Oswestry’s Chamber Choir Cantiones is readying itself to bid a fond farewell to musical director Gerry Howe in the Summer of 2020 when he will have completed 18 years with the choir.
Gerry comments: “Cantiones are a splendid group of musicians and it has been a great privilege and pleasure to have worked with them for so long. They work very hard and show great commitment and we have produced some marvellous concerts over the years, tackling music from Renaissance to Rutter. I shall be sad not to be continuing with the choir, but I now want to concentrate more on my Church commitments and organ playing as well as giving a little time to enjoying some travel and hobbies.” Gerry will remain in post as organist at St Oswald’s Parish Church.
Gerry was born in London, although he would most likely not be happy for us to declare exactly when! Following service as a Cathedral chorister he took up the organ, training at both the London College of Music and Trinity College London. From 1980 he worked mainly in the field of music education holding posts in Kent, Cambridge and Cheshire. In 2002, frustrated with the ever-increasing quantity of paperwork, he decided upon a change and embarked on a second career as a freelance organist, choral conductor and arranger, which still continues. In the latter capacity he has played the organ and conducted choirs in many British and European churches and cathedrals, including St Peter’s Rome for the first ever Anglican choir to sing a Mass there.
From 2000 until 2010 he was director of music at St Peter’s, Prestbury a church with an exceptional musical tradition. A man concerned with the well-being of others, Gerry spent time as a volunteer for a local Oswestry charity supporting people living in poverty and homelessness. Gerry is a fine musician with a determined eye (or should we say ear?) for detail but his style is one of kindness and encouragement – in fact one choir member was heard to say: “he’s the only M.D. we have had who doesn’t shout at us!”
Cantiones’ committee chairman John Moore comments: “As well as being the longest serving, Gerry has been by far the easiest M.D. with whom to co-operate. He has always been willing to listen to suggestions from members of the choir who have musical experience, though quite rightly he makes the final decisions, which we all accept.”
Cantiones is a friendly, hard-working group of singers striving for quality at all times, so it is no surprise that since it was founded in 1982 the choir has been led by only a handful of musical directors. Under Gerry’s leadership, in addition to presenting three concerts a year, the choir has enjoyed many other highlights such as singing for weddings, birthdays and charity fundraising events, sharing the platform with other local choirs, orchestral groups and a fine array of solo singers and accepting invitations to sing in Cathedrals.
A particularly proud moment was to have been selected to sing the ‘cornerstone’ concert of the 2018 Wilfred Owen Festival when the choir presented ‘Voices of Remembrance’ written by Laura Rossi, in one of its first few UK performances. In 2015 the choir formed a relationship with a choir in Normandy France and the two groups have made reciprocal visits and sung together.
For their Summer concert Cantiones has accepted an invitation to sing at Hermon Chapel on Saturday 13 July and as always, it will be a programme of light music for a summer evening. Tickets will be available from Rowanthorn, Old Chapel Court.