Introducing Richard Brain – Our new Director of Music!

Posted on February 28, 2013


Richard Brain

Richard Brain

On Friday 22nd February we officially welcomed Richard to Christ Church when he led the choir through his first rehearsal. Richard studied at Cheltenham College and was a Choral Scholar at Gloucester Cathedral Choir before reading History at the University of Exeter, where he was also a choral scholar at Exeter Cathedral. He is currently studying for a Master of Arts in Choral Conducting at the Royal Academy. Richard is Director of the de Merc Chamber Choir and Conductor of the Sine Nomine Singers and joins us at Christ Church after stepping down from his post as Layclerk at St Albans Cathedral Choir. We caught up with Richard after his first Sunday morning service to find out more about more about our talented new Director of Music.

We hear you’re a Westcountry boy at heart! 

Yes; I was born in Bristol and grew up in Cheltenham. My parents still live in Gloucestershire where they spent much of their working lives as a policeman a nurse. I love the Westcountry. I have wonderful memories of holidays in Torbay – nothing like Fawlty Towers though!

How did you discover your talent for music?

My father sang in a parish choir and I grew up doing the same. It just came gradually I suppose. Throughout my school years I have been singing in all sorts of choirs and sometimes, when there were none around, I formed my own – such as the Knightley Voices in Exeter!

When did you decide to ‘turn pro’?

When I left school at the age of eighteen I felt sure that I was not going to become a professional musician. I had thoughts of joining the Royal Navy. I decided to take a year out before starting my degree in History and it was during this time, as a choral scholar in Gloucester, that I realised that music was something I wanted to pursue professionally. I became a scholar at Exeter Cathedral, singing eight services a week for three years, and I realised that this was the life for me!

As well as being an excellent conductor you are also a professional tenor – where have you performed?

I am lucky to have been able to perform all over the UK and Europe with various choirs, including engagements at the BBC Proms with the National Chorus of Wales. My first solo recital was in Gloucester Cathedral in June 2008 and included work by Britten, Handel, Vaughan Williams and Butterworth’s song cycle A Shropshire Lad.

What do you hope to achieve as Director of Music at Christ Church?

I hope to help to provide the congregation with the aural dimension of our worship – the sound of faith – to complement the visual dimension and the spoken word.  I hope to provide the singers in our choir with a repertoire that is dynamic and engaging and enjoyable to perform, whilst also offering an opportunity for them to engage with the liturgy. I hope to be able to translate my own experience as a choral scholar and student to our young choristers – helping them to develop their technique.

On your first day we sang a variety of music from the early Tudor to twentieth century compositions by Howells – is this a sign of your diverse musical tastes?

Sacred choral music of all forms is my passion – so yes, we will be singing a varied repertoire. I also enjoy listening to and performing secular and concert repertoire, such as Elgar; The Kingdom and The Apostles are among my favourite pieces, as are Vaughan Williams’ Five English Folk Songs and his Sea Symphony. Mahler’s Second Symphony is another favourite!

Working at the weekend isn’t for everyone – have you thought this through?!

Yes! My friends think it is a bit strange – I am busy at work when they are relaxing at the weekend, but it’s OK. It ‘feels’ right for me. My girlfriend is an organist and also shares the same work schedule, so it is less disruptive than it might be!

Do you have time for anything other than music?!

Yes I enjoy history and politics – the subject of my University studies. I have quite a good memory for historical facts – sadly anniversaries and birthdays are sometimes harder to remember!

Thank you Richard! We hope you enjoy your first month at Christ Church!