The Roman Catholic Cathedral at Clifton, forty years old, has developed a fine heritage of music making in several different styles. We have been featured on all the domestic BBC services as well as internationally – and not just with what you may think of as “church” music!
This page is to tell you a little about us and to invite you to be involved with us as a singer or instrumentalist. You are always welcome to worship with or listen to us of course.
Our music team is led by Richard Jeffrey-Gray who leads a busy life composing, conducting and recording music for film, stage and broadcast as well as making music for the people of the Clifton Diocese.
For example, he was commissioned to write, conduct and record the music for the last ever flight of Concorde in November 2003 by the BBC and invited musicians from Clifton to lead over 100 singers and two Symphony Orchestras in front of over 70,000 people and on radio and tv internationally.
He says that the music at Clifton perfectly mirrors his approach to music he makes for the media: in whatever style it may be (serious, jazz, Latin etc.) it doesn’t matter as long as it is well done and gets the message across.
That’s why, as a musician successful at reaching people commercially, he is so pleased to have been able to form a strongly talented team of people – professionals and volunteers – who serve the people of the Church with such dedication and skill.
Choirs at Clifton
The Catholic belief is that the assembly when they gather for worship are the principal ministers in serving God when they come together to worship – this brings a different aspect to the worship at Clifton. The building itself speaks of this – of a thousand people nobody is more than forty feet from the altar with an unobstructed view.
This brings a rare and exciting dynamic to the music in our worship. The choirs are there to lead the assembly in prayer through music. The musical heritage of the Church cannot be ignored in all of this, of course. In fact, compared to musicians who only do concert performances of our musical heritage, we could be said to be putting music in its place!
This means that we, Sunday by Sunday, use music from plainsong to music newly written to fulfil the need for that day itself. So we continue the pattern from the great composers – seeing and fulfilling the need of the people now, not just recycling music from the past for the sake of it. Every piece is chosen to reflect or comment on the readings for the particular service we are serving at that time. This gives our singers purpose and commitment to the music and allows them fully to realise the depth of the words and music historically and spiritually.
Five Masses address the needs of our very large congregation on Sundays – two of them, the Family Mass and the Solemn Mass, involve music. Music for the Family Mass is led by Martin Le Poidevin and the Cathedral Music Group and music at the Solemn Mass by John Gibbons and the Cathedral Choir.
The Family Mass gives us an opportunity to use modern worship music of a high standard in whatever style to lead our community in praise and prayer – and make them think too. The music and words combine to be challenging rather than passive; here you will find something to think about as well as enjoy. The music itself, however, lends itself to participation and is tuneful and stylish. It is not performance oriented as you would find at a show or a rock concert, but is written to engage and involve people in what is going on. So whether you want to listen, sing, or play an instrument there should be something here for you.
Music at the Solemn Mass is a different matter. John Gibbons says:
“Clifton Cathedral Choir probably sings more fabulous choral music at one service than any other choir in the West country! Imagine – the great Mass settings by composers ranging from Palestrina and Byrd through to Poulenc, Langlais and James MacMillan together with three major anthems all sung in the warm acoustic of Clifton Cathedral. We sing sacred music from across the centuries and have a reputation for performing new music as well as rare music from the Renaissance period. We welcome new singers from all backgrounds who are willing to rehearse on a Friday evening and on the Sunday morning before the 11 am Mass. We guarantee to improve your sight-reading and hope you will enjoy the company of other fine musicians.”
Organ and Organist
At Clifton we have one of the finest neoclassical organs in Europe made in Austria by Rieger. Its design reflects the hexagons upon which the Cathedral is based. Stephen Bryant (the Cathedral Organist) is a great ambassador for the instrument and skilfully adapts all kinds of repertoire to it. The organ voluntaries reflect the intentions of the week and their relevance is explained on our worship aids.
Besides the organ other accompanying instruments include those in the Music Group, the piano and, at Easter and Christmas, brass and percussion.
Organ recitals are planned now and again to demonstrate the instrument and several recordings are available of it. Nicolas Kynaston’s EMI recording gained a Gramophone award.
If you are interested in pipe organs, the specification and building details are available by sending a 50p stamp and an A5 size envelope to the administrator at the address below.
The Clifton Diocese is also served from the Cathedral and plans are afoot to hold music days in conjunction with the Department for Liturgy to provide a more complete experience of formation with them. The Diocesan Choir, a group of singers drawn from the parishes, sing at the annual Chrism Mass in Holy Week and at the Glastonbury Pilgrimage. Since we are a Music Service, we make ourselves available to help with anyone in the Diocese involved with or who has concerns about music, so don’t hesitate to contact us. We hope to expand our role in the Diocese to reach the far corners of it with satellite Music Commissions, another project which should take shape soon.
You don’t need to be a Roman Catholic to be involved – you need the desire to put music in its rightful place in the Church and to serve other people with it.
We grow week by week with our music – you can be with us on our journey, listening or actively participating by contacting:
Clifton Cathedral House
Tel: 0117 974 1153