Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible, and the music ranges from the 16th to the 21st centuries. Voluntaries are played on the church's famous historic organ.
We believe that great music complements and adorns the wonderfully resonant words of the Book of Common Prayer.
St Michael's has been renowned for its musical excellence for more than six hundred years. In 1375 the church supported a choir of boys, priests and lay clerks who sang daily services. By the early 1500s the choir was performing some of the most elaborate polyphonic choral settings of the day. We know the names of the church's organists since 1473; and the choirmaster's contract of 1509 still survives.
A two-manual organ was built by Renatus Harris, and an opening recital given in 1684 by Henry Purcell and John Blow (both composers and organists of Westminster Abbey) and G B Draghi (organist to Charles II's Queen, Catherine). The instrument has been enlarged several times, and moved from a west gallery to the east end of the church, but nine of the original ranks are still in use.
In the eighteenth century organists of the church included Obadiah Shuttleworth (who also played first violin in the concerts at the Swan Tavern, Cornhill, where later the eight-year-old Mozart was exhibited daily from twelve to three o'clock to anybody who could afford the 2s 6d admission charge). The Master of the King's Music, William Boyce, played at St Michael's for thirty-two years, to be succeeded by Theodore Aylward (the Gresham Professor of Music). Another Gresham Professor, the glee-composer R J S Stevens, served St Michael's for 29 years. Later in the nineteenth century Richard Limpus founded the [Royal] College of Organists at the church, and it was here that the college's early fellowship and associateship examinations were held.
During the twentieth century St Michael's had only four organists, of whom Harold Darke was in post for fifty years (1916-66). He is widely known for his carol 'In the bleak midwinter' and his communion settings in F, E and A minor. He gave more than 1,800 of the Monday lunchtime recitals, and directed the St Michael's Singers. He was followed by Richard Popplewell (1966-79) and Jonathan Rennert, who has directed the music since 1979.
In addition to Tuesday Choral Evensong, the church is the venue for many City of London memorial services and livery company services, as well as the City New Year service -- all featuring music of a high standard.
On Mondays at 1pm there is a fifty-minute organ recital, either by Jonathan Rennert or by a distinguished visiting recitalist. Admission is free. There is a retiring collection. Please see our 'services and events' page for details of recitalists and repertoire.
Recordings from St. Michael's Cornhill
To purchase a CD please click on the title.
Organ Music for Fun (PRCD 375) played by Jonathan Rennert
The Organ Works of Dr Harold Darke (PRCD 374) played by Jonathan Rennert
CORNHILL VISIONS: A CENTURY OF MUSICAL INNOVATION. Music composed for this church by Ralph Vaughan Williams (including A Vision of Aeroplanes), Harold Darke, Sir Arnold Bax, Philip Moore & Rhiannon Randle. The Choir of St Michael's Cornhill, with Jeremiah Stephenson, Graham Thorpe & Benjamin Newlove (organists), William Morley (trumpet) & Colin Huehns (erhu). Jonathan Rennert (conductor). (Regent, REGCD 550)
Reviews for 'Cornhill Visions'
"Consistently engaging performances" (BBC Music Magazine)
"subtle and highly atmospheric... marvellously agile singing from the St Michael's Choir" (MusicWeb International)
"It has an unmistakably English sound: chaste, understated, with excellent discipline." (American Record Guide)
"a real tour de force for both singers and organist … highly recommended." (Skyline)
"The singing is of exceptional calibre … A very fine disc, packed with repertoire gems" (Organists' Review)
Music by Sir George Dyson (Hyperion CDH 55046) with St Michael's Singers, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Thomas Trotter (organist), Jonathan Rennert (conductor)
Here is joy! Christmas music from the City of London, including new carols commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Musicians (Priory PRCD 1091). Choir of St Michael's Cornhill, Gregory Drott & Richard Moore (organists), Danielle Perrett (harp), Jonathan Rennert (director)
A Festival of Lessons & Carols from the City of London (Regent REGCD 140). Choir of St Michael's Cornhill, Andrew Earis (organist), Jonathan Rennert (director)
Also available from the church, an historic LP recording from 1981:
I was glad: music by Parry & Thalben-Ball, St Michael's Singers, Elaine Barry (soprano), Timothy Woolford (baritone), George Thalben-Ball (organist), Jonathan Rennert (organ soloist & conductor)