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September 17, 2015

Sir David Willcocks, choirmaster - obituary

Sir David Willcocks, who has died aged 95, was the most influential choirmaster of his generation, spending 17 years as director of music at King’s College, Cambridge, and 38 years in charge of the Bach Choir. He was a man of immense courage in both musical and military fields, earning an immediate MC during his war service in Normandy.

Throughout his long career Willcocks was at the centre of British choral music, moulding voices and raising standards. He injected it with a sense of purpose and redefined its sound while building up a strong base of support through his connections with choral societies across the country. Every note he conducted had to be articulated with precision and every phrase expressed with clarity; the result was an intense beauty of sound. Everything was meticulously rehearsed, including a choir’s entrance and exit from the stage.

For many listeners the pure, vibrato-free sound of the choirboy’s voice cannot be bettered: it is smooth, perfectly in tune, and unconcerned with the cares of the adult world. Nowhere is this more exemplified than in the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s, with which Willcocks was indelibly connected thanks to his descants to carols such as O Come, All Ye Faithful and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. The service is broadcast throughout the world annually on Christmas Eve.

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Posted by acapnews at September 17, 2015 2:23 PM

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