The choir of the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady, St John’s Wood, London, affectionately known by the choir as ‘LG’ after Lisson Grove, the road in which the church stands, was formed in 1971 by Claude Crozet, who remained its director until 2011. For the period between 1999-2011, two assistant directors, Simon Lillystone and Jean-Marc Evans shared conducting duties with Claude, who was then living abroad for much of each month. On Claude’s retirement, Simon became Director of Music from 2011-2014. Martin Toyer succeeded Simon from Advent 2014.
For most of the choir’s history, the modern rite of the Mass in Latin has been used but recently the English translation has been adopted for most Sundays with Latin reserved for the last Sunday of the month. Within this framework, the choir has specialized in renaissance polyphony (for all of the Ordinary of the Mass other than the Creed) and plainchant for all of the Propers (other than the Gradual which is usually sung in faux-bourdon). Although the core repertoire of the choir is mainstream 16th century Italian, Spanish, Flemish and English, in recent years directors have edited their own editions of rare masses and motets. The choir would have certainly given the first modern performance of many works. Classical settings of masses (eg Haydn and Mozart) with orchestra have been a feature of Easter and Pentecost celebrations at LG since the early days and are continued today. We believe that the range of musical forms and repertoire within the liturgy to be rare even among professional choirs in capital cities.
Members of the Choir have always been amateur singers interested in singing high quality music in a small group. A particular characteristic of the choir is that no weekly commitment is required and singers indicate their availability in advance for any particular Friday evening and Sunday morning. Members are not required to find deputies when they are not available.
The choir welcomes occasional singers (especially past members) in addition to those who can give a more regular commitment. As well as the composition of the choir varying somewhat most Sundays (depending on members’ availability) the recent tradition of having more than one conductor continues with some choir members conducting on occasion. Finally, members of faiths other than Roman Catholic (or maybe of none) have always been most welcome and constitute a large fraction of the choir.
Occasionally, the choir has sung in other churches for special occasions (eg in Merton College Oxford in a Sarum Rite mass) and has been on short tours in France (including Lyon Cathedral), Venice (including S Mark’s basilica), Krakow and Florence.
The organ in the Church of Our Lady, Lisson Grove, was built by Walker in 1972 through the generosity of a benefactor. The small 7 rank extension instrument was refurbished by Collins and moved to its current location in a new case at the time of the general refurbishment of the church in 2009-10. It benefits from the excellent acoustic properties of the church. Prior to the current instrument, the church had a one manual organ built by JC Bishop and Starr in 1835 of 9 ranks which was replaced in 1938 by a 22 rank instrument by Walker situated on a west-end gallery.