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MARTIN NEARY was Organist and Master of the Choristers at Winchester Cathedral and at Westminster Abbey. As a chorister of the Chapel Royal he sang at the 1953 coronation, and he later became Organ Scholar of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, reading Theology and Music. In 1963 he was a prize-winner at the first St. Alban’s International Organ Competition, and quickly became recognized internationally as a concert organist, playing many times at the Royal Festival Hall and often touring abroad to the U.S.A., Canada, and throughout Europe, South Africa, Australia, and the Far East. In 2004 he was organ soloist at the First Night of the BBC Proms.
Throughout his career, Martin Neary has been an outstanding champion of contemporary music, both as conductor and organist. He has been particularly associated with the music of two English composers, Jonathan Harvey and John Tavener. From 1972 to 1987 he was Organist and Master of the Music at Winchester Cathedral, and during that time he commissioned and directed over ten Harvey premières, including the church opera Passion and Resurrection. He also conducted several first performances, including Missa brevis at Westminster Abbey, where he was Organist and Master of the Choristers from 1988 to 1998. With the Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey Choirs he introduced many works by contemporary British composers to audiences all over the world, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and the Kremlin in Moscow.
Martin Neary has also been much associated with the early music movement in England; in 1978 he conducted the first complete performance in Britain of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion with period instruments; his numerous recordings include a CD for Sony Classical of Purcell’s Music for Queen Mary with the Westminster Abbey Choir, which was nominated for a Grammy.
Between 1999 and 2003 Martin Neary spent a considerable amount of time in Los Angeles, where he was Music Director of the Paulist Choristers of California. Now based again in London, Martin Neary continues to pursue his career as organist and guest conductor. Recent engagements have included projects with the Netherlands Chamber Choir and a performance, with five Dutch choirs, of John Tavener’s all-night vigil, The Veil of the Temple, as the concluding event of the Holland Festival. In 2006 he conducted special Mozart anniversary programs in Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as directing the University Voices Festival in Montreal and Toronto with choirs drawn from all over Canada. In 2007 he spent the spring semester as Artist-in-Residence at the University of California at Davis.
Martin Neary has also been increasingly active as a composer and arranger / editor: in 2001 he was the featured composer at the Tucson, Arizona Church Music Festival. His current tour of the United States has included the American première of his anthem Joy and Woe, and the world premiere of Mass for Redeemer, commissioned by the Church of the Redeemer in Bethesda, MD. Last month saw the publication of The Organists Charitable Trust Little Organ Book, a collection of British organ music from the 19th to the 21st centuries, which he has chosen and edited, including three commissions and six works being published for the first time.
Among Martin Neary’s awards are an honorary doctorate of music from the University of Southampton and being appointed a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order by the Queen of England, in appreciation of his services at the funeral of Princess Diana.