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Big noise in the organ loft

February 28, 2014 by Norman Lebrecht

12 comments.


We hear that Robert Quinney is to succeed Edward Higginbottom as Director of Music and Organist of New College, Oxford, one of the key music posts in the Anglican world. New College Choir is a prolific recording outlet with more than 100 albums. Quinney (pictured) is presently director of music at Peterborough Cathedral and at Oundle School.

robert quinney


Comments (12)

  1. Gerald Brennan says:

    Edward Higginbottom is perhaps the greatest choir and chorus director alive. He is certainly unsurpassed. I have sold off all of my CDs after ripping them (losslessly) to hard drive. I have kept one. E.H. directed the Choir of New College Oxford on a few of Josquin’s “Motets, Antiphons and Sequences” on Meridian. I lend it to people who want to wet their beaks in Renaissance choral music with the advice that, if this fails to move you, abandon your search for joy in this genre and move on. The performance of J’s big-hit-of-the-day motet “Inviolata” on this disc reduces me to watery rubble every time I hear it. Like Beethoven’s Ninth, I only visit it once a year. Downright sacramental. Recommended.

    1. an observer says:

      Well Gerald, your enthusiasm is noted re Dr Higginbottom, but have you also heard about Dr’s Cleobury, and Darlington? oh, and Dr’s Rutter and Tracey at Liverpool? All of these rank as equals in the eyes of many as also eminent distinguished choirtrainers too you know!

    2. Is it legal to sell “CDs after ripping them (losslessly) to hard drive”? It sounds to me like you are having your cake and eating it. If you sell a CD, you should securely delete all digital copies you had made thereof. Otherwise, there exist two independent copies for which only one has been paid. It is no better than photocopying/scanning all your sheet music and then selling the originals.

    1. Once a student... says:

      Organist is, very strangely, Edward Higgnbottom’s job title. I don’t think the post of Director of Music exists, but rather, the Organist functions as the director of chapel music… and the assistant organist and organ scholar are the organists… That’s Oxford for you…

      1. cantab says:

        If you read the article carefully, you will find that the job title is “Director of Music and Organist”. I cannot speak for the other place, but this doubling of roles and titles is very common in Cambridge: the choir director at my alma mater has the title “Director of Chapel Music and Assistant Director of College Music”. This enables the different roles to be held by different people, although they are normally advertised together when seeking candidates (for example, it is not always necessary for the choir director to be the organist). In cathedrals, meanwhile, the choir director is often titled “Organist and Master of the Choristers”.

  2. This is a really inspiring appointment that makes a wet British Friday a great deal better. Robert Quinney is a world class organist (equally at home as a recitalist playing stylish Bach as he is an astonishingly good accompanist in major romantic repertoire) who also has amassed a wealth of high-end choir training experience: before Peterborough he was the fine assistant organist at Westminster Abbey, working alongside the brilliant James O’Donnell. RQ also possesses a huge intellect which should keep the Oxford academics more than happy. And as if that wasn’t enough, his wife is a top-notch consort singer – and presumably his children have now got their education path well set at a very respected school. So, all in all, this is a very good day for music.

  3. an observer says:

    Bet Peterborough Cathedral aren’t best pleased – Mr Q has only been with them a few months, and they will have to go through all the upheaval of re-advertising and appointing……!

    1. There is a most generous comment from the Dean of Peterborough on that Cathedral’s website saying that they are “proud that Peterborough has proved to be a springboard to such a significant job in the musical world”. All credit to him for such magnanimity. There remain some very well-qualified people who will doubtless be applying for that job…

      1. Peterborough resident says:

        As a member of the congregation at Peterborough I hope that everything is done to encourage those well-qualified people to apply! Mr Quinney has raised the standard of the choir enormously over that past year.

        It is worth mentioning that if the new applicant has children (boys or girls) of suitable age then they should be able to join the cathedral choir and attend The King’s School, one of the best state schools in the country, which should be a big draw. The previous incumbent still lives locally to take advantage of this!

  4. Malcolm says:

    A bit harsh on Peterborough, having only taken up the job 10 months ago.

    1. JS says:

      Perhaps, but that sort of opportunity might only come up once in a working lifetime (if EH’s tenure is anything to go by), so I think he had to seize the moment! RQ is certainly the right man for the job.


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