Matthew Owens

Artistic Director and Conductor 1997-2011

Matthew Owens was Conductor of The Exon Singers from 1997 to 2011. He broadcast with them regularly on BBC Radios 2, 3, and 4, gave concerts throughout the country and directed the annual Exon Singers Festival in Devon. Under his direction, The Exon Singers premiered a series of new works by, among others, Richard Allain, Grayston Ives, and George Lloyd, and recorded George Lloyd’s Requiem on the Albany label. Most recently he directed the choir on recordings for Delphian Records and Regent Records.

Matthew Owens is Organist and Master of the Choristers of Wells Cathedral, having previously been Organist and Master of the Music at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh (from 1999-2004) and Sub Organist of Manchester Cathedral. He is also Tutor in Organ Studies at Wells Cathedral School (one of the four specialist music schools in England), Conductor of the Wells Cathedral Oratorio Society, and President of the Cathedral Organists’ Association. He is the Founder Artistic Director of two initiatives at Wells: Cathedral Commissions, a scheme which enables the cathedral choir to commission new works from pre-eminent British composers; and new music wells, a festival which is a retrospective of the last forty years of music as well as featuring many premieres. In 2011 an international jury for Gramophone named Wells Cathedral Choir, under Owens’s leadership, as the best choir in the world with children, and the sixth greatest overall.

Born in 1971, Matthew studied at Chetham’s School of Music and was subsequently Organ Scholar at The Queen’s College, Oxford, from where he graduated in music. As a postgraduate he received the highest award for performance, the Professional Performance Diploma, with distinction, and the college Bach prize at the Royal Northern College of Music; gained a Master’s Degree from the University of Manchester; won thirteen prizes in the diplomas of the Royal College of Organists, and was awarded the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. He then studied at the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam. His major organ studies were with Gordon Stewart, Margaret Phillips, and Jacques van Oortmerssen. From 1994-99, he was Tutor in Organ Studies at the RNCM and Chetham’s and worked for BBC Religious Broadcasting.

Matthew was Assistant Conductor of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain from 1993-1999; he has also conducted the Nash Ensemble, BT Scottish Ensemble, and the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. He is in demand for choral workshops and adjudications throughout the UK and abroad (including recent and forthcoming visits to Australia, China, Germany, Luxembourg, and New Zealand), and has made over thirty CDs as a conductor or solo organist with major labels including Hyperion and Regent.

As an organist, Matthew has given recitals in Australia, France, the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland and throughout the UK, including many festival appearances, and at venues such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral, and St John’s Smith Square. He has championed new music, particularly of British composers, premiering many new works by leading composers ranging from Jools Holland to James MacMillan, and John Rutter to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. He is also active as a composer, and some of his works have been recorded for commercial release and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. His carol, The holly and the ivy was recently published by Oxford University Press in Carols for Choirs 5. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians in November 2012.

His last engagement with the Exon Singers was a performance of Victoria Vespers by Candlelight in the Quire of Wells Cathedral, on 5th November 2011.