St James’s maintains a proud and historic musical tradition, and counts among its former organists a number of luminaries, including the noted composer of In the bleak midwinter, Dr Harold Darke, CBE (1888 – 1976), who was later Organist of St Michael’s, Cornhill, where he established the longest-running series of lunchtime organ recitals in the world, and Professor of Organ at the Royal College of Music from 1919 to 1969. Sir George Thalben Ball, CBE (1896 – 1987), later Organist of the Temple Church, and the first British pianist to play Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, and Douglas Hawkridge (1907 – 1982), longstanding Professor of Organ at the Royal Academy of Music, upheld St James’s famously high standards of organ playing, and directed its choir of men and boys, through the Twentieth Century.
Today, St James’s enjoys a superb professional choir of five mixed voices (eight voices on major feasts), who sing a broad and diverse range of music at High Mass. The resonant acoustics of the church lend themselves well to music of the Renaissance, and works by Alonso and Duarte Lobo, Francisco Guerrero, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Tomas Luis de Victoria, Orlando de Lassus, Thomas Tallis, and William Byrd are at the core of the repertoire. Almost all of Mozart’s mass settings are sung, with chamber organ accompaniment, alongside those of Haydn and Schubert. St James’s superb four-manual Hill organ provides a rousing instrumental counterpart in the Messes Solennelles of Jean Langlais, Louis Vierne, Charles-Marie Widor, and a colourful palette for performing the Requiems of Maurice Durufle and Gabriel Faure. The twentieth-century British choral tradition is represented by Benjamin Britten, Grayston Ives, Herbert Howells, Jonathan Dove, Lennox Berkeley and William Walton, and monthly Choral Evensong often provides an opportunity to hear much-loved Victorian and Edwardian anthems and canticles.
The liturgical music of St James’s is complemented increasingly by choral, orchestral, chamber, and instrumental recitals of a high standard. More details can be found on the Concerts page.
The Organist and Director of Music , George de Voil, is happy to answer questions about the music of St James’s, and can be contacted via the Parish Office.
The Music of St James’s Church