John Duggan was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral. His time there left a deep and lasting impression:
‘We sang in the Cathedral once, sometimes twice a day. This daily practice of singing together was devotional and deeply spiritual and the seed of an idea was sown – that performance is an act of service, and that making music is at once a singularly human act and something that lifts us beyond our daily humanity.’
The repertoire was predominantly Renaissance music – Victoria, Palestrina, Byrd and Tallis amongst others – but also twentieth century composers such as Howells, Elgar and Britten, and a nod to other centuries in the form of Purcell and Mozart. But it was the daily singing of plainsong that had the most profound effect. The simple modal lines, unmetered rhythms and melismatic melodies stretch back to the days of the early church, before notation was formalised. From early on, John harboured the desire to become a composer himself.
At secondary school he continued to sing, and learned the clarinet, bassoon and drum kit before taking up a place at Keble College, Oxford, to read music. After college, John toured and recorded with rock, folk and jazz bands and worked as a studio and live-sound engineer and producer.
Around 2003 he realised his childhood dream, and started writing choral music. Between 2012–2015 John was the Creative Arts Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford and he is currently composer-in-residence at Leeds Cathedral. John’s music has been performed and broadcast all over the globe and he is increasingly in demand as a composer who writes music that is sensitive to the text, and is exciting and rewarding for singers and audiences alike.
Many of John’s choral works are published by Shorter House and Novello and much of his music is available to listen to on SoundCloud.
© John Duggan 2016. This text is not intended for publication; please use the contact form to to ask permission before publishing any of this material.