Working with Dobrinka Tabakova

Headshot of Christopher Gray, Director of Music at Truro Cathedral

About eighteen months ago, we received a grant from Arts Council England to work with the composer Dobrinka Tabakova. I was confident that this would yield some powerful new music which the cathedral choir would have the privilege of premiering, but it has gone far beyond that – as with lots of the most successful partnerships, a sort of resonance has occurred, with unforeseen benefits. It has been a joy to welcome Dobrinka to Truro on various occasions, and I have admired the care she has taken in getting to know our choral sound and the nature of our cathedral community and acoustic before putting pen to paper. 

At our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on 23rd December 2016, we gave the first performance of “Of a rose sing we” which was the first work Dobrinka wrote for us as part of our collaboration. In February 2017, she gave us a new Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis which we performed live on BBC Radio 3 the following month. Fast-forward to now, and we are working towards a full CD recording of Dobrinka’s music in late May, having enjoyed getting several of her established works into our repertoire (most notably “Praise”, composed for St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, and “Alma Redemptoris Mater”, composed for Merton College, Oxford). 

On our way to that CD recording, which will mark the end of the funded project, the choir will be performing a special concert on Friday 11th May at 7.30pm with the BBC Concert Orchestra and around one hundred students from local secondary schools. Dobrinka is Composer-in-Residence with the BBC Concert Orchestra and this link has been the starting point for their visit. She will write a new fifteen-minute work for the concert, all of which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3. She has chosen, as her text, “Kynance Cove” by the nineteenth-century Cornish poet John Harris – I will be fascinated to see how she captures in her music something of that beautiful place as seen through John Harris’s evocative words. The concert will feature other music about nature and God’s creation, including arrangements of the folksongs “Shenandoah” and “Londonderry Air”, as well as Jonathan Dove’s “Seek him that maketh the seven stars” and Philip Moore’s “All wisdom cometh from the Lord”. Do join us in person if you can, or on Radio 3/iPlayer, to hear the culmination of this special relationship between cathedral, composer, orchestra and community.

Christopher Gray, Truro Cathedral's director of music.