed Assistant Director of Music at the cathedral, under Ian Little, and accompanist and assistant conductor of Saint Michael’s Singers. In 1982 Paul was appointed Musical Director of the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs, but returned to Coventry as Director of Music at the cathedral and of the Singers in 1984.
Despite relinquishing his post as the cathedral’s Director of Music in 1995, Paul continued to lead Saint Michael’s Singers and became Associate Director of Music at the cathedral, a position he held until 2019.
On Tuesday 14th December, at Paul’s final rehearsal with the choir, a tribute in the form of a surprise This Is Your Life was paid to him. As a sign of the affection and high regard in which Paul is held, many of his friends and family contributed written, audio and video messages to the event and he was presented with a number of gifts to mark his retirement.
Paul’s final concert as DoM of Coventry Cathedral Chorus was a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the cathedral on Monday 20th December. As well as current members of the Chorus, many former members were invited to sing on this very special occasion. At this event, the Dean of Coventry, the Very Revd. John Witcombe, bestowed on Paul the title of Organist Emeritus at the cathedral, complementing his Conductor Emeritus award.
In October 2023 Paul was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) for services to the monarchy. He received the award at Windsor Castle. The honour is only in the gift of the sovereign, so the recipient cannot be nominated.
It's a much deserved accolade!
Further information about Paul can be found at https://paulleddingtonwright.wixsite.com/paulleddingtonwright
Coventry cathedral chorus president
In 2018 we were delighted to welcome Pam Rhodes as our President. We spoke to Pam to hear about her
connection with the choir and the importance of music in her life. Here’s what she told us.
How did your relationship as patron of CCC come about?
I have been a great fan of the choir for as long as I've presented SONGS OF PRAISE, which is
thirty-two years this Easter. They have regularly taken part in our annual SONGS OF PRAISE 'BIG SING'
at The Royal Albert Hall, as well as contributions and performances at many other SONGS OF PRAISE
events around the country. A small group from the choir travelled with us when we made two special
programmes for Easter in 1999, the last year of the Millenium. For many years, under their 'recording' name
of THE HYMN MAKERS, the choir recorded a wide range of albums featuring well-loved hymns by inspiring
hymn writers, which I still play very frequently on my Sunday morning Premier Christian Radio programme,
HEARTS AND HYMNS. There is a great family atmosphere amongst the choir members, which stems from the mutual dedication between the choir and their Musical Director, Paul Leddington-Wright. He has been the primary musical director on SONGS OF PRAISE for decades, well-known across the country for his skill, knowledge and talent for music. Paul is able to draw the best out of any singers he conducts, not just choir members, but congregations and audiences too, encouraging them to sing with a winning combination of attention to detail and unashamed enthusiasm.
What part does music play in your life?
I have a particular love of hymns, not just for the words and writers, but for the music which brings the verses to life. I often think I'd like to go on a 'Name that Hymn' quiz because I have a head full of hymn melodies! Apart from that, I have been asked to compère many musical events over the years - from performances with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to JOHN RUTTER introducing a COME AND SING concert, amongst many others. And this will be my eighth year of compèring the huge BATTLE PROMS Concerts at various stately homes around England during the summer months, where a 60 piece orchestra entertain crowds of up to 12,000 people with familiar classical music that can be quite explosive - we have 200 live cannons to help the music along!
Do you play an instrument? Or sing?
Years ago, I was chosen to be one of just four lady singers joining around 20 men to become The George Mitchell Singers. Working with George Mitchell was a wonderful experience for someone who loves harmonies and glorious old songs! For about five years, I was the singer with THE THAMES TV BIG BAND, a Glenn Miller line-up band of Thames Television staff members based at Teddington Studios. We played in the Thames TV Bar once a month, but then did a whole range of charity evenings throughout the year - one of them at a high-security prison! I sang in Old Tyme Music Hall for quite a while, and for a while ran my own amateur company who took performances to OAP Clubs around London. I've also played Maria in 'THE SOUND OF MUSIC', Charlie in 'CHARLIE GIRL' and various other parts in amateur music productions, which I've thoroughly enjoyed. I learned to read music through playing the recorder from an early age, and as a teenager was still playing descant and treble recorder at a level which allowed me to compete in county-wide competitions. I taught myself the piano, and enjoy that very much, but would never feel confident to play in public! I can only play whilst reading the music, although my dearest wish would be to be able to busk! I'd love to be a pianist who could sit down at the piano with everyone having a sing-song around me! I can do a pretty reasonable party-piece on the concert xylophone. I learned the technique from a wonderful teacher I first met at junior school, but he taught me well and we often did duets at concerts when I was younger. I never lost the knack of playing the xylophone, and on many occasions on SONGS OF PRAISE, when we've had a xylophone in the line-up of musical instruments, I asked if I can have a quiet ten minutes with my sticks when no one's around to listen!
You're coming to Coventry for Mothering Sunday. Which hymn would you choose for your mother? Why that particular hymn?
I would choose LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING - because my mother was a Methodist who really loved the hymns of Charles Wesley, especially this one. I know the words describe God - but to my mind, that first line perfectly describes the unconditional love that was at the heart of everything my Mum did.