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James Lancelot is Master of the Choristers and Organist of Durham Cathedral, a position he has held since 1985. Prior to this he was successively a Chorister of St Paul’s Cathedral, Organ Scholar of King’s College, Cambridge and Sub-Organist of Winchester Cathedral. He studied with Ralph Downes, Gillian Weir and Nicholas Danby. At Durham he takes responsibility for the cathedral’s musical ministry, at whose heart are the services sung daily by the Cathedral Choir.
During his tenure the choir has maintained its reputation as one of Britain’s leading cathedral choirs. He has taken them on tour to Holland, Scandinavia, Germany, Brazil , Versailles and the USA, and with them he has worked with the Northern Sinfonia, the BBC Philharmonic, the London Festival Orchestra, the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, BT Scottish Ensemble and Stan Tracey and his orchestra and STING.. The choir has recorded on many occasions both for Priory and privately for Durham Cathedral Choir Association, and has made numerous broadcasts; in July 2005 it appeared in concert at the International Organ Festival at St Alban’s Cathedral. James also takes overall responsibility for the cathedral’s second choir, Durham Cathedral Consort of Singers, which he was instrumental in working with the Cathedral Chapter to found in 1997; this choir sings regularly in the Cathedral on its own but also on occasion combines with the Cathedral Choir.
James is also Organist to the University of Durham, Conductor of Durham University Choral Society and immediate Past President of the Cathedral Organists Association; in 2002 he became a Lay Canon of Durham Cathedral and received Honorary Fellowship of the Guild of Church Musicians, and in 2006 he was appointed a Fellow of St Chad’s College, Durham.
In addition to his work at the cathedral, James Lancelot pursues an active recital career both in Britain and abroad. Recent years have seen visits to Holland, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Denmark, the USA, France, Russia, Norway and Sweden as well as recitals in many British cathedrals and town halls.
Durham Cathedral’s Master of Choristers & Organists
Durham Cathedral benefits from having four exceptional organists in James Lancelot (Master of the Choristers & Organist), Francesca Massey (Sub Organist), Jason Löwe (Assistant Organist) and Jonathan Allsopp (Organ Scholar)
Jonathan Allsopp is currently organ scholar at Durham Cathedral, where he accompanies the cathedral choir in the daily services and trains the choristers and probationers. Alongside this, he is reading for a music degree at Durham University. Born in Surrey, he was organ scholar at both St Mary’s Ewell and King’s College School Wimbledon during his sixth-form, before spending a year as organ scholar at Hereford Cathedral. While at Hereford, he regularly accompanied and conducted the cathedral choir, toured with them to the USA, and took part in the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester.
Jonathan has performed widely as a soloist, accompanist and continuo player, performing in cathedrals and churches across the country. Recent performances have included recitals at Gloucester, Coventry, Truro and Southwark cathedrals, as well as Christchurch Priory, St Michael’s Cornhill, and a recital as part of the long-running series at All Saints’ Hastings. He also performed Oliver Messiaen’s organ cycle Messe de la Pentecôte at Hereford Cathedral on the eve of Pentecost. Upcoming engagements include St Laurence Ludlow, a return to Hastings, and an evening recital at Durham as part of the summer organ recital series, including the world premiere of a commissioned work by David Loxley-Blount.
Jonathan began the organ with Ronny while at school, and subsequently studied with Tom Bell, from whom he has developed a particular interest in contemporary organ music. He became an Associate of the Royal College of Organists in 2014, winning the top prize for paperwork. Aside from playing the organ he enjoys a curry whenever possible.
Former Organists of Durham Cathedral
Masters of the Choristers (and, ipso facto, Organists)
1535 John Brimley
1576 William Browne
1588 Robert Masterman
1589 William Smith
1599 William Browne
1608 Edward Smith
1612 Francis Dodson
1613 Richard Hutchinson
Masters of the Choristers and Organists
1661 John Foster
1677 Alexander Shaw (Organist only)
1681 William Greggs
1711 James Heseltine
1763 Thomas Ebdon
1811 Charles Clarke
1814 William Henshaw
1862 Philip Armes
1907 Arnold Culley
1933 John Dykes Bower
1936 Conrad Eden
1974 Richard Lloyd
1985 James Lancelot
1904 William Ellis
1919 Cyril Maude
1968 Bruce Cash
1973 Alan Thurlow
1980 David Hill
1982 Ian Shaw
1991 Keith Wright
2011 Francesca Massey
2009 Oliver Brett
2012 David Ratnanayagam
2016 Jason Löwe
Francesca Massey took up the post of Sub-Organist of Durham Cathedral in September 2011. Prior to this, she was for four years Assistant Director of Music at Peterborough Cathedral, where in addition to the daily provision of music for services, she regularly accompanied the cathedral choir in concerts, tours, broadcasts and recordings, including the live televised-broadcasts of Midnight Mass and Christmas Day Eucharist in 2008. Concert venues with the choir included the cathedrals of Amiens, Bourges, Blois and Orléans. Born in Birmingham, Francesca was educated at Cambridge University and the Royal Northern College of Music (as an ABRSM Scholar) and has held Organ Scholarships at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (also Acting Precentor for a term) and Manchester Cathedral as well as being Assistant Organist at Great St. Mary's Church, Cambridge.
At the age of 19, Francesca gained all of the top prizes in the FRCO diploma and has since been awarded the WT Best Memorial Scholarship and Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, and the Musicians Benevolent Fund’s Ian Fleming Award. She has studied with Jeremy Filsell, Kevin Bowyer, David Goode and Andrew Fletcher.
Francesca’s recital venues have included many major concert halls, cathedrals and churches in the UK, and she has also performed throughout South Africa, Sardinia, Sweden and Denmark with Caius College Choir, with whom she recorded a number of acclaimed CDs. Francesca has worked as a tutor for Cambridge University Faculty of Music, and on various courses hosted by Oundle for Organists and the RSCM, as well as performing extensively as an organ accompanist, continuo player, pianist, violinist and singer. She is currently the rehearsal accompanist for The Durham Singers.
Jason Löwe’s musical career began at age 13 with piano lessons, broadening a year later when he began to undertake organ lessons with Robert Birbeck of Warrington Parish Church. He became Organ Scholar of the Parish Church in 2003, and from 2005 studied Organ at the Royal Northern College of Music with Darius Battiwalla where he also received tuition from Dr Simon Lindley.
During his time at the RNCM, Jason took part in masterclasses given by Jeremy Filsell, Kevin Bowyer and Thomas Trotter and in 2009, as part of the College’s ‘Raising Sparks’ event, he gave a performance of James MacMillan’s le Tombeau de Georges Rouault which was met with great acclaim by the composer.
He was Sub-Organist of St Paul’s Church, Withington, from December 2007 until Easter 2009 and a finalist in the RNCM’s 2008 Organ Recital Prize.
Jason graduated from the RNCM in December 2009 with the B-Mus (Hons) degree, and from September 2009 to August 2011 was Sydney Nicholson Organ Scholar of Manchester Cathedral, where he developed a particular interest in psalm accompaniment. He took up his post at Giggleswick School in September 2011 where, in addition to playing for the many rehearsals and chapel services and teaching music theory, he is responsible for the upkeep and care of the school’s fine Father Willis Organ. In July 2012 he accompanied the school tour party on their Quincentenery ‘Music and Sport’ tour to Australia, where he played the piano in the Concert Band and accompanied the Concert Choir for concerts given in Queensland, Brisbane, Tamworth and Sydney.
Particularly interested in solo recital work, Jason has given recitals in Liverpool, Manchester and Blackburn Cathedrals, and in the Churches of St. Elphin, Warrington, and St. Ann, Manchester. In his capacity as Organist of Giggleswick School he has given first performances of works by Cecilia McDowall and Darren Everhart, and recently appeared as the organist for ITV’s 2013 Christmas Eve broadcast of ‘Carols from the Dales’ from St Michael’s Church, Kirkby Malham.
He has a wide ranging musical taste which includes music from all periods, but he is especially interested in the music of the German Symphonic school; in particular the works of Max Reger and Franz Schmidt. In his spare time he enjoys reading, traditional West Country cider, 1960s cult Television, and the Gainsborough Pictures films starring Will Hay.