Having got the bug he went on to commission many other pieces by up and coming composers including Gerald Finzi, Michael Tippett, Edmund Rubbra, Lennox Berkeley and Malcolm Arnold.
In 1955 he was appointed Dean of Chichester Cathedral and he continued to commission choral works including settings of the Canticles by Herbert Howells and William Walton. He also somehow managed to persuade Leonard Bernstein, who had recently composed West Side Story, to write a piece which became known as the Chichester Psalms.
Connection and Inspiration
It was at Chichester where the family of one of Reading Phoenix Choir’s members, Howard Jenner, met Walter Hussey. Both Howard and his elder brother Anthony were choristers at Chichester Cathedral in the 1960s, and one of their most striking memories was of a newly commissioned piece by Bryan Kelly. If you listen to his Magnificat in C today it still sounds fresh and exciting.
Inspired by the memory of the work of Walter Hussey, the idea for a composition competition evolved. Reading Phoenix Choir have commissioned a number of works over their near 50 year history, and in 2016 were involved in the premiere of a new joint project between Bob Chilcott and Age UK in Oxfordshire, so the opportunity to create their own composition competition was too good to pass up.
And so the Walter Hussey Composition Competition was born.
Reading Phoenix Choir
One of the most remarkable qualities of this 50-strong mixed voice choir is that every member sings entirely from memory. In addition, the choir does not sing in the traditional arrangement of soprano, alto, tenor and bass sections, but in mixed formation. This enables the singers to fully engage with the other voice parts, creating a great aural blend.
As well as a busy concert schedule, the choir participates in national and international competitions, records its own CDs, tours the UK and beyond, and runs workshops with local schools to get young people excited and passionate about music.
Previous tours abroad have included America, Russia and many countries across Europe. On previous trips the choir have sung mass at Notre Dame Cathedral and received a standing ovation at Voronezh Opera House. Over the years, many choir exchanges have been undertaken including with choirs from Voronezh, Matera in Italy, the Dvorak Choir from the Czech Republic and choirs from Sacramento and Helsinki. In 2018 the choir will embark on its first concert tour of northern Spain.
For more information, please visit: www.readingphoenixchoir.com