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
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.