Christ Church Oxford’s new music man

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CHRIST Church Oxford and the Faculty of Music at Oxford University are delighted to announce the appointment of Steven Grahl as the new organist at Christ Church Cathedral.

Steven Grahl, the new organist at Christ Church Oxford.

Succeeding Stephen Darlington, who has held the office for 32 years, Steven takes over a unique role. As well as being Director of Music for the Cathedral, and overseeing the world-class Cathedral Choir, he will also hold significant academic roles in the Faculty of Music in the University, as well as the College.

Steven is currently the Director of Music at Peterborough Cathedral, where he has been in post since 2014. He is also a Junior Fellow at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Conductor of Schola Cantorum of Oxford, and President of the Incorporated Association of Organists. In addition, Steven is conductor of Peterborough Choral Society, and the Stamford Chamber Orchestra. He was previously Assistant Organist at New College Oxford. He held the position of Organist & Director of Music at St Marylebone Parish Church, London, from 2001-2014.

At Peterborough, Steven has been responsible for developing the choir of 50 boy and girl choristers, along with supporting choral and organ scholars. He has made a number of recordings, including Even You Song by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, a work that was developed as part of an outreach project he directed in local schools, alongside professional musicians, a visual artist and a poet. He has also recently premiered works by Francis Pott, Roxanna Panufnik and Toby Young.

Steven is an accomplished performer. He has given solo organ recitals in such prestigious venues as King’s College Cambridge and The London Oratory, and was a finalist at both the St Alban’s and Dudelange (Luxembourg) International Organ Competitions.

As a conductor he has worked with, among other groups, the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, Instruments of Time and Truth, the Guildford Chamber Choir, and Cambridge University Symphony Chorus.

The Dean of Christ Church, The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, said: “We are thrilled to be welcoming Steven Grahl to Christ Church. He is an exceptional musician, who will lead our Choir into the next decade, and take it to even greater heights. His predecessor, Stephen Darlington, will be a hard act to follow but I know in Steven Grahl we have the right person for the job.”

Steven said: “I am delighted and honoured to be appointed to Christ Church and to the Faculty of Music. The opportunity to continue Stephen Darlington’s excellent work and to contribute as a scholar and teacher to the vibrant life of the University is a most exciting prospect. Whilst I am sorry to be leaving Peterborough Cathedral after four richly fulfilling years, I am very much looking forward to shaping future developments in the musical life of Christ Church Cathedral.”

Steven will begin his work with Christ Church Cathedral Choir in September 2018. He replaces Professor Stephen Darlington, who retires this summer after more than 30 years of outstanding service to the Choir, the Cathedral, the College and the University.

Across these decades, Stephen Darlington has led the Choir to achieve an enviable international reputation for the quality and variety of its work. In addition to its daily offices in the Cathedral, he has taken the Choir on tour to America and China, East Europe and the Caribbean, to give sell-out concerts to great critical acclaim. He has made more than fifty recordings with the Choir, including the recent award-winning series of music from the Eton Choirbook. He has also brought the choir to wider public attention singing the theme music for the BBC comedy series The Vicar of Dibley.

Although Christ Church Cathedral Choir is almost 500 years old, it is justly famous for the youthfulness of its sound and its adventurous musical programming. Unique in the world as both Cathedral and College choir, the intimate acoustic of its musical home – Oxford’s 12th-century Cathedral – has given it a relationship with early sacred music and the rhythm and vigour of contemporary idioms.

Throughout its history, the Choir has attracted many distinguished composers, organists and singers, from its first director, John Taverner, appointed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525, to William Walton in the 20th century. The Choir has commissioned and recorded works by such composers such as John Tavener, William Mathias, Robert Saxton and Howard Goodall.

There are 12 men (six lay clerks and six academical clerks) and 16 boys in the choir. Aside from its outstanding training of singers, the Cathedral Choir is also renowned for training many of the country’s leading organists, including in recent years Harry Bicket (Director of the English Concert), Laurence Cummings (harpsichordist, conductor, Director of the Göttingen International Handel Festival) and Elizabeth Burgess (pianist and accompanist).