Assistant Director of Music, Ellie Martin, writes:
It is with mixed emotions that we say goodbye to Alex Patterson who, in July, will take on the post of Director of Music at Salford Cathedral.
Alex joined the Nottingham Cathedral music team as a Choral Scholar in 2006, going on to be Composer-in-Residence in 2009, followed by Assistant Director of Music in 2011, and then taking up the post of Director of Music in 2014. His innovative and forward-thinking approach to the role, whilst always striving for excellence, has ensured that the reputation of the music at the Cathedral has gone from strength to strength. Alex is sensitive to important traditions in the Catholic Church and in the Cathedral itself, whilst also realising where change - and sometimes a risk - is needed. The ability to decipher what is important, and what isn’t, is one of the things that makes Alex’s direction really special, along with his sensitivity and skill for finding balance.
He is also a strong advocate for giving people a chance; he spots potential and has faith in people. Perhaps most importantly, Alex creates an environment where people feel welcome and accepted, and thus able to flourish. He also has a rare and innate ability in bringing people together. Shortly after I joined the Cathedral music team in September 2017, it became clear to me very quickly that the Cathedral Choir at St Barnabas is a family, in the true sense of the word. People support each other and socialise with each other, everyone mucks in and helps, alumni want to return for masses, concerts and tours, and volunteers want to give their time to sing in the choir, week in, week out, because they feel it is something worth doing. I understand that this atmosphere is something that existed before Alex was Director of Music, and long before my time at the Cathedral, but it has clearly continued under Alex’s watch and has been very much at the forefront of his direction of the choir.
Alex’s open-mindedness and diverse attitude to music making has ensured that the music at the Cathedral has been far reaching and varied. Events such as last year’s fundraising ‘Hymnathon,’ the Spem in Alium concert, which used all the different parts of the Cathedral to enhance the audience’s experience, and the ever popular Cabaret evening, are a reflection of this. His aim is always to bring about a sense of community through music - a thread that has also run through his numerous other roles outside the Cathedral, and will no doubt continue to in his future endeavours.
At the heart of everything Alex does is an attitude of looking outwards rather than inwards, and because of this he has been instrumental in integrating the Cathedral much further into the local community, making it a place where more and more people feel welcome. This was one of the main aims of the Cathedral Music Festival in 2018, which was supported in part by Arts Council England, following Alex’s successful funding application. The festival culminated in Jonathan Dove’s community opera, Tobias and the Angel - a huge team effort led by Alex, where the cathedral choirs were joined by local musicians and soloists, singers from the Music for Everyone youth choirs, and Streetwise Opera. Furthermore, tickets for the opera were priced as ‘pay what you can,’ as they have been for several concerts. The connection with Streetwise Opera is a long established one, with their members frequently giving up their time to help out at Cathedral concerts. Alex has also forged connections with local churches and musical groups, and has helped build a flourishing partnership with Nottingham Music Service.
On a personal note, I will miss Alex very much, and I know I can say with confidence that I am one of so many people who will feel the same. On behalf of the music team, the Cathedral Choir, the Youth Choir, and the many alumni who have sung for and alongside Alex over the past 14 years, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to Alex for his hard work, humour, patience, tenacity and for always going above and beyond - well beyond his remit - for the music at the Cathedral, and for other people. It goes without saying that Alex is an extraordinary musician, but what makes him such a good Director of Music is how much he cares about people. He doesn’t seek limelight and praise for himself, but rather spends most of his time lifting other people up (metaphorically speaking, although he has been going on about his recently improved upper body strength quite a lot). Salford Cathedral are extremely lucky to have him, as Nottingham has been, and we will miss him dearly. We wish him all the very best in this exciting new role, where I’m sure he will make his mark very quickly.
Thank you, Alex.