Our Musical Director
Michael Cayton joined us as Musical Director in Sept 2003. Since then
he has conducted our performances of repertoire from Bach to
Maxwell-Davies, Purcell to Eric Whitacre, as well as the premier of his
own composition, Missa Beati Virginis Mariae, in 2017.
Michael is a Lancastrian, educated in Blackpool, where he gained his initial musical grounding, learning the piano and organ. After training at Kneller Hall, Michael served with the Grenadier Guards as a trumpeter, performing in a number of State functions in the Royal Palaces. Studying piano at the Royal College of Music, he gained his BMus, ARCM. He won the Hilda Anderson Deane prize for conducting and improvisation, and became the first Millenium Organ Scholar at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, while completing postgraduate répétiteur studies.
Since 2003 he has been the Director of Music at St John's Wood Church in London, where he conducts both the critically acclaimed professional choir and the successful community Chamber Choir. Michael’s debut as conductor of Watford Philharmonic Society was an exhilarating performance of Britten's War Requiem in Spring 2014. Since then, he has led both choir and orchestra in a wide variety of works, such as Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony, Britten's Sea Interludes, and Handel's Alexander's Feast. The Watford Philharmonic Society have also held several open rehearsals and workshops, most recently a large-scale 'Bring and Sing', based on Karl Jenkins' Armed Man. Meanwhile, the orchestra has been working its way through Beethoven's Symphonies, with the most recent workshop covering the 8th Symphony culminating in a performance of the 9th Symphony at the Watford Colosseum in April 2018. Other notable conducting engagements include a new work by Tim Hamilton, For the Fallen; and the UK premier of The Zimbabwe Suite by Bryan Kessleman.
Michael has given many radio broadcasts for the BBC, including as organist for a live broadcast from St Martin in the Fields following the death of Nelson Mandela. He has also appeared on BBC’s Songs of Praise. His church music is published by Redemptorist Publications, and his responsorial psalms are a staple of parish churches up and down the country. With broad musical tastes, a hunger to learn new styles, and a particular talent for improvisation, he can often be found performing jazz, German cabaret and Judeo-Spanish Ladino music as well as fusion and funk.
As well as conducting, Michael is in demand as a pianist and organist, with regular appearances in Central London venues, especially at St. Martin in the Fields. He lives in London with is wife, Gwendolen, and their two children.