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Christopher Dearnley

born: 2 November 1930
died: 15 December 2000
country: United Kingdom

Christopher Dearnley (1930–2000) was educated at Worcester College, Oxford, before becoming assistant organist at Salisbury Cathedral in 1954. In 1957 he was promoted to become organist there, moving to take up the post of organist and director of music at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1968. He retired in 1990 on his sixtieth birthday and emigrated to Australia, where he found himself in great demand. He worked on a locum basis at a number of cathedrals and churches there and he and his wife became Australian citizens in 1993. He was acting director of music at Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney (1990–91), organist locum tenens at St David’s Cathedral, Hobart (1991), director of music at Trinity College to the University of Melbourne (1992–3), and Master of Music at St George’s Cathedral, Perth (from 1993). His obituary in The Times recorded that in his later years ‘he was living in a one-room wooden hut just outside Sydney, pursuing his interest in naturism and generally enjoying a more unfettered style of life than had been possible in Britain’.

Whilst at St Paul’s he revived the Victorian tradition of singing the orchestral masses of Haydn, Mozart and Schubert during the month of July and helped to raise the profile of the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy – an annual service held in May – for which many distinguished composers, including Sir Edward Elgar, had formerly been invited to contribute new works. Dearnley was committed to commissioning new music, and in the cathedral’s music lists he included anthems and services by Britten, Bush, Naylor, Tippett and his former teacher Edmund Rubbra. In 1987 he was awarded a Lambeth degree by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his services to church music and appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order.

from notes by William McVicker © 2005


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