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Newsfeed > Births, marriages and deaths > Former Student, Choirmaster, Corsica Houseparent and Teacher Philip Hill

Former Student, Choirmaster, Corsica Houseparent and Teacher Philip Hill

The whole Seaford College community this week sends its sincere condolences to the family of former student and teacher Philip Hill, who died peacefully on 1st February 2022.
December 1981, Choristers sang a recital for Her Majesty the Queen
December 1981, Choristers sang a recital for Her Majesty the Queen

The whole Seaford College community this week sends its sincere condolences to the family of Philip Hill, who died peacefully on 1st February this year. 

Philip was a much loved and fondly-remembered former teacher (1958 – 1994) and student in Corsica House (1947 – 1951), building and running the Chapel Choir for more than 20 years. 

He took the Choir on world tours, singing at some historical venues including the Berlin Wall, the Kremlin, Versailles and in Washington DC. It also had the privilege to be invited to sing for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the Fishmongers Hall in London and for the Queen Mother at St James’s Palace. Some film lovers might even know that that the Choir also starred in the 1994 hit movie, ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. 

His family said they were devastated by the loss and invited those who knew Philip to attend a memorial service on 16th February at 11am in Carlisle Cathedral. The service will also be streamed live from the Cathedral. 

Below is an article written by Philip Hill for ‘The Story of Seaford College – A Mosaic of Memories’, edited by Joscelyn Johnson. 

Philip was at Seaford, in Corsica, from 1947 to 1951. He completed national service in the R. A. F. He trained as a teaching musician under Sir John Dykes Bower at St. Paul’s Cathedral and London University. He returned to Seaford in 1958 and was Precentor of a highly successful choir and also House Master of his old House. He retired in 1994. 


By 1948 the Choir was robed in surplices – no cassocks yet! Peter Naylor, the promising young boy organist played the organ, a Hammond the College brought with them from Worthing. 

By 1950, the Choir was robed in light blue cassocks, as well as the surplices and sang week by week in Chapel. Indeed, during the Christmas Term, they sang in a Festival Service with other Choirs in Chichester Cathedral, under the baton of Dr Hawkins, the Cathedral Organist. When Peter Naylor left the College the ‘Choral tradition’ declined somewhat. 

However, in 1958 with a new Precentor and Organist on the staff, the choral tradition was revived. It was in the Christmas of 1958 that there had to be three Carol Services in order to cater for the increase in congregation. Thus began the ‘Carol Tradition’ which was later to bring the Choir and School such fame. The following year the new Chapel Choir, as it had now become known, was invited to sing Choral Evensong on its own in Chichester Cathedral. After this event, the College Carol Services were held in the Cathedral and in 1959 a congregation of 680 attended the first College Carol Service there. By 1985 there were to be three services in the Cathedral with a total congregation of over 2000! 

In 1968, they were awarded a contract by Phillips Records, to record a programme of music for the Church year. The record was commercially released the same year. This led to an almost kaleidoscopic train of events, beginning with an invitation to visit Toronto in 1970, followed by a second recording in 1971. International tours and recordings followed almost every other year and by now the Choristers were appearing on television. 

The next landmark was in 1976 when the Choir completed a highly successful tour in the United States singing in Washington and Chicago. They had by now changed their robes to scarlet and an article in the Washington Post included this comment ‘The Boy Choristers and Gentlemen singers from England made a fine spectacle as they sang in their bright red robes’. 

The next year saw the Choir representing the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Festival of Carols in Luxembourg. This was in part due to the fact they were already in Belgium as a guest of SHAPE and NATO. This visit led two years later to further visits to Berlin. 

Apart from this apparent globetrotting, the Choir fulfilled its commitments in Chapel and under the influence of the Director, had attracted a number of good sportsmen into its ranks. This continues as firm policy today. 

It was December of 1981, that the Choristers were honoured to sing a recital of Christmas Carols for Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of London. The occasion was in aid of the British Sailors’ Society. The television and newspaper coverage helped establish the Choir to the extent that the following year saw the Choir returning to America and then on flying back to London, singing at St. James’s Palace for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Two days later, they were starring with ‘Instant Sunshine’ in the Royal Albert Hall for Save the Children in the presence of Her Royal Highness the Princess Anne. 

The Carol Recital in London in 1981 in the presence of The Queen was by now having an ongoing influence. Her Majesty had graciously allowed an LP to be issued bearing the title ‘A Royal Carol Recital’ and what was more, she allowed a colour photograph taken at the time of the Concert of herself, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Choristers to be printed on the reverse sleeve of the record. Once again, this attracted considerable media interest, and indeed the cover featured on one TV channel. At the time of writing this article, the record and cassette has sold over 10,000 copies. 

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