Farewell Richard Shephard – CSA owes him so much

It is with great sadness CSA says farewell and thank you to Dr Richard Shephard MBE, who died after a long illness on 20 February, aged 71. He was an internationally renowned composer, but it is as a teacher and headmaster that he will be remembered best by the thousands of children he nurtured and set on the path to success.

Dr Richard Shephard with Andrew Carwood during the rehearsal of his CSA Service for the Association’s Centenary Evensong in St Paul’s Cathedral 2018.

Richard had a lifelong connection with CSA, first as a chorister, as a teacher at Salisbury Cathedral School and then as Headmaster of The Minster School, York.

His musical journey began as a pupil at The King’s School, Gloucester and as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral with organist composer Herbert Sumsion.  He went on to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and studied composition with Sir David Willcocks, Hugh Macdonald and Alan Ridout. He moved to Salisbury as a lay vicar in the cathedral with teaching posts at Salisbury Cathedral School and Godolphin School. He spent sixteen very happy years in Salisbury, writing music for choirs, orchestras, opera, the choir school and the theatre.

All change at The Minster School

Once in York composing took a new route and commissions started to come from much further afield. However, he was commissioned to write for the York Millennium Mystery Plays and was musical director for the York Minster Mystery Plays production of 2016.

He came from a ‘not particularly musical family’ and admitted to ‘playing the piano a bit’ when interviewed about his plans for the school in 1986! Shortly after his arrival at York Minster Song School the word ‘Song’ was dropped because ‘parents assumed a boy had to be able to sing to come here.’ The school had less than 70 pupils including 24 choristers but soon started to expand and admitted its first girls.

A Key CSA Player

Within two years Richard had joined CSA’s Committee and was elected Chairman for 1989-91. During this time he was a member of the Archbishops’ Commission on Church Music and instrumental in attracting the first government grants for choristers in September 1991. The initial funding of £20k, announced by Education Minister Angela Rumbold, came under the umbrella of the Music and Ballet Scheme.  It was awarded in four parts: to help Salisbury launch its girls’ choir; to support Ripon in the North and to help choristers at the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral. This left £5k to be used by the Association’ own Trust fund set up in 1985.

We welcomed HRH the Duchess of Kent as our Patron during Richard’s chairmanship. Her first public appearance on behalf of CSA was seen by 8 million on ‘Songs of Praise’ from Lichfield Cathedral. Over 800 boys and girls from the eleven Northern Division choir schools, including a combined choir of 200 choristers, travelled to Lichfield. Richard supplied some of the music and told viewers about the Association’s work.

He continued to serve the CSA as Treasurer and as a judge for the Chorister Composition Competition. Most of all he shared his vast musical, educational and church knowledge with us. Without fail his were wise words which we benefitted from beyond his retirement as Head of The Minster School in 2004. We were delighted when he agreed to write a CSA Service for our Centenary Evensong at St Paul’s in May 2018.

Immortalised as a grotesque!

York Minster paid tribute to him on his retirement as Chamberlain and as director of development of the York Minster Fund by immortalising him as a grotesque on the cathedral’s East End. The grotesque is holding a doctorate hat, and holding its hand as if conducting music, whilst the face is a familiar caricature of Richard.

Rebecca Thompson, superintendent of works at the Minster, said that when she discovered one of the decayed grotesques overlooking the Minster school needed replacement, incorporating a permanent tribute to Richard Shephard seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

Richard said then: “Having oneself immortalised on the Minster as a grotesque may not be to everyone’s taste, but I am flattered and honoured that this piece of sculpture has been incorporated into the cathedral that has played such a large part of my life for many years.”

Thank you and RIP Richard

Richard’s was a life full of achievement and support for others, particularly the young. Already there are some wonderful tributes to this very special man who went on to raise £10m for York Minster. This piece comes with gratitude, admiration and great fondness from all at CSA and the many privileged to have him in their young lives.