Harrison Oxley



When Harrison Oxley became organist at The Cathedral Church of St James, Bury St Edmunds, in 1958, he was also appointed as conductor of the Bury St Edmunds Bach choir. He held this post for forty-three years, retiring in June 2001. During this time, he developed the Choir from thirty-one members at the time of his appointment to become East Anglia's most adventurous choral society.

As the size of the choir increased over the years, it was able to undertake the great choral masterpieces of Bach, Brahms, Handel, Haydn, and Verdi without assistance from other choirs as it had done in earlier years, and Oxley also increased its repertoire to include choral works by Britten, Elgar, Howells, Leighton, Tippett, Vaughan Williams and many lesser known twentieth century composers. Fine soloists were engaged to sing with the choir during Oxley's early years; such well known names as Isobel Baillie, Felicity Lott, Janet Baker, Elsie Suddaby, Owen Brannigan, Peter Pears, Norman Lumsden and John Noble were introduced to Bury St Edmunds audiences.

In order that the great choral works undertaken by the Bach Choir could be performed with full orchestral accompaniment, Oxley formed, in 1959, an orchestra from the best local players and invited some leading London artists as principals. He was the conductor of the St Edmundsbury Bach Orchestra for forty-two years. The orchestra performed Elgar's Dream of Gerontius with sixty players at Oxley's final concert with the St Edmundsbury Bach Choir on 9th. June 2001.

Having founded the locally very well known 'Carols by Candlelight' Christmas concert during his time at Bury Cathedral, Oxley also founded in 1985 the equally well known 'Sing Nowell' Christmas concert, to which, over a period of sixteen years, he gave his musical abilities, including arranging many works and composing works for performance.