Leeds Minster

Leeds Parish Church became Leeds Minster in a ceremony on Sunday 2 September 2012, the exact 171st anniversary of the 1841 consecration of the building. The Church was given this status to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.

The noble Grade 1 Listed edifice was designed by Robert Chantrell. At the time of its consecration in 1841, this was England’s largest new church since Christopher Wren’s Cathedral of St Paul’s in the City of London.

Leeds Minster

Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s tenure as organist and director of music from 1842-1849 established the highest musical standards. Wesley’s distinguished 20th century successors: Albert Tysoe, Melville Cook, Donald Hunt and from 1975-2015, Simon Lindley, continued to grow his glorious legacy. The Choir of Leeds Minster has earned national and international acclaim through its tours, recordings and broadcasts, especially during the Hunt years and Dr Lindley’s astonishing four decades at the helm. Alex Woodrow, a former director of music at Bradford Cathedral, has held the appointment since February 2020.

Declining membership of the Boys and girls choirs in the new millennium unfortunately led to their suspension in 2015. Under Alex’s leadership, a leaner choir of up to thirty adult male and female choristers, bolstered by music students on the Minster’s choral scholarship scheme is steadily rebuilding the Minster’s historically high musical standards.

Organists of Leeds Parish Church from 1841

The illustrious tradition of oratorio performances in this great city church can be traced back to the 19th century. On 14th July 1891, the 50th Anniversary of the building’s consecration, Mendelsohn’s Elijah was given by an augmented choir of over 150 voices accompanied on the great organ by Alfred Benton. A century later, Sir Charles Groves conducted Handel’s Messiah – a performance marking the 250th Anniversary of Messiah’s Dublin premiere.

A semi-professional chamber choir, the St Peters Singers of Leeds, has been based at the Minster from its inception in 1977 with Simon Lindley as conductor. Dr Lindley conducted every concert until he relinquished the role in 2021. Leeds Minster’s annual Good Friday Concerts with Dr Lindley in front of the St Peters Singers and National Festival Orchestra included performances of Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passions, Bach’s Mass in B minor, Brahms’ German Requiem, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.

St Peters Singers, now conducted by Alex Woodrow, have resumed their Minster Concerts. Weekly lunchtime recitals on the Minster’s famous Harrison & Harrison organ continue to be given on Fridays.

Read a review of Bach’s St John Passion 2019

Read a review of Alex Woodrow’s 1st Good Friday Concert 2022

Watch a May 2021 Recital by William Campbell, Organ Scholar at Leeds Minster 

Listen to BBC Radio 3 Choirs & Places Where They Sing, Leeds Parish Church 1967

Listen to BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong, Leeds Parish Church 1976

Associated links: St Peter’s Singers of Leeds and Leeds Minster

Read more – Leeds Cathedral

Classical Music Leeds was researched and written by Geoffrey Mogridge