Sing a Better Song

The Inaugural RSCM Annual Lecture with The Right Reverend Dr David Stancliffe

We were delighted to welcome our good friend David to give the very first RSCM Annual Lecture live from our home in Sarum College, Salisbury.

Who could have known when the theme was chosen that singing in church (and the tight restrictions on it) would be such a hot topic!

It was a fascinating lecture for those who enjoy listening to church music as well as active singers, David’s lecture explored:

  • – What singing does for us,
  • – How singing and hearing singing reaches the parts that words alone cannot,
  • – And how the cessation of singing has caused people to think about why they miss it so much.

Live on Wednesday 14th July 2021

7pm–8.15pm (BST) — £5.00


The Rt Revd Dr David Stancliffe

David Stancliffe is a practising musician, directing regular performances with singers and players on period instruments. At school in London, he sung as a deputy in Westminster Abbey and other London churches. A brief apprenticeship with Flentrop, the Dutch organ builders, alerted him to the sound-world of historic instruments in the late 1950s; and he was organ scholar at Trinity College, Oxford, where he learned choral conducting from Laszlo Heltay.

He has a passion for historically informed performance practice and founded Westron Wind in Bristol in the early 1970s, with whom he gave the first performance in England of Bach’s B minor Mass on period instruments, as well as performing Bach St John Passion and the Monteverdi Vespers. Over the years, he has conducted almost the Bach Cantatas, performing a Bach Passion each Passiontide since the early 1980s. In 2019 he gave a performance of the St John Passion on Good Friday in St Mary, Redcliffe, Bristol, interspersed with talks on Bach’s understanding of St John’s theology as the church’s Three Hours Devotion. As part of the Millennium celebrations when Bishop of Salisbury, he led a tour of the Monteverdi Vespers in Italy, where the Bishop’s Consort performed in St Mark’s, Venice as well as in Rome and Tuscany.

At Durham he introduces young singers to one-to-a-part performances of Tallis, Taverner, Josquin, Victoria, and Byrd; and as well as Bach and Handel, to singing Monteverdi, Schütz and Gabrieli with period instruments. Groups have been on tour in Italy as well as performing in Durham Castle, Gloucester Cathedral, Romsey Abbey, Milton Abbey and Ely Cathedral in addition to St Brandon’s, Brancepeth & St Andrew’s, Corbridge, their regular performance spaces.

In 2018 he performed Bach’s Matthew Passion for the first time with just eight singers and two small bands – a revelation. And in 2020 a tour of Lombardy with the Monteverdi Vespers – just eight singers and eleven players – fell victim to the lockdown, even if a regular week of Bach Cantatas in a Berkshire mansion could go ahead.

David reviews CDs of Bach as well as a good deal of the 17th century repertoire for the Early Music Review, and provides a small organ for concerts tuned at A=465Hz for Monteverdi as well as 392 for French music in addition to 415 and 440, in a variety of temperaments. Its wooden pipes and regal makes it in demand for performance of the Monteverdi Orfeo.

In addition to his published books like God’s Pattern (SPCK, 2003), The Pilgrim Prayerbook (Continuum, 2003/7), The Lion Companion to Church Architecture (Lion, 2008/9) and The Gospels in Art, Music and Literature – an eBook in three parts including art, music and a passage of literature to illuminate the gospel readings for the common three-year cycle (SPCK, 2013-5), his book Scoring Bach’s Vocal Music is in preparation and his notes on Performing Monteverdi’s Vespers Today are available as a PDF.

He lives in County Durham, where he is a Fellow of St Chad’s College, Durham and an honorary assistant bishop in the dioceses of Durham and Europe.