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The Origins and the History of the Abbey Singers
Abbey Singers was formed in 1962 by Andrew Seivewright during his time as Master of the Music at Carlisle Cathedral from 1960-1991. The choir takes its name from the Cathedral Close which is known as ‘The Abbey’ and makes the Cathedral the venue for some of its major concerts. The Dean of Carlisle holds the position of Patron. The choir has earned a high reputation for choral singing under its three previous Directors, the second of whom, Elizabeth Lamb, did much to enhance the choir’s vocal technique. Jeremy Suter, also Master of the Music at Carlisle Cathedral, was Director from January 2001 to July 2012, and has now been succeeded by Jonathan Millican.
The Abbey Singers have undertaken tours in the UK, Europe and the USA and Canada. In 1993 the Choir took part in the highly successful Festival of British Choral Music in Paris, singing in the churches of St Merri and St Severin. In 1997 the Choir visited North America, giving concerts from Vancouver and Seattle on the West Coast to New Mexico in the South. We have toured in Germany twice. On our first visit one of our concerts was in the the Nikolaikirche in Carlisle's twin city of Flensburg, where we were treated to a generous civic reception. In 2010 we were in eastern Germany. The highlight of the week was a performance in Berlin of Philip Moore's unaccompanied settings of 'Three Prayers' by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
As part of a Millennium Project Abbey Singers commissioned works by Andrew Seivewright and Ian Hare based on Lakeland poets. The project included working with four county primary schools in which the children wrote the words to be set to music by the composers. The children then took part in a series of four concerts in Cumbria to perform the new works.
The choir is at home with large and small scale works, accompanied and unaccompanied, and with composers of every period of European (and American) music. We have presented the St Matthew and St John Passions, the latter in partnership with the Gabrieli choir visiting from Budapest. English and Italian polyphony of the 16th and 17th century are standard in the repertoire. SS Wesley was remembered in a centenary concert devoted to him. In December 2011 we gave what we believe to have been one of the very few performances in Britain of Hugo Distler's Weihnachtsgeschichte.
The Choir has made several recordings including two CDs, ‘Abbey Singers - a portrait’ and ‘In every corner sing’
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