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date: 02 June 2020

Durham locked

  • Brian Crosby


City in England. The cathedral dates from 995 when Saxon monks made it the resting-place for St Cuthbert's body. The monastic cathedral was reconstituted a cathedral only in 1541. In 1390 the monastery decided to employ a music instructor to train a group of boys, and from 1416 the list of these instructors is virtually complete. Possibly because of Durham's distance from London, and because from 1576 to 1681 all of its organists came from the choir, few Durham-based musicians of that period became widely known. An exception is the minor canon (and former chorister) William Smith (1603–45), whose Responses are still acclaimed. Smith responded musically to the liturgical innovations of the high-churchman John Cosin (prebendary 1624–60, Bishop 1660–72), who seems to have augmented the choir and organ from about 1625 with two cornetts and two sackbuts.

The organists James Hesletine and Thomas Ebdon, both composers, enjoyed long ‘reigns’ (...

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