New cathedral musical role for lockdown digital maestro

Michael Grant, the new musical director of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Michael Grant, the new musical director of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Michael Grant, who organised the St Paul’s Cathedral "virtual choir" during the Covid-19 lockdown, has been appointed the cathedral’s new musical director.

A music teacher at Kavanagh College and a choral singer, Mr Grant was "very pleased" to become music director, and the first non-organist to take that role in the cathedral’s more than 100-year history.

The Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverand Tony Curtis, was "delighted" with the appointment, and said Mr Grant’s production of "virtual choir" pieces had contributed strongly to the cathedral’s popular online services.

Mr Grant had already played a significant role at the cathedral and he would focus "on the leadership and development of the excellent cathedral choir and organists", Very Rev Dr Curtis said.

Mr Grant said that during the virtual choir work, he had "emailed out the sheet music and a video of me conducting, and received individual recordings back" from choir members in different parts of the city.

He then edited and mixed the tracks to produce a "very accurate and well blended sound".

"But you do miss some of the subtlety and empathy that is only possible when singers perform together," he added.

Mr Grant moved to Dunedin from Palmerston North in 1999 to study music at the University of Otago, completing a bachelor of music and a diploma in teaching.

Since moving to the city he had also been a member of the cathedral choir, and spent 14 years as teacher in charge of music at St Hilda’s Collegiate School before taking up his Kavanagh post.

His formal cathedral appointment, early last month, would enable him to "further lift the standard of the choir’s performance, broaden its repertoire, and to increase the overall level of musical activity in the cathedral".

Very Rev Dr Curtis was himself an experienced church musician.

"We share a vision of a vibrant musical life for the cathedral — both through the regular services but also by ensuring the cathedral’s wonderful acoustics can be enjoyed by other performers and audiences," Mr Grant said.

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