All Saints’ Musical Tradition

All Saints’ Church has been steeped in the Anglo Catholic tradition of worship since its foundation in 1868. A strong choral tradition was established from the outset which continues to this day. Concerts, including organ recitals, frequently take place and the building is a popular venue in Cheltenham for choral and instrumental concerts (including the Three Choirs Festival), talks and theatrical performances.

The first organist of All Saints’ was Adolf von Holst, father of composer Gustav. Gustav’s parents were married in the church and he himself was baptised there and sang in the Choir. His first compositions were written to be performed on the All Saints’ organ.

Several eminent musicians have since served as organists at All Saints’ including Timothy John Grainge (1894-1935), Melville Cook (1935-1937 and later organist at Hereford Cathedral), Herbert Byard (1937-1945), and David Titterington (later Professor of Organ Studies at the Royal Academy of Music). The current Director of Music is James MacDowall-Scott.

Initially a locally sourced second-hand organ was placed in the church. This was replaced by an instrument built (but never completed) by the local Cheltenham organ builder, H. Williams, at the opening of which (1877) the Rev’d Canon Prof. Dr Sir Frederick A. G. Ouseley (Bart.) preached.

In 1886 the Rev’d George Gardner MA (Cantab) BMus (Oxon) was appointed to the living of All Saints’. Well known in musical circles he wasted no time in firmly building a solid musical foundation to accompany the liturgy in collaboration with Adolph von Holst. In 1887 the present organ was built and installed by the famous London firm, William Hill & Son, under the direction of Thomas, the founders’ son. It was characteristic of the firm’s work but with some interesting and unusual features clear in its design. The transept case is a very fine example of Arthurs Hill’s work in organ case design. A chancel case was later added by H.A. Prothero. You can read more about the organ