David Trendell RIP

Plaque to commemorate David Trendell
David Trendell
David Trendell, our former Director of Music, died suddenly on 28th October 2014 of a brain haemorrhage, aged only 50. His funeral took place at the Chapel of King's College, London on Monday, 10th November 2014. There was a considerable reaction in musical circles to this sad news – no surprise to those of us who knew him, worked with him, and were aware of his stature in both academic and choral musical circles.

David was a much-loved, respected, and admired Director of Music at St Bartholomew the Great from 1996 until 2009. He was the first Director of a then new professional choir that has sung at the church ever since he first called it together. The performances they gave under his direction were as remarkable for the performers as they were for the congregations that heard them. He added enormously to the experience and quality of the sacred liturgies of the church.

David's sudden death at the end of October 2014 was an enormous shock for all his many friends and everyone who appreciated his work. The Parish of Great St Bartholomew is commissioning a plaque to be placed on the wall of the church Cloister, between plaques that commemorate two other great Directors of Music at the Church, Paul Steinitz, who was there from 1949 to 1961, and Brian Brockless, who was Director twice, from 1961 to 1969, and from 1979 to 1995.

David's music was a service to the church and to the community, and we want to give an opportunity for everyone who would like to do this to be able to contribute to a permanent memorial to him at Great St Bartholomew. As with the other two plaques, David's will be made from slate into which gilded letters are cut.

In order to make this as convenient as possible, we have established a JustGiving.com page where donations can be made. Click here to go to our JustGiving.com page to donate

Alternatively you can give by texting TREN01 and the amount you wish to give to 70070 – so, for example, you might text TREN01 £10 to 70070

Thank you for any donation you feel able to give for David to be commemorated in this way.

Below are brief appreciations by people who worked with David at the Priory Church

Rector Dudley writes:
One of my first ambitions as the new Rector of Saint Bartholomew the Great in September 1995 was to establish a choir that would deliver a consistently high standard of music every Sunday of the year. Father Michael Thompson gave me great assistance in those early months and it was he who suggested David Trendell as the new Director of Music. I sought the advice of John Scott at St Paul's, asking whether I would be wise to advertise the appointment. He asked me if I had anyone in mind; I said "Yes, David Trendell" He said, "Don't advertise. Just appoint him." I did, and then watched him build his choir, producing a crisp, clear sound that perfectly matched the acoustic of the Priory Church, and develop a repertoire to match the liturgy. It is strange to think that in those early days we still had Matins on a number of Sundays each month and though David was sacramental in his spirituality he also loved the great Te Deums of the English musical tradition. At the Solemn Eucharist, which gradually replaced Matins on all but a couple of Sundays in the year, David introduced me to a broad repertoire of Latin masses and we had an interesting process of matching music and liturgy. My own knowledge of the repertoire was small and so it was an educational process in which I came to appreciate not only the full breadth of Palestrina and Victoria, with Mozart or Haydn on high days, but all the music that you might find in the Spanish Chapel of a Habsburg Archduke. Evensong too was rich and varied. A series of beautiful sombre English penitential anthems one Lent gave me plenty of sermon material. With David's full support I introduced the Marian anthems at the end of Evensong, and in their performance one came close to David's own spirituality. There could hardly be anything more moving than to kneel at the altar as his choir sang the Salve regina on a late November evening.

But it was not all glorious Sunday and festival music. David would head over from King's to play the bridal march from Lohengrin and the wedding march from a Midsummer Night's Dream for one of our curious blessings of devout Japanese couples, and produce a surprisingly good sound from the failing pipe organ. And wedding couples told me of the delight of going to King's, climbing up to his room and having David illustrate possible choices of music on the piano. He charmed them and no one left disappointed. It was an essential part of planning a wedding and the wedding music was always marvellous (though I did hear "Zadok the Priest" more times than I ever thought possible). He worked with a variety of organists, beginning with Simon Nieminski, who deputised for Brian Brockless at the end of 1995 and took us through to David's arrival at Epiphany 1996. The "dream team" was Trendell and Brough, a fabulously vibrant exciting combination. Such was the delight of singing with David that the membership of the choir hardly changed, some coming from King's to S. Bartholomew's in order to stay with him.

Many people would have been surprised that David and I worked so completely harmoniously together and that for thirteen years. He respected my professionalism with regard to liturgy and preaching, and I completely trusted his musical knowledge and expertise. He welcomed my occasionally esoteric requests, based on something I had heard in Venice or Vienna or Cologne. My suggestions gave rise to Cavalli's lovely "Alma Redemptoris Mater" and a lovely setting of the Litany of Loreto being added to our Marian repertoire, and perhaps in consequence he felt that I wouldn't turn down the idea of singing something that he had discovered that differed somewhat from the norm, and I never did. After twelve years it was clear that David was trying to do too much, for S. Bartholomew's has two choral services a Sunday, many weddings, livery and hospital services, and a demanding programme at Christmas and during Holy Week. Even the summer is interrupted by the Patronal Festival. I was sad when he told me that he would move to S. Mary's, Bourne Street, but was glad to see him regularly at King's and at the Atheneum, where I last saw him a week before his death.

He does not leave some great tome of musical erudition; rather there remains for everyone who worked with him or sang with him or arranged a wedding or special service with him the memory of a man whose love of music inspired and uplifted others. That love, and all his skill, was also placed at the service of the Church and the liturgy, and countless people in numerous churches have been brought closer to God through his music.

Martha McLorinan, Singer in the Priory Church Choir, writes:
I first met Trixie in the summer of 2008 when I applied for a position in the choir at St.Bart's, having just completed my undergraduate studies in Cardiff. I wasn't really expecting to be called to audition; I had no church singing on my CV, I had never seen psalm pointing in my life and had no knowledge whatsoever of what it was or how to read it , and as I lived in a different country I was completely unknown on the church depping scene. So it came as quite a surprise to me when Trixie offered me the job! To this day, I am extremely grateful to him for taking a chance on me. It gave me the confidence to make the big move to London to pursue a career as a singer.

On joining the choir, I found myself surrounded by people who had the greatest respect for him as a musician, but who were also hugely fond of him on a personal level. He had created a family-like feel in the choir. People were inspired by his musicianship, and would frequently enjoy spending time together outside of church sharing good food and wine with him. His passion for early music was infectious, and he was at his best and most excitable on a Sunday morning when we had near illegible hand-written copies of obscure masses by early composers I had never heard of. We would often sing things that I would have been quick to discard for being too difficult to read or full of strange ficta, but he educated me, and introduced me to some real choral gems. I am extremely lucky to have been introduced to polyphony by such a great scholar.

His death is a huge loss, and has come far too soon. He has inspired hundreds of musicians, and will be missed by them all.

Nicholas Riddle, Churchwarden, writes:
My first experience of St Bartholomew the Great was a carol service. In spite of having taken seriously the warning that one would need to be there early to get a seat, my little party was relegated to the north ambulatory, where one could hear everything but see practically nothing. Separated from the atmosphere and visual aspects of the central part of the church, one inevitably focussed more on the detail of what one was hearing, and I was very struck by the sheer intelligence of the performance that came from the choir stalls. It was, I came to discover, the kind of reaction that one could regularly have when the music was directed by David Trendell.

David's approach to performance seemed to me unusual and is quite difficult to describe. Both when playing the organ for him and also when just watching him working with the choir, it was not always easy to see what detail exactly he intended to communicate. That may well just have been my failing rather than his, but the fact was that his approach sometimes generated workmanlike performances, occasionally led to the choir seeming to get away from him and visiting some unexpected byways quite far from where they were meant to be, but also regularly produced blindingly brilliant, magical, profoundly moving performances of an extraordinary quality. It was impossible to see what he had done differently, but my working hypothesis has always been that he had the ability on occasion to forge psychological connections between his singers and him that transcended mere conducting technique and carried them all to a much higher level of performance than would usually be possible. The effect in the church was electrifying and enhanced the liturgy richly whenever it happened. Those occasions were a kind of transfiguration of the music and indeed of those taking part.

A couple of David's comments resonate especially for me. He said once in a rehearsal "I feel physically ill when I hear a long note or a line of music sung lifelessly. Whatever it is, just do something with it, even if it's just a slight crescendo and diminuendo. Make every note live!" Good advice, and part of what gave his best performances such vividness. At an audition for a new organist, he listened to the candidate playing some Bach and then turned round to me and said "good rhetoric!". It was the mot juste and much of the reason why the candidate was successful. It also led to several lengthy discussions over various glasses about how important this concept is in music, and why it isn't a term that is in general use among those commenting on performance. We agreed that it should be. David's own approach was full of an awareness of the rhetoric of music and a manifest desire to use it effectively to communicate as much in sound as one does in speech.

The personal loss of a warm, witty, entertaining and even lovably outrageous friend is shattering enough. However, the world of music, and especially of liturgical choral music, has suffered a very significant loss indeed. We have lost not only his most brilliant realizations of the works he loved, but also a scholar, teacher, proponent, ambassador and authority. We were richer than we knew through his presence with us.

James Sherlock, former Organist at the Priory Church, writes:
David Trendell placed faith in me as immediate graduate from Cambridge, and I had the opportunity to work with him for his last 18 months at St Bart's. He had gathered around him a devoted group of singers, and memorable performances, many of them first encounters for me in his preferred repertoire, abound. His musicianship came to the fore in his specialism, the music of English and Flemish Renaissance masters, and in the more dramatic pieces of 20th century repertoire. His knowledge and passion for music would flow in social situations, and he was the same generous spirit in person as in performance. His gifts enriched my musical life and development and that of so many others through his work at Bart's, Kings London, Edington and much beyond, and his exuberance will live on in those lives he touched.

Click here to read David's Obituary in the Daily Telegraph

Click here to read David's Obituary in the Guardian

Click here for a page about David from the website of King's College, London

David Trendell and the Choir of the Priory Church

Requiescat in pace