The Choir of Salisbury Cathedral, John Challenger & David Halls

Biography The Choir of Salisbury Cathedral, John Challenger & David Halls

David Halls
Born in 1963, David Halls was taught the piano from the age of four. Whilst a pupil at Harrogate Grammar School, he was Assistant Organist at St Wilfrid’s, Harrogate, and studied the organ with Adrian Selway at St Peter’s Church, Harrogate, Ronald Perrin at Ripon Cathedral and later with Thomas Trotter in London.

David won an Organ Scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford and graduated in 1984 with an Honours Degree in Music. He passed both the Associate and Fellowship Examinations of The Royal College of Organists in the same year, being awarded five prizes and the Silver Medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians. He studied in Winchester for a post-graduate Certificate in Education and was Organ Scholar of Winchester Cathedral under the guidance of Martin Neary and James Lancelot. He was appointed Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral in September 2005.

In addition to his daily duties in the cathedral, David has toured Austria, Estonia, France, Holland, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the USA with the Cathedral Choir and has appeared as conductor, accompanist and soloist in many concerts and recordings. In demand as a recitalist in cathedrals and churches throughout the UK, he has recorded two solo CDs and a DVD on the Willis Organ in Salisbury Cathedral. He is active as a composer with many choral and organ works published in the UK and USA.

David is a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Choral Festival Group, regularly conducting Diocesan Choir Festivals and he is an Organ Consultant to the Diocese of Salisbury. He conducts the Salisbury Musical Society and the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra and recent work has included Bach’s St John Passion and Mass in B Minor, Elgar’s Symphony No. 1, Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Poulenc’s Gloria and Brahms’ Requiem.

John Challenger
has been Assistant Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral since September 2012, where he accompanies the Cathedral's liturgy on the great Father Willis Organ. He received his musical education as a chorister at Hereford Cathedral under Dr Roy Massey and Geraint Bowen, and as an Organ Scholar at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and St John’s College, Cambridge; at St John’s, under the directorship of Andrew Nethsingha, he played the organ for services, concerts, recordings, broadcasts, tours, and four critically-acclaimed recordings on the Chandos label. He studied the organ with David Briggs, Jeremy Filsell, Mark Williams, and the late David Sanger, and obtained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists in 2008. In addition to his duties at the Cathedral, John is active as an organ teacher and recitalist. Between January and March 2017, John acted as Director of Music at St John's College, Cambridge, during the sabbatical of the College's full-time Director of Music, Andrew Nethsingha. During this time, the world-famous choir undertook numerous high-profile engagements, including a BBC Radio 3 live broadcast of Choral Evensong on Ash Wednesday.

In April 2015, John’s début solo organ CD, ‘Elgar from Salisbury’, was released under the Regent label, and features transcriptions of Elgar’s orchestral and instrumental works on the Father Willis Organ, including John’s own transcription of Elgar’s Prelude to ‘The Kingdom’. The recording was awarded five stars by Choir & Organ Magazine, and received enthusiastic reviews in the American Record Review, Hi-Fi Plus, Church Music Quarterly, and on Classic FM. Roger Judd, writing for FCM’s Cathedral Music wrote that ‘it would be difficult to imagine a more auspicious début CD’, whilst Andrew Fletcher wrote for Organists’ Review: ‘there is nothing I can say that can begin to convey the technical brilliance, artistry, musicality and seemingly effortless organ management of John Challenger. If you love the Salisbury organ (and who wouldn’t?) and adore Elgar (and who doesn’t?), here is a match made in heaven. Flawless! Phenomenal!’

The Choir of Salisbury Cathedral
In the early days the music in the Cathedral was performed by two groups of musicians, the Vicars Choral and the Choristers, either together or separately. In the sixteenth century Lay Vicars first appeared. They were not in Holy Orders and their duties were to assist the Vicars Choral with the singing. Today the music is provided by sixteen boy choristers and sixteen girl choristers aged 8-13 years, and six Lay Vicars. The choristers are educated at Salisbury Cathedral School - a thriving independent day and boarding prep school for boys and girls, situated in the shadow of the Cathedral’s spire.

In 1991, the same year in which the 900th anniversary of the founding of the very first boys' choir at Old Sarum was celebrated, Salisbury became the first English Cathedral to form a separate and independent foundation for girl choristers. They sang their first service in October of that year and nowadays the weekly services are equally divided between the boy and girl choristers.

The Cathedral Choir sings a fully choral Evensong every day, and on Sunday mornings there is also a Choral Mattins and Eucharist. In addition to singing for services, there are other regular commitments such as BBC broadcasts, concerts, CD recordings and the annual Southern Cathedrals Festival, which showcases the Cathedral Choirs from Chichester, Winchester and Salisbury. There are also overseas choir tours: in recent years the boys and men have travelled to Latvia, Estonia and France, the girls to Italy and Austria. The first time that boy and girl choristers toured together was to Saintes, France in 2014 - they toured together again to Xanten, Germany in April 2016 and another combined tour to America is planned for 2017.

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