British organist and conductor Martin Neary, who was Organist and Master of
the Choristers at Winchester Cathedral (1972–87) and Westminster Abbey
(1988–98), is especially noted for championing contemporary church music,
and for his groundbreaking performances of music by Bach and Purcell.
In 1978 Neary directed the first complete performance in England of the St.
Matthew Passion with period instruments, and in 1995, apart from conducting
two televised programs marking the tercentenary of the death of Henry
Purcell, his CD with the Westminster Abbey Choir and the New London
Consort, Music for Queen Mary, was nominated for a Grammy.
Martin Neary is particularly associated with contemporar British composers
Jonathan Harvey and John Tavener, with over thirty commissions and
premieres. Among them was Harvey’s church opera, Passion and Resurrection, which he has also recorded, and Tavener’s seven-hour long Veil of the Temple, which he conducted at the 2005 Holland Festival.
Neary has performed several times at the BBC proms, including directing the
Bach Magnificat, a Britten program, and he was the organ soloist on the
first night of the 2004 season, playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
Since leaving Westminster Abbey in 1998, Neary has continued his career as
organist, guest conductor, occasional composer, and writer. His
compositions were featured at the 2001 church music festival in Tucson,
As organist, Martin Neary has also programmed many new works, not least in
his recitals at the Royal Festival Hall in London. He is the only second
person to have been elected twice as president of the Royal College of
Neary is a frequent visitor to the United States; with the Winchester Cathedral Choir he appeared at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy
Center, and with the Westminster Abbey Choir at Alice Tully Hall. In 1984
he spent a semester at UC Davis as artist-in-residence, during which time
he led the UCDSO and Chamber Chorus in a performance of Handel’s Dixit Dominus. He is currently in California for performances in Los Angeles and San
Diego, marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart.
Martin Neary, who read theology and music at Cambridge University and later
studied conducting at Tanglewood under Erich Leinsdorf, and with André
Marchal in Paris, has received numerous awards. Among them are an honorary
doctorate of music from the University of Southampton, and his appointment
as Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order by the Queen, in recognition of
his services for choosing and directing the music at the funeral of