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Choir of the Chapels Royal, HM Tower of London


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The word 'chapel' is derived from the term for the cloaks, cappella, which were worn by the chaplains (cappellani) of the French court on their frequent journeys. Just as the mediæval kings of France took their chaplains with them, so did the kings of England. In its original sense, therefore, the term 'Chapel Royal' applied to everything needed by a devout sovereign for divine worship: clergy, choir, books, relics, vestments and plate. Efforts to consolidate political power in the Middle Ages meant that the whole court travelled widely and services were celebrated for the sovereign both in private and with great ceremony in public. A notable appearance of the Chapel Royal was with Henry VIII's court at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520.

The number of choir & clergy at the Chapel Royal has fluctuated throughout history, according to political necessity and the personal inclinations of the sovereign. Their duties have changed too, but it is clear from the names of the musicians who worked there that performance and composition of the highest standard have been a single constant.

By the 18th century this itinerant royal band had found a final home and one building, the chapel at St. James's Palace, came to be served by the establishment of the Chapel Royal. Other chapels in the royal palaces of Hampton Court and the Tower of London continued to hold services but without the use of the choir and clergy of this Chapel Royal. They nevertheless shared, and continue to share, their special status in the ecclesiastical establishment. The Chapels Royal fall under the jurisdiction of the Dean of the Chapels Royal (currently the Bishop of London), the Lord Chamberlain and, ultimately, the Sovereign. From the early days of the Chapel Royal, musical excellence was a high priority. The musical history of the Chapel Royal is impressive indeed, proving the crown of England to be an exceptional patron of music, rivalled only by the Vatican. The Choir of the Chapels Royal, HM Tower of London is part of this heritage. However, it is likely that for a long time music in the chapels within the Tower of London was only as good as many other parish churches in London. For a short time from 1871-1885, music for services was led by Mary Rose Milman, the wife of the resident major, with the children of the parish singing while she played the organ.

In 1966 provision was made for the establishment of a professional choir to provide music of the highest standard for the two Chapels Royal in the Tower and in the choir's short recent history it has established an enviable reputation for excellence. Some of the UK's most eminent musicians, including Felicity Palmer CBE and Sir Andrew Davis began their careers here and the composers Herbert Howells, Stephen Jackson and James MacMillan have written music specifically for it.

Today the choir maintains this recent tradition and comprises professional singers who perform with some of the most distinguished consorts and opera companies in the UK and abroad. This choir of 10 maintains a long-established tradition of consort singing achieving an exemplary standard of music-making across a wide repertory, with a special emphasis on music written for the Chapel Royal itself. The choir has made a number of recordings, has broadcast for Radio 3 & Classic FM and is occasionally augmented when larger forces are required.


Stephen Tilton began his musical career as a chorister at High Wycome Parish Church directed by Richard Hickox. Later, he went as a choral scholar to King's College, Cambridge where he read Classics. On leaving Cambridge, he studied singing with Jessica Cash and was much in demand as a soloist and consort singer. Stephen was appointed Master of Music at HM Tower of London in 1994 succeeding Joseph Sentance and John Williams as the third Master of Music since the establishment of the present Foundation. He has advanced the tradition of music at the Tower with the development of a successful Winter Concert series and the arrival of a new organ, and has continued the choir's long association with the City of London Festival. Stephen continues his own singing, in particular with the ensemble Opus Anglicanum of which he is a founder member. With this group, he has performed a wide repertory from 8th century semiology to recent commissions by Judith Bingham: The Necklace of Light, and by Gabriel Jackson: I am the rose of Sharon. In his spare time, Stephen specialises in the regulation of investment management business.


A leading concert organist of the younger generation, Colm Carey combines a blend of fresh invention and technical finesse, establishing him as a remarkable and distinctive performer.

Born in Ireland, Carey studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Nicholas Danby and David Titterington, where he read for a University of London BMus. He also gained the Dip.RAM, the Academy's highest performance award, and later became Meaker Fellow. As winner of the prestigious Julius Isserlis Scholarship, he went on to study at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève with Lionel Rogg, where he won the 'Premier Prix de Virtuositi avec Distinction' on completion of his course. He subsequently came third and won the Audience Prize at the St. Alban's International Competition. Since then Carey has performed as a soloist in France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Canada, the USA, Australia and throughout Britain and Ireland. He performs regularly on both BBC Radio 3 and RTE's Lyric FM, and recently released his debut CD (Die Kunst der Fuge, J.S. Bach) for Signum Records.




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