Meet our Director of Music Chris Watson

By Emily McAuliffe

Chris Watson tells us about growing up in a musical family, winning a Grammy, and what he'd do if he had a time machine.

Chris Watson Trinity College

Why did you decide to become a choir director?

I grew up in a musical family, where choirs were very much a part of life. My grandparents and great grandparents sang, and my father was in one of the top choirs in Oxford when he was a student and went on to work professionally as a singer, alongside his teaching career. He was also a church organist and choirmaster. I started conducting choirs when I was at university, and have been doing it ever since.

What do you enjoy most about working at Trinity College?

It’s lovely to be in a place where music, and music of a high standard, is valued, and it’s such a beautiful place to spend time.

How would you describe Trinity’s choir community?

The choir community stretches back to the 1960s, and in its current form, the choir is over 40 years old. So, there are lots of former choristers and current and former members of the congregation, all of whom still engage with us in one way or another. It’s a privilege to be the current custodian of something with such a long-standing tradition.

What is one of your favourite memories from a Trinity rehearsal or performance?

The concert we gave at Stanford University in 2020 was pretty special – the Memorial Church there is an extraordinary building. There were about 400 people in the audience and the choristers sang wonderfully. The recording of the concert is on our SoundCloud page and I listened to it again recently, and it still sounds good.

Has there been a pivotal moment in your life?

There have been a great many significant moments in my musical life, but maybe the best one was winning a Grammy. The American composer David Lang wrote a wonderful piece called the Little Match Girl Passion for a vocal quartet of which I was a member. We premiered the piece in Carnegie Hall in 2007, David won the Pulitzer Prize for music with it in 2008 and our recording won a Grammy in 2010. We performed the piece all over the world, and it has a special place in my heart. Having said that, for about 15 years I was doing 100 flights a year and performing a great variety of music in some of the loveliest cities, churches and concert halls in the world, so it is only one of quite a few memories!

Who is your favourite artist?

I listen mostly to jazz nowadays. When I was at university it was mostly Mahler, Brahms and Elgar (whose music I still love) but I’ve always loved jazz. My favourite player is Oscar Peterson, who I have heard live and met on quite a few occasions. If I had a time machine the first thing I’d do would be to go and hear the Duke Ellington orchestra live.

Which activities make you lose track of time?

Lying on a beach in the south of France with a good book in one hand and a glass of rosé in the other. And the bottle not too far out of reach.

What is your life philosophy?

See my previous answer…


14 Sep 2021
Category: People