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Director of Music

Director of Music, David Trendell

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of David Trendell, College Organist, Director of the Chapel Choir, and a Senior Lecturer in Music at King’s.

David was born in 1964 and received his early musical education as a chorister, and later an alto choral scholar, at Norwich Cathedral. Offered a choral scholarship at King’s College, Cambridge, and an organ scholarship at Exeter College, Oxford David characteristically chose the organ scholarship, believing it would be most challenging.

After a period as Assistant Organist at Winchester College, he was in 1989 appointed Organist of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford and College Tutor at St Hugh’s, St Hilda’s and, later, Oriel Colleges. He moved to London in 1992 as College Organist, Director of the Chapel Choir and Lecturer in Music at King’s.

As College Organist, he was responsible for all the music in the beautiful Chapel at the Strand, from playing at the daily services of Morning Prayer, directing the choir at the weekly choral services of Evensong and College Eucharist to the large annual events.

He built a loyal following for the Tuesday evening Choral Evensong, where he went through a wide range of settings and anthems.  The Advent Carols service in early December was so popular that over a thousand tickets would all be snapped up within a day or two, despite repeating it three nights running each year. 

The termly concert from the Choir was always a special event, including in recent years both Bach passions, and Handel’s Israel in Egypt.  He led regular short choir tours to France and Italy, and longer trips further afield, including an American tour with the Dean and Principal, and most recently several concerts in Hong Kong.  He was highly regarded by our alumni all over the world.

During his twenty-two years in post David led the College Chapel Choir to international recognition, reflected in a series of warmly-reviewed CDs celebrating music by the composers of the English and Spanish Renaissance, which he particularly loved, as well as discs of Allegri, Rogier, Shchedrin, Strauss, and most recently Desenclos and Poulenc.

David’s performances were unique in their passionate response to Renaissance polyphony, unbound from the pieties of the English choral tradition and yet never less than perfectly shaped.  He had a particular gift for his own distinctively pure sound, which was often noted in reviews. 

Managing to get generations of undergraduates to pass it on from year to year is a tribute to his skill as a conductor and director.  Many of his former students and choir members went on to become individual performers, or members of the most prestigious church and Cathedral choirs. His contribution to appreciation of the King’s tradition in many parts of the world was unstinting.

David’s research interests embraced Zemlinsky and, above all, William Byrd whose music for the recusant Catholic communities of Elizabethan England formed the programme of what proved to be his final concert, part of the Arts & Humanities ‘Underground’ Festival in October 2014. This concert not only featured the choir singing many important Byrd works, but it was accompanied by David’s careful explanation drawing upon his own research into Byrd and a difficult period for both the church and the nation. 

For the Department of Music David upheld the highest standards of teaching in musical history and musical skills, both in techniques of composition and in coaching students on his own Advanced Performance Studies course. David’s unique blend of encouragement and example inspired many students to go on to postgraduate performance study and from there to successful careers in the music profession.

Outside the College David was Director of Music at St Mary’s, Bourne Street and before that at the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, and played a central role in church music across London, earning him many friends and admirers. He had also been Director of the Edington Festival. He lectured regularly at the International William Byrd Festival in Portland, Oregon, and led choral workshops with Chorus Angelorum in Houston.

As a record producer he worked with the choirs of Westminster Abbey; Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford; New College, Oxford, and Winchester College; as well as The Clerks’ Group; Oxford Camerata; and the Brabant Ensemble, among others.

David’s deep faith and commitment to the Church of England was one of the uncharacteristically quiet parts of his life.  Socially he was renowned as a bon viveur and wonderful raconteur of delicious stories, often over drinks with his students and colleagues after a special service or concert. 

David was an enthusiastic member of the Atheneaum and wonderful company for all who shared his enjoyment of music and of the peculiarities of academic life. Students and colleagues alike will remember him with the greatest affection, saddened only that he has been taken from us much too early.

At the request of his family, his funeral took place in King’s College Chapel at the Strand on Monday 10 November at 12.45pm. The Dean’s Office and the Department of Music are also hoping to organise a memorial service or event during the first part of 2015, details to follow.

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