Cathedral lay clerks complete music MAs

Matt Lennox and Ruth Sladden.
Matt Lennox and Ruth Sladden.

Two of Ripon Cathedral’s lay clerks have graduated with MAs in solo voice and ensemble performance from the University of York.

Matt Lennox and Ruth Sladden are among the first graduates of the new course at the university’s renowned Department of Music.

Andrew Bryden, the cathedral’s director of music, said: “It’s great to see two of our lay clerks taking the initiative in their professional development in this way, and that can only benefit the quality of music here.”

Matt Lennox, in addition to singing countertenor at Ripon Cathedral’s services, is vocal coach to its choristers.

He said: “The course was hard work but very enjoyable and it was great to spend some time really focusing on my own singing and the music that I love.

“I particularly enjoyed studying and singing works by Monteverdi, Byrd and Poulenc. I feel that even as a rather ‘mature’ student I have developed as a singer, teacher and musician. It was also great to observe the enthusiasm of the younger members of the course and see some talented musicians that are just starting out on their careers.”

Matt’s colleague and fellow-student Ruth Sladden recently became Ripon’s very first female full-time lay clerk – one of only a few serving in England’s cathedral choirs.

Ruth directs choral groups in the region including the Yorkshire Decibelles, Yorkshire Voices, and Dishforth Military Wives Choir.

She said: “The course concentrated our thoughts on what it means to retain our solo voices within the context of a small vocal ensemble.

“We should sound as one with our individual voices blending but the character of our voices may still shine through at appropriate moments. This was so useful as this is exactly what we strive to do within the cathedral choir.”

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson, said: “We’re very proud of Ruth and Matt’s achievement. While the young choristers rightly get their share of the limelight, without the high quality of lay clerks which we are blessed with our worship would be all the poorer.”

Choral Evensong is held at the cathedral Tuesdays to Fridays at 6pm, and Sundays at 5.30pm.