Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015)  Musical Director of The Bach Choir for 38 years

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Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015)  Musical Director of The Bach Choir for 38 years

The Bach Choir is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sir David Willcocks, the Choir’s Musical Director for 38 years, and latterly Conductor Laureate.  Sir David was not only responsible for taking the Choir to new levels of excellence during his time at the helm, but was also, a very good friend to many of the Choir’s singing and associate members.  Both his daughters sang with the Choir, with Anne being a long-standing member until very recently; the Choir also performed and recorded music written by his son, Jonathan.  He will be greatly missed by us all.

David Hill writes:

“David Willcocks’ legacy is enormous. He transformed Christmas with his arrangements which have, in turn, inspired millions throughout the world to sing his descants, in particular ‘O come all ye faithful’ which has become an international anthem. More than that, he was a supreme choral technician creating the King’s sound of the 60’s which became the vehicle for his work as composer and arranger. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he spent 38 years as Musical Director of The Bach Choir who also pioneered much of his output in Carols for Choirs in their annual carol concerts. As his successor as Musical Director in 1998, I was immediately aware of the choir’s energy, excellent intonation and rhythmic attack, all hallmarks of his work. During my tenure as Musical Director, David has always been incredibly supportive, most recently in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, where he came for the rehearsal the Verdi Requiem in June this year. The Bach Choir, Cambridge University Music Society Chorus and Orchestra joined together as they often did during his time as organist at King’s. He has taught and influenced so many around the world:  he will be greatly missed as the person who changed the choral scene in our country and beyond.”

Sam Gordon Clark CBE writes:

“Sir David Willcocks was not only a brilliant choral trainer and conductor, but did more to develop and enhance the English choral tradition than anyone else in the 20th century. In the twenty-five years that I sang under his baton in The Bach Choir, I experienced someone who at every Monday evening rehearsal, inspired a professional standard of singing from a group of amateurs who had just completed a hard day’s work! He did this with charm and humour, and with a twinkle in his eye, but without ever letting his high standards slip. Our concerts and recordings were great experiences, and it was thanks to Sir David that such luminaries as Dame Janet Baker, Robert Tear and Dame Felicity Lott were happy to sing with us. Only Sir David could have engineered The Bach Choir’s singing Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s B minor Mass in the Royal Albert Hall on the exact 300th birthdays of the respective composers. Even our triennial auditions, which reduced grown men (such as me) to nervous wrecks, became enjoyable and entertaining interludes due to his relaxed and patient style. The world of music is a poorer place for his loss, but his legacy will endure for ever, and The Bach Choir will never forget him.”

Read more about Sir David’s work with The Bach Choir