Director of Music - Patrick Russill
Patrick Russill is recognised as one of the leading figures in English church music. Following organ studies with Nicholas Danby while organ scholar at New College, Oxford, he was appointed Organist of the London Oratory in 1977 at the age of 23 in succession to Ralph Downes, on Downes’ nomination. In 1999 he was appointed Director of Music at the Oratory, assuming overall responsibility for its choral tradition and especially for its famous professional choir, which under his direction ‘remains among the finest mixed-voice choirs in the country’ (Choir & Organ).
In 1987 he was invited by the Royal Academy of Music to found Britain’s first conservatoire church music department and since 1997 has been Head of Choral Conducting there as well as a professor of organ. In addition, he is Chief Examiner of the Royal College of Organists and Visiting Professor of Choral Direction at the Leipzig Hochschule für Musik und Theater. He is in demand as a juror and for choral conducting masterclasses both at home and abroad. In 2015 he was honoured by the Association of British Choral Directors with their annual Chair's Award for Choral Leadership.
As an organ recitalist he has played at the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, in Europe, Asia and all over the UK. He introduced the reconstructed Tudor organs of the Early English Organ Project to London’s South Bank in a Queen Elizabeth Hall recital acclaimed by the Independent on Sunday, in its classical review of 2007, as the outstanding London keyboard concert of the year.
He has published articles on various aspects of the Catholic musical tradition including early Tudor liturgical organ music, baroque organ music of Catholic Germany (in The Cambridge Companion to the Organ), Howells’s Latin church music and Dupré’s Vespers as well as editions of choral music by Sweelinck and Howells. He was Musical Editor of the Catholic Hymn Book (1998) and a contributor to New Grove.
In 2007 he was appointed a Vice-President of the Herbert Howells Society in recognition of his continuing scholarly work for neglected choral works of Howells. He is an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music and an Honorary Fellow of both the Guild of Church Musicians and the Royal College of Organists – the highest accolade of each institution.
Contact: phone 020 7808 0911
Organist - Ben Bloor
Ben Bloor began his musical education as a chorister and later as organ scholar in Derby Cathedral. In 2010, he won the organ scholarship at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, and following that the organ scholarship at New College Oxford, from where he graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Music. With New College Choir, he toured extensively, took part in several recording projects and played for live broadcasts on BBC Radio 3. Subsequently, Ben held positions at Westminster and Rochester Cathedrals. He was the winner of the 2012 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition, and in 2013 gained Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists, being awarded the Limpus Prize for highest marks in the playing as well as prizes for the highest marks in the paperwork. In 2014, he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians.
Assistant Director of Music & Director of the Oratory Junior Choir - Charles Cole
Charles Cole began his musical training as a chorister at Westminster Cathedral. He went on to win a major music scholarship to Ampleforth and organ scholarships at Exeter College, Oxford and Westminster Cathedral. He is Assistant Director of Music at the Oratory and Director of the London Oratory Junior Choir which, in addition to its liturgical duties, provides the Children’s Chorus for the Royal Ballet’s productions at Covent Garden. He is Director of Music at St Philip’s School where he also directs the Schola and is also Deputy Organist at Westminster Cathedral.
In addition he is the Director of the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School, a world-famous boys’ choir, which sings the Vigil Mass at the Oratory every Saturday. Perhaps most widely known for its role on the soundtracks of major films such as the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, the Schola has toured extensively, most recently to Rome and Spain. Recent concerts include Bach’s St John Passion, Monteverdi’s Vespers and a joint performance of Bach’s B minor Mass with the Choir of Westminster Cathedral.
Charles was involved in two of the papal liturgies on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to London, conducting the brass in James MacMillan’s Tu es Petrus, commissioned for the Mass at Westminster Cathedral, and playing the organ for the Prayer Vigil at Hyde Park for a congregation of 80,000. Since 2011 he has been a Gregorian Chant Director at the Church Music Association of America’s annual Colloquiums in Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and Indianapolis. He has also given choral workshops for choirs in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem.
Pettman Organ Scholar - GRAHAM THORPE
A particularly exciting development in the Oratory’s organ tradition was the establishment in 2011 of an organ scholarship, thanks to the generosity of a longstanding Oratory parishioner and friend, Mr Ian Pettman. The Pettman Organ Scholarship is endowed in lasting and loving memory of Ian’s late wife June, who for many years before she died in 2006 was a great supporter of the Oratory’s liturgical and musical traditions. Ian himself died in 2016.
The Pettman scholarship allows a student to gain experience of traditional Roman Catholic liturgical music performed to the highest standards, both through practical involvement and observation. An imaginative and distinctive aspect of this scholarship is that it is intended to support other aspects of the scholar’s training, including travel to study historic organs abroad.
Following Felix Yeung (Director of Music, St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong) Jeremy Lloyd (Assisting Organist, York Minster), Joseph Beech (Assistant Master of the Music, St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh) and Marko Sever, Graham Thorpe joined the music staff as our fifth Pettman Organ Scholar in September 2017. He holds a postgraduate scholarship at the Royal College of Music, supported by a Richard Newton Scarth Award and a John Birch Scholarship. He is studying with David Graham, and is specialising in English romantic repertoire. He won several performance and academic prizes at the Royal Academy of Music, where he completed his undergraduate studies in 2017 with Susan Landale and Clive Driskill-Smith.
Prior to the Oratory he was Assistant Organist at St. Michael's, Cornhill. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and recently won the Worshipful Company of Musicians F. E. Smith medal. He is also a recipient of the RCO Peter Wiles Scholarship.
At the Oratory he assists and participates in the Latin liturgies and is principal accompanist for the Oratory Junior Choir.