Statement on the funding of the choir

A tradition of professional music

The Carmelite Priory has a long and distinguished tradition of professional music. Under John McCarthy’s direction, the choir played an important role in restoring polyphony to common liturgical use in this country, alongside the work of the choirs of Westminster Cathedral under R.R. Terry, and The Oratory under Henry Washington. It recorded Masses by Palestrina and Victoria, as well as two innovative ‘Plainsong to Polyphony’ records. Then, as now, the Choir of the Carmelite Priory has shown that sacred music sung with eloquence and skill draws the heart and mind towards the divine.

The issue of cost

A simple definition of ‘professional music’ is that the musicians are paid; those that provide the music do so as their profession. Engaging musicians of the calibre the choir currently boasts is significantly costly. Next year the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott church will be 60 years old; the priory, completed in 1889, will be 130 year years old. To facilitate the proper maintenance of these buildings, and in order to secure financial assistance from the Carmelite Order, the community in Kensington is making a number of changes to the church’s music from January.

Changes to the music

The choir currently sings the 11.00am Sunday Mass throughout the year; in 2019 we will sing on a termly basis, with vacations that coincide with educational institutions (details below). There will be fewer singers present on Sundays, mostly four singers instead of the current eight, with a consequent reduction in the choir’s repertoire. These changes represent a saving of over £20,000, reducing the music costs to £26,000.

Although this reduction in music is deeply saddening, the choir is working constructively with the community to support their work and to maintain a tradition of professional music that continues to enhance the church’s liturgy to the benefit of its parishioners.

We hope that in the fullness of time the music provision will be returned to full strength; financial assistance to facilitate this would be most warmly welcomed – please do get in touch if you are able to help.

Forrest-Heyther Partbooks 2018-19

As a result of these changes, we regret that the 2019 portion of our project will not be going ahead. We will try to include some of the music where possible, but the resources needed for the project as planned are no longer available. On the basis of our experience during 2019 we will see if planning a project for 2020 is possible.


The choir will be away and there will be no music at the 11.00am Mass on the following dates:

Sunday 17th February (Half term)
Sunday 28th April (Easter vacation)
Sunday 2nd June (Half term)
Sunday 28th July – Sunday 25th August inclusive (Summer vacation)
Sunday 27th October (Half term)
Sunday 29th December (Christmas vacation)

Apart from these periods of vacation, the choir will sing each Sunday, and for the following services:

Ash Wednesday (6th March, 6.00pm Mass)
The Easter Triduum
Ascension Thursday (30th May, 6.00pm Mass)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel (16th July, 6.00pm Mass)
St Thérèse of Lisieux (1st October, 6.00pm Mass)
St Teresa of Avila (15th October, 6.00pm Mass)
Christmas Eve and Morning

Music Lists

We will produce regular music lists in 2019 and will endeavour, despite the reduction to our resources, to continue to programme interesting, unusual, unjustly-neglected, newly-edited and liturgically-appropriate music.

2018 Music List January-March

Our new music list is now available. We start off 2018 with the charming Missa Ad præsepio by George Malcolm, a former Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral. Its simple, pastoral style is a good detox after the excesses, musical or otherwise, of Christmas. 

Although the Baptism of the Lord doesn’t fall on a Sunday this year, we’re indulging one last piece of Christmas music with Clemens O magnum mysterium on Sunday 14th January. A much sunnier piece than the Poulenc, Palestrina and Victoria settings we sang over Christmas, it perhaps emphasises the joy of the Incarnation above the sense of mystery the others highlight.

Diego Ortiz Alma Redemptoris Mater has, it seems, been waiting in the wings for many years to be included on a music list. It is a long-standing favourite of the Director of Music, though we sadly won’t be performing it quite as it is here with doubling instruments and spatially separated choirs – from this performance you probably wouldn’t guess that it is only 6-parts throughout.

Two Gesualdo motets prefigure the sombre mood of Lent but are balanced by two 8-part Masses, programmed to mark the changing of Marian Antiphons, Victoria Missa Alma Redemptoris Mater and Padilla Missa Ave Regina cælorum

Our next project – The Forrest-Heyther Partbooks – starts on Ash Wednesday. This project will programme the 18 Masses contained in the partbooks alongside contemporary and near-contemporary works from the Tudor period. During Lent we perform some of the larger-scale works by Byrd, William Mundy, Tallis and White, pieces that will split between the Offertory and Communion. The details of the project are still being tweaked (maybe some time off after Cardoso450 would have been sensible) but will be available in February.

2017 Q4 music list

The new music list is now available. It is not only the final list of 2017, but also the end of Cardoso450, a project that has been a constant companion since February 2016. Cardoso's 6-part Requiem was one of the works that encouraged the project into existence; it is fitting that it should be one of the final works we perform. But what of the rest?

Read More

2017 Q3 music list

We're entering the final stages of our monumental Cardoso450 project, building up to the big finish on the Q4 music list. Our Cardoso focus allows us to explore another Palestrina/Cardoso pairing on Sunday 16th June - Veni sponsa Christi for our Patronal Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Another interesting pairing can be heard on 20th August with two settings of the story of a woman whose daughter is possessed by a devil (Matthew 15: 21-22). This list also has a strong English accent with music by Byrd, Mundy, Philips, Tallis and Tye, a foretaste of our forthcoming project in 2018/19 - more details soon. We're particularly excited to be able to perform Holst's 8-part Ave Maria for upper voices and two motets by Sweelinck whose sacred music is heard far too infrequently.