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 Masses:

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

Music Lists

We will aim to produce regular music lists in 2019, most likely monthly. Be assured, though, that apart from the vacation weeks noted above, there will be music at the 11.00am Mass.

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.

Canons and pearls

The Gospel reading for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) is taken from Matthew (13: 44-52) ‘The kingdom of heaven is like…’ (Simile est regnum cælorum), a text repeated in the Communion Antiphon. Victoria’s Mass is a parody of Guerrero’s motet of the same title; however, the text of Guerrero’s motet is a different simile from later in Matthew’s Gospel (20: 1-4), so, while Victoria’s Mass ties in liturgically in title, if not in origin, Guerrero’s motet doesn’t. Instead, we are singing his wonderful motet Ave Virgo sanctissima which, far from being a random choice, fits in in two ways.

Read More


The Masses of Cardoso and his Portuguese contemporaries follow an interesting pattern in their Kyries, providing two distinct polyphonic settings of the Christe. This Kyrie–Christe–Christe–Kyrie sequence is only exceptionally found in the Spanish and Roman etc. schools, but was standard on the Iberian Peninsula in the 16th and early 17th centuries. What is the significance of this and how does it affect our approach to performance?

Read More