Image of A photograph of a choir rehearsal

Mark Williams’ final orchestral concert with the Jesus College choirs

After seven years at Jesus College, Director of Music Mark Williams will celebrate his career at Jesus College by conducting one of the most celebrated choral works of all time at Ely Cathedral on Saturday 12th November.

In January Williams will take up the post of Director of Music at Magdalen College, Oxford. He delayed his start date so that he could conduct this concert, which has been planned for two years.

Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius is a large-scale masterpiece. Tenor Allan Clayton will sing the role of Gerontius alongside the Britten Sinfonia and a chorus made up of the Choirs of Jesus, Clare, Gonville & Caius, and Selwyn Colleges, the choristers of Jesus and St Catharine’s Colleges, the girl choristers of Ely Cathedral and the Cambridge University Chamber Choir.

Mark Williams said:

“This is the first time I will have conducted something on this scale, involving some 250 performers including over 50 children from Jesus and St Catharine’s Colleges and Ely Cathedral. It is a magnificent but very demanding piece with challenging writing for orchestra, chorus and soloists. By the time of the performance we will have had roughly 25 hours of rehearsal with the choirs, orchestra and soloists separately and together. Plus months of planning and score preparation and the input of many people without whom such an enormous undertaking would not be possible, from those who build the stage to those who provide food for the performers, write the programme notes and so forth. For a piece which lasts about 100 minutes, it would be fair to say that each minute of music probably represents at least an hour’s work, if not more.

“The idea was the brainchild of Charles Rawlinson, an old member of Jesus College, Cambridge, who is very supportive of the music at Jesus College and at Ely Cathedral and who has been a long-term supporter of Britten Sinfonia. He thought that it would be nice to bring together the organisations he loves most in his favourite piece, and the concert is being sponsored by him, for which we are all immensely grateful. The Cambridge Music Festival was delighted to become involved, and we were very fortunate to secure the services of such brilliant soloists and I’m delighted that my colleagues were willing to lend me their choirs for the project.

“I expect it to be an emotional experience. I suspect that when it is over I shall feel rather more melancholic than relieved, as it will represent the last major project of my time in Cambridge. But I’m sure the memory of it will stay with me (and hopefully all those who took part and listened) for the rest of my life. One of the things I will miss most about Cambridge is the many opportunities we have for collaborations. I have been fortunate to work with all the choirs involved in various capacities over the last seven years that I have been Director of Music at Jesus College, and this will be my fifth collaboration with Britten Sinfonia. To have the chance to work with such wonderful musicians has been, and continues to be, an enormous privilege.”