A Land of Pure Delight
RSCM Millennium Youth Choir
Director: Gordon Stewart
Organ: Timothy Byram-Wigfield
RSCM Millennium Youth Choir
The RSCM Millennium Youth Choir was formed in 1999 at the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, President of the Royal School of Church Music. There are 38 singers, aged 16 to 23 and selected on merit alone, who meet two or three times per year for courses that culminate in services and concerts. The choir was formed under the direction of Dr Martin Neary and first performed in London at the beginning of the Millennium Celebrations in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen on 1 January 2000. Other engagements have included concerts in York Minster, Guildford Cathedral and Merton College Oxford, and an appearance at the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday celebrations.
In 2000 and 2001 the choir broadcast Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3 (from Merton and Exeter Colleges, Oxford). In 2002 Gordon Stewart took over direction of the choir, building on the excellent foundation established by Martin Neary. The choir is supported by the Lambeth Partnership, through which the young singers are able to work with the best directors and tutors and have the benefit of generous bursaries. This recording, the MYC’s first, marks the beginning of Gordon Stewart’s directorship of the choir, and is part of the RSCM’s 75th Anniversary celebrations. The eclectic selection of music ranges from composers of the 16th century to those of the present day, including previously unrecorded and unpublished works.
Gordon Stewart was born in Dundee, Scotland and his first appointment as organist was at Dundee Methodist Church at the age of 14. Whilst a student at the Royal Manchester College of Music, he studied choirtraining with the then Northern Commissioner of the Royal School of Church Music, Geoffrey Barber, and the organist of Blackburn Cathedral, John Bertalot. Two years of study in Geneva followed, where he was organist and choirmaster of the American Church and assistant organist at the Anglican Church. On his return to the UK, he was first Director of Music at Bowdon Parish Church and then organist of Manchester Cathedral. For several years he was organ tutor and lectured in choirtraining at the Royal Northern College of Music. Now one of the regular musical directors for the BBC Daily Service and television’s Songs of Praise, he also tours as a solo organist and in a trumpet and organ partnership with Anthony Thompson.
Gordon’s first work with the RSCM was playing for one day schools for Geoffrey Barber in the early 1970s. This was soon followed by housemastering in Rossall, Bath, Birmingham and York, playing for the Northern Cathedral Singers under John Cooke and directing organists’ courses at Addington Palace. More recently he was Master in Charge of the Manchester Course for three years. In 2001 was awarded a Fellowship of the RSCM for his work in education and religious broadcasting.
Timothy Byram-Wigfield is Director of Music at Jesus College Cambridge. A former chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, he was Organ Scholar at Christ Church Oxford, before moving to Winchester Cathedral as Sub Organist in 1985. For eight years he was Master of the Music at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, before moving to Cambridge in 1999.
He combines his work at Jesus College with a busy schedule as an organ recitalist, and has played in France, Australia, Belgium, the USA and Canada. He broadcasts frequently on BBC Radio 3, and has recorded on several labels.
He conducts the Northampton Bach Choir, is Organist for the Millennium Youth Choir, and regularly gives workshops for amateur choirs. He is also active as a pianist, arranger and composer.
Produced by Barry Rose
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photograph by Eadon Lilley Photography, Cambridge