St. Michael's College, Tenbury

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St. Michael's College
St Michaels College Tenbury.jpg
Location
Tenbury Wells
.
Worcestershire, England
Information
School type Choral Music College
Religious affiliation(s) Anglican
Founded 1856
Founder Frederick Ouseley
Closed 1985
Website

The College of St. Michael and All Angels, in Tenbury Wells Worcestershire, England, was a boys school founded by Frederick Ouseley in 1856 to provide a model for the performance of Anglican church music. Choral services were performed daily in term time. The college possessed a library that contained rare books of international importance. Financial difficulties forced its closure in 1985. The buildings are used today as an international school, which specialises in teaching non English language students.

The college and chapel

Musical library[edit]

Supported by friends of Ouseley,[1] the library contained such important articles as the original score of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Handel's own conducting score from the Dublin premiere of Messiah. It was therefore a site of pilgrimage for musical scholars, including Benjamin Britten After the school's closure the library was transferred to the Bodleian Library.

History[edit]

The school was founded in reaction to the decline of Anglican church music in the Victorian period. Ouseley sited it in a remote location so as to insulate it from the influence of London.[1] Until its closure the school regularly sang 150 settings of evensong; it was the last educational establishment in England to sing the orders throughout the week. In the school chapel the choir is separated from the chancel by an ornate gilded screen topped by candles. The choir is backed by a 'Father' Willis organ, painted with a representation of St Michael defeating the dragon.
After closure the school buildings were used as the set for the 1986 Halloween television movie, The Worst Witch based on the fantasy novel by Jill Murphy starring Fairuza Balk and Tim Curry.

Recordings of the choir are listed in the British Library Sound Archive and are available on CD in back catalogue editions.[2]

The school chapel is now the parish church for the surrounding village of St Michaels which was created to support the creation of the choir school in the mid-19th century. The village has a full Henry Willis & Sons organ which was installed into the new church created to support the then new St Michaels College in the mid-19th century.[1]

Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman spoke of the college, referring to:[1]

"……..the unique atmosphere of St. Michael’s College, Tenbury. I shall never forget my first impression of the place. There was the climb up from the little market town of Tenbury whence some of the lay clerks make their twice daily journey to Mattins and Evensong to lend men’s voices to the boys’ choir, and there before me stretched an enormous common. In the far corner, in a land of blossoming orchards and backed by the blue distance of Clee Hill, rose a chapel, seemingly as large as Lancing.

Attached to it were Warden’s house, school buildings, cloister and dining hall, all in a style of the fourteenth century, re-interpreted in local materials for the nineteenth century by architect, Henry Woodyer.[1]

After Evensong, where the music was equal to that of the best cathedral choirs, and a walk round the buildings in the quiet of a Worcestershire evening, I visited the large dormitory, which runs almost the whole length of a building parallel with the chapel. Here Christopher Hassall read his poem to the boys and held them spellbound as the stars shone through the narrow Gothic windows in the gabled roof…………"

School crest[edit]

The crest on the school tie was a red broadsword on a blue background symbolising St Michael's defeat of the dragon by its colour and the two kinks in the sword.

Organists of the college[edit]

Alumni[edit]

An active Old Boys and Girls society, which in 2006 celebrated its centenary, holds a reunion meeting each year.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g School history Retrieved 27 June 2009
  2. ^ National Sound Archive list Retrieved 27 July 2009
  3. ^ Cathedral Organists, John E. West. 1899
  4. ^ St Michael's College Society

Coordinates: 52°17′17″N 2°36′47″W / 52.287971°N 2.612949°W / 52.287971; -2.612949