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Dr Richard Seal, RIP.


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Sad to read, today, of the death of the legendary Richard Seal who ran the music at Salisbury Cathedral for almost 30 years - 1968 to 1997. What an innings! At a time when much progress is being made in all sorts of places with girls singing in cathedrals and other places 'where they sing' it is good to reflect on the fact that in terms of cathedrals, Salisbury, under Richard, was the first to establish a full girls' choir in 1991. A favourite choral CD of mine was produced in his time at Salisbury,  'Canticum Novum' - a wonderful collection of 20th century choral and organ music, superbly sung by the choirs, and played and accompanied magnificently by David Halls, the present DoM. 

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This is, indeed, sad news.  I first remember him as Assistant at Chichester under John Birch.  He was astonishingly unassuming and said he could hardly believe being appointed to Salisbury in a line of succession which included Sir Walter Alcock, David Willcocks and Douglas Guest!  

In 1990 as President of the IAO he paid Winchester the compliment and honour of basing the IAO Congress there (incidentally in a week of blisteringly hot weather almost the equal of what we are currently experiencing) but very properly the entire Congress members were shipped over to Salisbury for a late evening recital by Peter Hurford.  

As well as being a gifted choir director, as Martin points out, a pioneer in introducing the first girls’ choir, he was devoted, I would say passionately, to Salisbury’s Father Willis organ, which he generously allowed others to play.  He was unduly diffident about his own playing; I remember particularly a marathon performance of the complete works of Kenneth Leighton, played in memoriam.  

He had a sense of humour and I recall him enjoying a joke.  He had a happy family life; at his retirement celebration the Lay Vicars sang an in-house composed canticle which included the line “He had one son, but now has twelve daughters”!  He was understandably proud of his Cathedral, his choir and organ.  He lived in a house which arguably has one of the best views from its front door in England.  Latterly, he didn’t enjoy good health.  May he rest in peace.

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I never knew the man but a cousin of mine was a chorister at Salisbury during the 1990s and speaks very warmly of Dr. Seal. I remember that one edition of Choir & Organ (I forget which but I have it in mind as mid-1990s) carried a photo of the choir of Salisbury on its front cover with my cousin in the photo and, of course, Dr. Seal. I still have it.

May he rest in peace.

Dave

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I recall in the 1980s he was due to give a recital at St Mary Redcliffe, but literally on "the day" he dropped a paving slab on his fingers and had to pull out.  Amazingly, Paul Morgan from Exeter was able to step in and play his planned programme!

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  • 4 weeks later...

We were chorister parents when Richard started the girls' choir. Our children (one boy and one girl at that time) adored him. In his completely unassuming way he had his choir at the tips of his fingers. A legend.

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