Initially the Master over the Choristers was in charge of educating the choristers, and the Precentor was in charge of satisfactory performance of all aspects of chapel worship including the music. These offices were elected annually. At least one Chaplain or Lay Clerk had to be able to play the organ, a statutory requirement of the College.
From 1603 the College focussed on reinstating organs in worship and the first person to hold the position of Organist on an official basis – the position was sometimes combined with that of Master over the Choristers – was John Tomkins.
Just as the organ has undergone changes, so have the role and title of Master over the Choristers. First, they became known as the Organist, then they became the Director of Music.
This complete list of Organists is remarkably short for an office 400 years old.
|1606||John Tomkins – later Organist at St Paul’s, son of Thomas Tomkins (Organist of Worcester Cathedral and a scholar of Bird)|
|1625||Giles Tomkins – brother of John Tomkins|
|1671||Thomas Tudway – dismissed and deprived of his College and University posts in July 1706 for insulting the queen, restored the following March after recanting|
Robert Fuller – Lay Clerk turned Organist, who died very soon after and was succeeded by his son
|1800||John Pratt – held the office of Organist until his death, age 83; the last Organist also to be Master over the Choristers|
|1855||William Amps – victim of College reform|
|1876||Arthur Henry ‘Daddy’ Mann - is believed to have been the first College organist to be elected (near the end of his life) to a Fellowship. His appointment was the first time that the job was filled by open competition.|
|1929||Bernhard ‘Boris’ Ord – Organist until the post Director of Music was created for his last years|
|1957||David Willcocks – Organist, then Director of Music|
During World War Two, Harold Darke stood in for Boris Ord. His contribution to the musical life of the College was noteworthy, as he initiated the Saturday post-service organ recitals which continue to this day.