Anything else that’s happening in the Durham musical world that I think you should know about. Please email me if you have any news that you’d like me to include on this page.

Join Ushaw College’s new choir

St Cuthbert’s Chapel at Ushaw College is a glorious space to sing in, and when it was built, there would have been several sung services taking place in it every day, as well as in all the smaller chapels around the college. This musical tradition is being renewed with the establishment of a new choir at the college, with an annual programme that will include several services of sung Vespers, performance of a major choral work, and a lighter summer concert.

Following Ushaw’s slogan, the new choir is “open to all” – there will be no auditions and the only requirements for membership is an ability to sing in tune, enthusiasm and commitment. The choir will be run by Alex Chisholm-Loxley, a recent graduate of Leeds College of Music, and Allan Coombes, organist at St Margaret’s Church Durham will accompany.

Rehearsals are on Thursdays from 7.30 – 9.15 pm in the Exhibition Theatre, with a subscription of £2.50 per week. For more information, contact Alex via

New Piano & organ teacher

Durham has lost at least three piano teachers (that I know of) in the last term, so I’m happy to add this note to publicise a new teacher who is starting out in Durham. David Harris was appointed organist and Director of Music at St Oswald’s church while he was still an undergraduate, and now, having finished his studies, he’s offering lessons in central Durham to all abilities and ages in piano, organ, voice and theory.

I’ve known David for a few years at St Oswald’s and having seen him in action as an organ teacher, I would say that he is particularly good at engaging with youngsters.

You can find out more about David and get in touch with him to arrange a consultation lesson via his website:

Interview: meet Daniel Cook, Durham’s new organist

Daniel Cook outside Durham CathedralDaniel Cook takes up the post of Organist and Master of the Choristers at Durham Cathedral this autumn, succeeding James Lancelot. He is currently sub-organist at Westminster Abbey, but this position at Durham is a homecoming for him, as he grew up in Hartlepool and  studied organ with former sub-organist Keith Wright.  He told me about his career so far, his musical influences, and his thoughts on returning to the North East for his “dream job”.

JS: What inspired you to take up the organ, and how/when did you decide to make it your career?  Read more

BRASS! Summer school with Jiggs Whigham

This year, Durham BRASS! festival is expanding its range of events to include a three-day summer school for intermediate and advanced players, led by legendary American trombonist Jiggs Whigham and members of the BBC Big Band. The Summer School will provide emerging and semi-professional musicians the opportunity to work with director and trombonist Jiggs Whigham, lead trumpet Martin Shaw plus the rhythm section of Robin Aspland (piano), Jeremy Brown (bass) and Tom Gordon (drums).  Read more

New organist appointed at Durham Cathedral

Daniel Cook outside Durham CathedralDaniel Cook, who is currently sub-organist at Westminster Abbey has been appointed to replace James Lancelot as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Durham Cathedral. James has been at Durham for 32 years – I first encountered him when I was an undergraduate in the early 90s, as he also conducted the university choral society for many years. I particularly remember the pleasure of being introduced to Bach’s B-Minor Mass by him, and his daft warm-ups that were clearly intended to amuse small boys (happily now under James’s watch, small boys and small girls).

It’s a huge post to fill, but it’s also a homecoming for Daniel Cook, as he grew up in Hartlepool and had organ lessons at the cathedral with former sub-organist Keith Wright, so Durham’s mighty Harrison & Harrison organ will be completely familiar to him. He’ll also be finding familiar faces in the cathedral, as he follows our Dean, Andrew Tremlett, and his adorable cat Badger, from Westminster:Twitter @DCathCat so excited that DCOrganist is coming to Durham. I know him from my time @wabbey

I expect there will be plenty of musical events to mark both James’s departure and Daniel’s arrival: keep an eye on the events pages here, for details of any recitals. As a regular member of the congregation, I look forward to welcoming Daniel at the Cathedral and to hearing his music making.

More information:

Cobweb Orchestra: new beginners’ orchestra

CobwebHave you just started playing an instrument? Do you want to get back into playing? Or whatever standard you’re at, are you looking for the chance to play in an orchestra?   Cobweb Orchestra is an award winning network of open-access orchestras across the North East and this autumn they’re starting up a new beginners’ orchestra for Durham. Whilst all the Cobweb groups are open to everyone, this one is particularly designed for novices.

Rehearsals begin on 4 October at Ludworth Community Centre (DH6 1NF)

Durham Singers: bass vacancies

bass-ad-social-mediaThe Durham Singers have two vacancies for basses and bass-baritones, starting from September 2016. The choir is a 40-voice auditioned chamber choir that puts on 3-4 concerts per year. The choir’s core repertoire is an exciting mixture of unaccompanied music, from the Renaissance to works by contemporary composers, and additionally, they usually perform one major early work with a period instrument orchestra.

Plans over the next 18 months include Messiah in Durham Cathedral; Renaissance music for Passiontide including Victoria’s Responsories for Maundy Thursday and Allegri’s Miserere; Bach’s motet Jesu, meine freude; major twentieth century works by Kenneth Leighton, Herbert Howells and Samuel Barber and new music by Augusta Read Thomas and Francis Pott.

The Durham Singers rehearse on Monday evenings in North Road Methodist church during school term time. The choir includes singers of a wide age-range with many different musical and professional backgrounds, and combines high musical standards with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. To find out more, or to arrange an audition visit

Rowan Pierce becomes a Samling Artist

Samling, the North East charity that supports young singers have just named the participants in this year’s prestigious Samling Artist scheme, and many of us in Durham are absolutely delighted to see soprano Rowan Pierce’s name on the list.

I’m sure Rowan will be known to many of my readers; she has delighted audiences in Durham and around the North East, singing oratorio solos with choirs, and in several Samling Opera  productions. She’s sung several times with Durham Singers, and returns to Durham Cathedral on Saturday 31st January as the soloist in Fauré’s Requiem with Durham Choral Society.

The Samling Artist programme nurtures young professional singers and accompanists at the start of their careers, offering them intensive week-long training with leading singers, directors, actors, pianists and coaches, culminating in a public masterclass and concert at Sage Gateshead and a concert in London’s Wigmore Hall. You can see Rowan in action, being coached by Dame Ann Murray at this year’s Samling Masterclass on 27th Feburary.

Rowan is also the first member of the junior Samling Academy programme to become a Samling Artist. The Samling Academy was set up a few years ago to provide coaching and development to singers aged 16-21 who live or study in the North East, and with other Samling Academy members winning places at conservatoires across the country, we expect she’ll be the first of many.

Reg Vardy Band and DUBB masterclass

Durham University Brass Band and Reg Vardy band invite brass band players of all standards (including trumpet and percussion) to join them on 21st November at Durham University music department on Palace Green for a day of masterclasses. Tutors from the Reg Vardy Band will lead sectional rehearsals  and full band rehearsals, finishing with a final play-through of the pieces studied. Participants in the masterclass who also buy a ticket to the bands’ gala concert will be able to play in the concert’s massed band grand finale.

All ages and abilities are welcome to attend, and those who attended last year’s masterclass with Leyland band commented on how much their playing had improved.
Tickets £10 masterclass or £18 for masterclass and concert (children and students £6 / £14) and a small number of subsidised places are available for children.

For more details and a registration form, please email