Stephen (b. 1977) grew up immersed in parish church music, starting as a chorister in London before his family moved to Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire when he was eight. It was here that his love of music was nurtured and he began taking piano and then organ lessons. For two years prior to university he held the organ scholarship at St Faith’s Church, Lee-on-the-Solent.
In 1995 Stephen left Hampshire to read Music at Canterbury Christ Church College (now Canterbury Christ Church University), beginning a relationship with the City and University that continues to this day. While an undergraduate at Christ Church, Stephen studied organ with David Flood, Master of the Choristers at Canterbury Cathedral, and composition with Edward Cowie and Paul Max Edlin. During his second year he directed the Chapel Choir, singing services in Canterbury Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, and recording for BBC Radio 4. Whilst in his final year, Stephen was appointed Organist and Choirmaster of St Stephen’s Church, Canterbury, and began to slowly build up the choir and quality of music.
Following graduation, Stephen studied for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and qualified as a secondary teacher of Music. His first appointment was at Gravesend Grammar School for Girls, before being appointed Director of Music at The Harvey Grammar School in 2006, and Head of Performing Arts in 2020.
Stephen has always had an affection for the Royal School of Church Music and is currently Chair of the Canterbury Area committee. He has put together a number of the Choir Festivals held in the Cathedral each year, and for the 2004 Festival he was asked to compose a setting of the Eucharist to be sung by the combined choirs. This can be found to download on his website along with several other compositions.
Whilst teaching full-time, Stephen returned to Canterbury Christ Church University to read for a Masters in Music, specialising in Church Music and studied with Christopher Gower, previously Organist and master of the Choristers at Peterborough and Portsmouth Cathedrals. During this time he led the Chapel Choir through a period of strong growth and developed their contribution to the worship in the Chapel, with a strong emphasis on the relationship between the liturgy and appropriate music. Research into the use of hymns in worship led to delivering of a number of workshops on the subject, including performance editions of early metrical psalms and canticles.
In recent years, Stephen has had the opportunity to conduct in a number of Cathedrals and Abbeys around the Southern half of England, including Westminster Abbey, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Chichester and Coventry Cathedrals, as well as regular services much closer to home in Canterbury Cathedral. Further afield, Stephen has twice been invited to conduct the RSCM North-West Europe Choirs Festival (2004 and 2012).
Composition remains an enjoyable passion, and while not having the time to be particularly prolific, Stephen tries to write two or three significant pieces a year, along with a wide range of smaller pieces of music suitable for liturgical use, for example, a set of Responsorial Psalm responses and chants. Stephen has recently had pieces performed in Westminster Abbey, Canterbury, Salisbury, Coventry and Portsmouth Cathedrals, the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas, USA, and the in the Eastbourne Festival. Much of his music is available on his website along with recordings, where available.
© Stephen Barker. Please ask for permission before reproducing this biography in any publication.