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Somerville, Murray Forbes

Choirmaster and organist from London, England, who grew up in Rhodesia, and attended school in Munich, Germany. He went back to England and studied at Oxford University. Then he emigrated to the U.S., where he completed his education at the New England Conservatory and the Union Theological Seminary in New York.

He was the choir director at St. James Church in West Hartford, Connecticut, and the Cathedral of St. Luke in Orlando, Florida. During his time in the Sunshine State, he collaborated with the Orlando Opera Company, founded the Orlando Deanery Boychoir, and was the choirmaster of the Florida Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Bach Festival at Rollins College.

He became an Associate at the Royal School of Church Music in England in 1987. Three years later, he was named the sixth choirmaster and organist of the Harvard University Choir. During his tenure, he recorded with and without the choir, as a soloist on J.S. Bach: Das Orgelbuchlein BWV 599-644 and as choirmaster of the HUC on Choral Music of Amy Beach and Randall Thompson and Liberty Tree: American Music 1776-1861.

In 2003, he left Harvard and went to work as the music director of St. George’s Episcopal Church. He returned to Harvard in October 2009 to participate in The C.B. Fisk Op. 46 Celebration Series, performing one of a half dozen recitals in honour of the late John Raymond Ferris, who led the HUC from 1958-1990.

Other recordings on which he appears include John Knowles Paine: Organ Music (Paine was the subject of his dissertation and the first choirmaster of the HUC) and J.S. Bach: Great Chorales of the Clavierbung.

Harvard University Choir recordings
Adeste Fidelis (Frederick Oakeley/John Francis Wade)
Pro Organo CD 7134 (Christmas in the Busch)
Conductor – Murray Forbes Somerville
Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra
Director – Robert Mealy
The Harvard Brass
Soprano – Awet Andemichael
Bass – Mark Risinger
Organists – Erica Johnson and Edward Jones