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News > OS News > Choral celebration for former Head of Music's milestone birthday

Choral celebration for former Head of Music's milestone birthday

Christopher Bishop (Head of Music, 1959-64) returns with the College musicians he inspired to celebrate his 90th Birthday
25 Mar 2022
Written by Jennifer Law
OS News

Celebrating milestone birthday of cherished former Head of Music

It was our great honour to welcome back much loved and hugely respected former Head of Music (1959-64), Christopher Bishop and some of the pupils whom he inspired to the campus to celebrate Christopher’s upcoming 90th Birthday.

Initiated by OS Francis Lambert (GH,SHb,53-62) a late afternoon event incorporating a gentle stroll around the College Theatre and Music Departments, a buffet reception and culminating in the enjoyment of the College choral concert was hosted on Thursday 24th March, just one week before Mr Bishop celebrates his 90th Birthday on 1st April.

Christopher Bishop is credited with invigorating and expanding the music department during his tenure at the College and fostering great talent within the pupils he taught. OS for whom he was an inspiration have shared a common feeling that Christopher sparked in them a lifelong love and appreciate of music, many playing on to very high and often international standards, long after the end of their time at the College.

Christopher Bishop was educated at Forest School, London, and read music and English at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, where he was a choral scholar. He sang in the Cambridge Madrigal Society under its founder, Boris Ord. On graduating, he was appointed Director of Music at Magdalen College School, Oxford, and in 1959 joined the College. In 1964 he joined the International Classical Division of EMI as a recording producer, following the departure of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s creator Walter Legge.

Christopher in the studio, seated top left in the photograph

His first major recording was of Messiah, with Charles Mackerras, in 1966. He became Chief Producer in 1973, making over 400 recordings, notably with Sir Adrian Boult, André Previn, Carlo Maria Giulini, Janet Baker, Yehudi Menuhin, David Munrow, and the King’s College Cambridge Choir.

He produced a number of first complete recordings of Elgar, in particular The Kingdom and The Apostles, and of Vaughan Williams, Sir John in Love and The Pilgrim’s Progress.

His main interest has always been in choral music. He founded the London Madrigal Singers while at EMI which broadcast regularly on the BBC Third Programme, and recorded Vaughan Williams’ Folksong arrangements for EMI.

In 1959, Ricardo Muti, then Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, invited him to become its Managing Director a position he thrived within until he left in 1988 to become Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, until his retirement to Suffolk, where he continued to conduct choirs, sing, and play the organ.

Christopher was joined on campus by his Daughter Catherine and 10 of his College musical stars and his recollection of which attending OS played which instrument during the early 1960s was a treat to behold, as sharp and as accurate as it was during his previous time on campus over six decades ago.

Immensely modest, inquisitive and thrilled to be back within familiar surroundings Christopher was a joy to be around and it was clear that he was adored by the OS that had joined us, many travelling hundreds of miles especially for the occasion.

The Head gave the warmest of welcomes and Francis Lambert echoed the inspiration that Christopher had provided to a generation of College musicians. The toast that was raised was heartfelt and followed by a spontaneous, and as was fitting of the musical talents present, pitch perfect rendition of Happy Birthday which Christopher graciously appreciated.

A our very special guest for the evening Christopher and his Daughter and our OS guests took up their seats in the Memorial Hall, looking slightly different to the Mem Hall of the 1960s with the main stage now removed, to listen to the College’s Prep and Senior Choirs perform a varied choral repertoire. The evening ended on a high with a surprise rendition of Happy Birthday, performed by the choirs and audience a like, followed by a standing ovation in recognition of Christopher’s talents and dedication to the College, he cordially commented that he had never heard a performance of a higher standard in the Memorial Hall.

An evening of reminiscing, respect and beautiful choral performances, the perfect way to pay homage to such a talented and inspirational teacher and musician. We are most grateful to Mr Bishop and is Daughter and his past pupils for joining us in recognition of his 90th Birthday, we do hope to have the great pleasure to be able to gather again to celebrate Mr Bishop’s 100th Birthday too!

OS Guests

Paul Fishpool (GH,AH, 53-61)

Buzz Seymour (GH,RPH, 54-62)

Francis Lambert (GH,SHb,53-62)

Rodney Slatford (GH,RPH, 53-63)

Paul Hickling (GH, SHa, 56-63)

Graham Beck (GH,HH, 58-64)

Phillip Day (SHb, 59-65)

John Williams (GH, SHb, 58-65)

Andy Peebles (GH,HH, 60-66)

Nigel Backwith (GH,SuH, 59-67)

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