On Palm Sunday – 24th March 2024 – we welcome composer Matthew Coleridge to the Cathedral for a ‘Come and Sing’ workshop and performance. Ahead of the event we caught up with him to find out more.
Could you briefly introduce yourself and how you got into music?
I grew up singing in a church choir, which were some of the happiest moments of my life. I’ve been creating music for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until my early 30s when I started writing choral music that I found my true ‘voice’.
What is the story behind the composing of your ‘Requiem’?
I started writing it when my son was born – he would often be having a nap in the room whilst I was sitting at the piano writing it. So it’s whilst it’s pretty unusual to be writing music what is in effect a Mass for the Dead whilst cuddling a new-born baby, perhaps that’s what really makes it such a life-affirming piece of music.
For you, what makes a great musical composition?
I’ve always valued beauty and simplicity above all else. And to have moments that you can feel the music building towards, so that when you get there you feel a surge of excitement. It’s like reaching the top of a hill after a long climb!
Last year the piece appeared in the Classic FM Hall of Fame top 100. What was it like to receive that accolade?
To say it was a surprise would be an understatement! Alexander Armstrong has chosen my album as his ‘Album of the Week’ a month or so beforehand, so I thought there might be an outside chance of sneaking in at number 299. I’d given up hope until my wife came rushing in to the room screaming “you’re at number 86!”. After that, I woke up two or three times during the night and kept check the Classic FM website just to make sure they hadn’t made a mistake. The strangest part of it was being the 10th highest ranked living composer, up the with the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer. (PS. Voting is now open for 2024!)
Could you tell us a little about your ‘ Requiem in a Day workshops’?
This is something I’ve been doing for about 3 years now – singers come and spend the day learning the Requiem before I conduct them in a concert performance in the evening. I like to choose the most incredible venues – this year I’m particularly looking forward to Gloucester Cathedral, where we’re expecting 300 singers, and Beverley Minster, which is undoubtably one of the country’s finest church buildings.
It’s quite a thrilling way to learn a piece of music, but you feel the excitement and confidence growing throughout the day, and by the end of the evening concert
everyone’s exhilarated, and emotionally drained.
It started out quite modestly, but word seems to have caught on now so you can usually expect getting on for 200 singers in the choir, so it’s a really fabulous sing.
What should people expect from the ‘Come and Sing’ element at Bradford Cathedral on Palm Sunday?
Usually I have a whole day to prepare the singers, whereas on Palm Sunday it’ll just be an afternoon, so it’ll be a fast-paced and lively rehearsal as we take the piece
from nought to sixty in the space of about three hours. I’m sure that’ll make it even more exciting to be a part of.
Is there anything those looking to sing should do to prepare?
Have a listen to the Requiem and get a feel for the piece. There are fabulous recordings on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music etc. But the biggest thing is to be confident! There are bound to be a few wrong notes, but it’s always best to sing them with feeling.
For those looking to attend the liturgical performance, what will that experience be like?
I’ve heard Requiem sung liturgically a few times now, and it really does heighten the meaning of the texts. I’m sure it’ll be a moving experience for everyone involved.
For those attending, will they be able to get any of your scores / recordings?
I’ll have vocal scores and CDs available to buy on the day, or singers can also borrow a score for the day if they prefer.
You have composed several pieces – do you have a particular favourite, and why?
I think it’s probably my Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. The Magnificat is vibrant and lively, with folk-like melodies over a bubblingly rhythmic organ parts. The Nunc Dimittis, I think, is my finest piece: it’s built from simple melodies which flow and overlap, growing to a glorious and uplifting climax.
If you could sum up the day and why someone should sign up to sing, what would you say?
I think it’s quite special to have a composer teaching you their own music – you get some unique insights into how the music came to be. You’ll also be amazed by how
much we get done in such a short space of time. And of course you’ll get to sing alongside the cathedral choir in a memorable performance.
‘Come and Sing’ Coleride’s Requiem takes place on Sunday 24th March 2024 (Palm Sunday). To book your tickets for the workshop at 1pm please click here, or to join us for the 5pm liturgical performance please click here.