The Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral has announced that the Cathedral’s new Director of Music is to be a husband-and-wife team: Ben and Cathy Lamb are thought to be the first married couple to take on this role in an English Cathedral; they will begin their jointly-held post in September, following the appointment last May of Philip Scriven as Organist-in-Residence at Cranleigh School in Surrey.
The selection of Ben and Cathy Lamb marks a shift in emphasis in the Director’s position, in that their appointment is primarily not as organists, but as choral trainers and directors. "I know that, despite its historic pedigree, some in the Cathedral world remain unconvinced by the practice of appointing choir trainers and singers to the Number One job," said the Precentor, Canon Wealands Bell, "but it is clearly the right thing to do here for a variety of very sound reasons, and we are thrilled that Ben and Cathy have accepted this new and exciting challenge."
Responsibility for the Cathedral Organ will fall to Martyn Rawles who has, in two-and-a-half years in Lichfield, established himself as a consummate player, noted for his impeccable preparation, extensive knowledge of the repertoire and liturgically-informed improvisation. He therefore steps up from being Sub-Organist and Assistant Director of Music to the post of Cathedral Organist.
The Lambs are no strangers to Lichfield. Cathy has been Assistant Organist here since 2007, while Ben has pursued a freelance musical career, directing his own choirs and getting to know the Lichfield set-up by singing as a Lay Vicar for the past two years. Cathy makes a deep impression on anyone she meets, displaying not only an infectious enthusiasm for music and education, but also an enviable ability to achieve great results as a conductor of young singers. She will therefore continue in her role as Director of Music Outreach, a shared venture in which musicians from Lichfield Cathedral and the Cathedral School will continue to work together to raise the profile of music in our region’s primary schools; she will also continue to direct the prestigious Cathedral School Girls’ Choir.
Ben will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the department, and for the work of the boys’ and men’s choir, where his training and experience in the classroom and his acknowledged expertise as a singing teacher will be invaluable.
Ben has not emerged through the well-trodden route of Organ Scholar – Assistant Organist – Director, but has enjoyed a wide, varied and successful career in a variety of contexts all of which admirably prepare him for the Lichfield task. He began under Richard Seal as a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, where he was later Organ Scholar, a position he also held at Truro. His progress as an organist was interrupted by recurring bouts of tenosynovitis, which he overcame, subsequently reading music at Manchester University where his principal study was piano performance. Here he also gained wide experience of conducting a variety of orchestral and vocal ensembles, a broad foundation on which he has built in more recent years.
Ben has had experience of recruiting and retaining singers in a difficult market-place: he built up and ran the choir of boys and men at St Peter’s, Bournemouth, and it was only Cathy’s appointment here which caused him temporarily to withdraw from pursuing a career as a Cathedral Director of Music: it is no surprise to those who have encountered his work that he was beginning to be shortlisted for Number One posts as they arose.
His own Sarum Voices choir has a fine reputation; it has toured across the globe, and its work can be enjoyed through the impressive number of CDs which Ben has recorded, some of them achieving top rating in BBC Radio 3’s Building a Library, beating such international choirs as The Sixteen.
Ben is also a distinguished composer, arranger and editor of performing editions, and music-lovers of the diocese and of the wider Church can no doubt look forward to the commissioning of many fine pieces in the coming years.
The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said that he was delighted with the appointment. "With such an array of talent and experience, Ben Lamb was the obvious choice to join the existing strong team of Cathy Lamb and Martyn Rawles. We can now be supremely confident that the standards set by Philip Scriven, Andy Lumsden and other distinguished Lichfield Organists will not only be maintained. Their work will be built on with great success."