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07 November 2014

Highly respected church musician: the late David Trendell

Highly respected church musician: the late David Trendell

Canon Professor Richard Burridge writes:

DAVID TRENDELL was an extraordinary musician, a talented organist, and a director able to get the best out of young singers. He was found dead of natural causes in bed at home, at the young age of only 50, on Tuesday of last week, after failing, unusually, to conduct choral evensong in the Chapel of King's College, London.

He was internationally respected as a scholar and performer of Renaissance church music, while his commitment to excellence in worship has left a legacy of choral scholars and lay clerks to many churches and cathedrals, especially in London.

David Robin Charles Trendell was born in Tavistock on 17 August 1964, but was brought up in Norfolk, where his family still live. He was a chorister, and later an alto choral scholar, at Norwich Cathedral, before taking an organ scholarship at Exeter College, Oxford, in preference to a choral scholarship at King's College, Cambridge, as being more challenging.

After being Assistant Organist at Winchester College while doing postgraduate research on Zemlinsky, he returned to Oxford in 1989 as Organist of the University Church. He succeeded Ernie Warrell as College Organist and Lecturer in Music at King's in 1992.

David was responsible for all the music in the beautiful chapel at the Strand, from playing at daily morning prayer, and directing the choir at the weekly choral evensong and college eucharist, to large annual events. His Advent carol services were so popular that, despite repeating it three nights running, more than 1000 tickets immediately disappeared.

The termly choir concert was always a special event, and he led regular choir tours to France and Italy, and longer trips further afield, including American tours, and recent concerts in Hong Kong.

Over 22 years, David led the College Chapel Choir to international recognition, reflected in a series of warmly reviewed CDs celebrating music from the English and Spanish Renaissance, which he particularly loved, as well as Allegri, Rogier, Rodion Shchedrin, Richard 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. That he 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.

David was fascinated by William Byrd, whose music for recusant Catholics in Elizabethan England comprised his final concert, accompanied by careful explanation drawing on his own research into a difficult period for both Church and nation.

Beyond King's, David was also committed to the Church and the wider world. He had been Director of Music at St Mary's, Bourne Street, since 2008, and before that at the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, playing a central part in church music across London, earning himself 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, led choral workshops in Houston, and was highly respected as a record producer.

David's deep faith and commitment to the Church of England was one of the uncharacteristically quieter 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 Athenaeum, where he had dinner with friends on Monday evening, only hours after conducting a rehearsal of the chapel choir. It is typical that his last act should have reflected his lifelong desire to pass on his musical ability to younger generations.

Students, friends, and colleagues alike will remember him with the greatest affection, saddened only that he has been taken from us too early. His funeral will take place next week in the college chapel, followed by a memorial service during 2015.

Canon Burridge is the Dean of King's College, London.

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