On the weekend of the 15th and 16th April, we welcome the Harsnett Choir to Bradford Cathedral as the second of our visiting choirs for 2023. They will be singing at Evensong on the Saturday and Sunday evenings, and at the 10:30am Eucharist on the Sunday.
We spoke to the choir’s Visit Secretary Deborah Bunn who, alongside her husband Peter, used to sing in a church in Surrey for many years. Deborah picks up the story about she got involved with the Harsnett Choir from there.
“It was during a period between two Directors of Music that a good friend of ours and the Director of Music of Harsnett – Ed Sutton – came to support the choir on a monthly basis to help us keep going.
“Over coffee after a service one Sunday morning he asked if we were doing anything the weekend after, as he was short of a tenor and a soprano to sing at Peterborough Cathedral. So that was how it all began and it’s now seven years on. We enjoy it very much indeed!”
The Harsnett Choir is named after Samuel Harsnett, the son of a Colchester baker. He was born in 1561, and between 1597 and 1605 was Vicar of Chigwell Parish Church in Essex. The inscription of the brass to his memory in Chigwell Parish Church, where he was buried, reads:
Here lies Samuel Harsnett, formerly Vicar of this church, first the unworthy Bishop of Chichester, next the more unworthy Bishop of Norwich, and finally the most unworthy Archbishop of York.
Harsnett was formed in 1984 from a nucleus of members of Chigwell Parish Church Choir, plus friends, when the choir there was disbanded.
“Since then, of course, the membership has changed considerably and is now drawn from all over the country: from Bristol to East Anglia, and from the south coast to the Isle of Harris! Our members represent many Christian denominations and those with no Christian faith, but who all love singing liturgical music to a high standard in some of the most beautiful settings in the country under the expert direction of our Director of Music, Ed Sutton.
“Our close friend, Graham Thorpe, Sub-organist at Bradford Cathedral supports us most frequently at the organ.
“We generally sing at four or five cathedrals each year for weekends when their own choirs are on holiday plus a week’s residency in the summer, for example Hereford Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral and last summer we were at Chester Cathedral. Recent weekend visits included Winchester Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral for the Queen’s Jubilee.
“The glory of singing in all these beautiful buildings – all so different – with such great acoustics, and we receive such warm welcomes. It’s also lovely to link up with friends from all over the country a few times each year, to see them and to enjoy the musical experience together.”
The Harsnett Choir will be leading the music at an Evensong at 5:30pm on Saturday 15th April, and at 3:30pm on the following day, as well as the 10:30am Eucharist on the Sunday morning.
“Musically, it’s an essential part of worship, but even if you’re not religiously inclined, it will really give you a mental uplift, which these days is so important. Evensong – for those who don’t want to actively join in with the singing – is such a beautiful, reflective service and the music is always lovely.
“We very much look forward to our visit to Bradford.”