The Classical Station’s interview with Jeremy Filsell for Preview!

Interview with Jeremy Filsell
by Bethany Tillerson (photo credit: Scott Heins)

This week’s guest on Preview!, Jeremy Filsell, has been the Organist and Director of Music at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, since 2019. Recently, he and the Saint Thomas Choir released the Christmas album No Small Wonder.

KENNEDY: Jeremy, tell our listeners about some of the new carols on your wonderful new Christmas CD, No Small Wonder.

FILSELL: It’s a whole mixture. The whole program is supposed to be a mixture of carols that will feel familiar to many people, but also mixing in some of the less familiar fare. It is influenced by some of my researches over a number of years, which reflects some of the music that I’ve introduced in Christmas-time to St. Thomas in the last 4 or 5 years that I’ve been there.

There are some classics of more recent repertoire, like Jonathan Dove’s “Seek Him That Maketh The Seven Stars” and perhaps Paul Edwards’ “No Small Wonder” and maybe things like Bairstow’s “The Blessed Virgin’s Cradle Song” and Stanford’s “A Song of Wisdom.”

But as for some of the new things, Matthew Martin is a well-established contemporary composer for choirs, and I think his music is really remarkable. It reflects, of course, his heritage of English church music, the Leighton and Howells and maybe bits of Matthias and so on that you can hear. But there’s a unique and very individual voice in Matthew’s music. And this “Adam Lay Ybounden” setting is really powerful, I think.

Simon Preston also has some music on this disc. Of course, he died last year after an illustrious career in both cathedral music and, of course, as a formative character in the Early Music movement in the 60s and 70s in England. He was there at the founding of all of that with important people like David Woolston and Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock, John Eliot Gardiner, people who really drove the authentic performance of Early Music in those days. Simon Preston was very much part of that. He’s not very well known as a composer beyond one single organ work, but there’s a very charming setting of a text, “Christmas Day,” which we’ve included on this disc. There’s one of two bits of American fare, Richard Dirkson’s “Chanticleer,” which is a bit of a staple at National Cathedral in Washington, and there’s a piece by Leo Nestor, who was somebody with whom I worked at Catholic University in D.C. He’s a very important composer for the Catholic Church music world, writing much in Latin and writing much for Catholic congregations, but there’s some very beautiful, elegant writing. And so I was happy to include his “Rorate, Caeli, Desuper.” We also include Stephen Hough’s music, which has had a major recent emergence on the choral scene with his writing for choirs. We’ve included his “Ding Dong Merrily on High”. He’s well known as a pianist and as a writer, but “Ding Dong Merrily on High” is a wonderfully bell-like and charming Christmas carol.

There’s also Francis Pott, who was an old associate of mine, somebody with whom I’ve worked over many, many years. And he wrote us a little carol for men’s voices, because there was so little contemporary fare for men’s voices. We had the boys on and off for two years, of course, so we’ve included that piece that he wrote for St. Thomas Fifth Avenue on this disc. So that gives you a taste of some of the music that we’ve compiled here for this new disc.

KENNEDY: Jeremy, where can listeners obtain this wonderful Christmas CD, No Small Wonder?

FILSELL: It’s available at the church in CD form. You can get it through Acis, the company that manufactures it for us on their website. It’s on all the downloadable platforms–Apple Music, Amazon Music, iTunes, Spotify. You can download it on any of those usual places.

Join us to hear the full interview on Sunday, December 10th, at 7 p.m. Listen on, 89.7 FM, or our app.