Robert Presley

Much loved member of John's Schola Cantorum

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Originally from Alabama, Robert moved to London in 2002 from San Francisco, where he had sung with San Francisco Opera for many years. 

 

Once in Europe he went on to sing many roles, notably those of Verdi, as well as oratorio, and in recital.

It was while singing Rigoletto in France that Robert met Ben Woodward, the then Director of Music at St John's, who invited him to sing with the Schola Cantorum, which Robert was delighted to do.

A keen church musician, having sung in church since a child, Robert soon became a much loved member of the Schola, and indeed of the community at St John's, bring his passion and enthusiasm, humour and large personality to every service - especially so at holiday  times. He was also well known for his fabulous cooking and baking, and giving of parties!

Robert was a founder member of Fulham Opera, who now hold a biennial Robert Presley Verdi Competition which attracts entries from around the world.

He died suddenly on the 10th April, 2013, just as he was about to start rehearsals for the Longborough Ring - the beginning of another chapter.

 

Ronald Corp wrote a setting of the E. E. Cummings poem "I carry your heart" when Robert Presley died in 2013. It was a poem particularly close to Robert's own heart, having sung it in John Duke's setting for voice and piano. 

 

Corp's setting was first sung at Robert's funeral on May 1st, 2013.

 

It was subsequently recorded by the chamber choir Chantage for their album My Promise - a collection of music 'to celebrate that everyone can now marry the person they love.'

 

A year later, and also in Robert's memory, Ronald Corp composed a setting of George Herbert's Antiphon - 'Let all the world in every corner sing, My God and King.'

[click here to listen to "I carry your heart" by R. Corp] 

Sir Henry Wood

Organist of St John's Church, 1887-1890

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Sir Henry Joseph Wood CH (3 March 1869 – 19 August 1944) was an English conductor best known for his association with London's annual series of promenade concerts, known as the Proms.

 

He conducted them for nearly half a century, introducing hundreds of new works to British audiences.

 

After his death, the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as the "Henry Wood Promenade Concerts", although they continued to be generally referred to as "the Proms".

Born in modest circumstances to parents who encouraged his musical talent, Wood started his career as an organist. During his studies at the Royal Academy of Music, he came under the influence of the voice teacher Manuel Garcia and became his accompanist.

 

After similar work for Richard D'Oyly Carte's opera companies on the works of Arthur Sullivan and others, Wood became the conductor of a small operatic touring company. He was soon engaged by the larger Carl Rosa Opera Company. One notable event in his operatic career was conducting the British premiere of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in 1892.

From the mid-1890s until his death, Wood focused on concert conducting.

 

He was engaged by the impresario Robert Newman to conduct a series of promenade concerts at the Queen's Hall, offering a mixture of classical and popular music at low prices.

 

The series was successful, and Wood conducted annual promenade series until his death in 1944.

By the 1920s, Wood had steered the repertoire entirely to classical music. When the Queen's Hall was destroyed by bombing in 1941, the Proms moved to the Royal Albert Hall.

Wood declined the chief conductorships of the New York and Boston Symphony Orchestras, believing it his duty to serve music in the United Kingdom.

 

In addition to the Proms, he conducted concerts and festivals throughout the country and also trained the student orchestra at the Royal Academy of Music.

 

He had an enormous influence on the musical life of Britain over his long career: he and Newman greatly improved access to classical music, and Wood raised the standard of orchestral playing and nurtured the taste of the public, presenting a vast repertoire of music spanning four centuries.

[click here to whatch Sir Henry conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1938]