Head of Choral Conducting
MA, Hon RAM, Hon FRCO, Hon FGCM
Active conductor and organist, published researcher and editor
Director of Music at the London Oratory
Founded the Academy's choral conducting programme in 1997
Patrick Russill is recognised as one of the leading figures in English church music, as performer, teacher, and scholar of wide sympathies. He combines the post of Director of Music of the London Oratory with that of Head of Choral Conducting at the Academy, where he is also a professor of organ. In addition, he is Chief Examiner of the Royal College of Organists and Visiting Professor of Choral Direction at the Leipzig Hochschule für Musik und Theater.
Following studies with Nicholas Danby while organ scholar at New College, Oxford, he was appointed Organist of the London Oratory in 1977 at the age of 23, in succession to Ralph Downes. In 1999 he was appointed Director of Music at the Oratory, assuming overall responsibility for its choral tradition and especially for its famous professional choir, which under his direction ‘remains among the finest mixed-voice choirs in the country’ (Choir & Organ).
He made his Royal Festival Hall organ recital debut in 1986 and has since played in Europe, Asia and all over the UK. In 2007 he introduced the reconstructed Tudor organs of the Early English Organ Project to London’s South Bank, in a Queen Elizabeth Hall recital acclaimed as ‘revelatory’ by the Independent, and as the outstanding London keyboard concert of that year by the Independent on Sunday.
Patrick Russill’s performing commitment to the music of the English and Catholic traditions in particular is underpinned by his scholarly work which includes articles ranging from early Tudor liturgical organ music to Howells’s Latin church music and Dupré’s Vespers as well as editions of choral music by Sweelinck and Howells for Novello and the Church Music Society. In 2007 he was appointed a Vice-President of the Herbert Howells Society in recognition of his continuing scholarly work for neglected choral works of Howells. He was Musical Editor of the Catholic Hymn Book (1998) and a contributor to New Grove and The Cambridge Companion to the Organ. He has provided four chapters on English church music for a major new German history of church music published by Laaber-Verlag.
Personal philosophy of teaching
I perceive my role as head of department as drawing students both into the modern realities of the choral conducting profession (standards, working relationships, widening opportunities) and also into the rich British traditions of choral musicianship (sensitivity to sonority and style, aural discipline, creative engagement with repertoire).
My other permanent job, as Director of Music at the London Oratory, means that I am working on a weekly basis with one of London’s top professional chamber choirs in a context which places a premium on clarity of interpretation, on stylistic acuity, on efficiency of rehearsal and on a conducting technique that aims to be both explicit and expressive. The complementary interactions of my performing and teaching experiences have been, and continue to remain, key to what I am as a conducting pedagogue and as a performer.
Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine – John Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir, London Oratory Junior Choir (Archiv Produktion 429 565-2)
Bach: St Matthew Passion – John Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir, London Oratory Junior Choir (Archiv Produktion)
With the Royal Academy of Music, In Gloria Dei Patris (including masses by Lassus and Mozart on period instruments) – Academy Chamber Choir, Academy Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, Academy Becket Ensemble (Cantoris CRCD6066)
With the Choir of the London Oratory:
Ave Virgo Sanctissima (A Garland for Our Lady) (Herald HAVPCD 346)
Vexilla Regis prodeunt (Music for Holy Week and Easter) (Herald HAVPCD 327)
Jesu dulcis memoria (Herald HAVPCD 298)
Totus tuus sum Maria (including works by Aguilera de Heredia, Victoria Casals, Howells, Gorecki and Lauridsen) (Herald HAVPCD 265)