Remembering Influential Choirmaster Sir David Willcocks
Former director of music at King’s College, Cambridge, England, Sir David Willcocks passed away last week at the age of 95. Willcocks spent his lengthy career raising the standards of British choral music and earned over 50 honorary degrees.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir organization wishes to express its sincere condolences to the family of David Willcocks. Willcocks first associated with the Choir when he served as guest conductor for a segment of Music & the Spoken Word.
Under his baton the Choir also recorded an album titled Sir David Willcocks Conducts Handel’s Messiah. Of the recording sessions with Willcocks, former Choir director Jerold Ottley remembered, “The hard work of preparation and recording was punctuated by his happy little podium dance when the Choir achieved his wishes. We will always remember his favorite tribute of satisfaction—'Spot on!'” Ottley added, “We experienced David Willcocks’ musical genius, gifted to us through his genuine humility.”
Former Tabernacle organist John Longhurst, who played the organ for the recording, said, “It was a lovely experience working with Sir David on the Messiah recording project. He was always the consummate English gentleman. . . . At the same time he was also under the gun to write an organ piece for a soon-to-be-published Oxford University Press anthology of Christmas music. Somehow he managed to find time to complete his organ setting of 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' while still here in the city and brought his manuscript to the Tabernacle, where he first tried it out on the Tabernacle organ. After the book was published, he graciously sent me a copy. I have since enjoyed playing that arrangement myself; always reminded of the pleasant time we enjoyed together collaborating on Messiah.”
Below is a video of the Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performing “Sing!” Willcocks wrote the lyrics to “Sing!” to the accompaniment of the Toccata movement of Charles-Marie Widor's Organ Symphony no. 5.