DAVID MORGAN pays tribute and bids farewell to an influential figure
There are only a few more days left before Dr Ronny Krippner’s term as Musical Director at Croydon Minster comes to an end.
His final service is on Christmas morning, after which he leaves for Ripon to take up the musical baton in the cathedral there. Combining his Minster duties with work at Whitgift School, Dr Krippner has spent the last nine years in Croydon encouraging, nurturing and cajoling hundreds of singers and musicians to produce glorious music.
Thanks to his drive and his music-making passion, many have been able to play a part in his achievements. Even more have come to associate the name of Croydon with outstanding music-making.
Around 2million people viewed the BBC1 broadcast of Midnight Mass from the Minster for Christmas 2019, one of the highlights of Krippner’s time in Croydon.
The success of that broadcast he reflected, “was down to meticulous planning, hard work from everybody and knowing exactly what the choristers were able to achieve”.
As a result of that broadcast, the Minster office received many letters and messages of appreciation and congratulations from around the world. Among those letters was one from the renowned composer John Rutter, inviting the choristers to sing in his Christmas Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. Although covid restrictions prevented this from happening in 2020, the choristers were able to sing in this fantastic venue this Christmas in two performances in front of thousands.
Despite the challenges of covid over the past two years, when choirs have not been allowed to sing together, Krippner proudly states that he has managed to keep and maintain the high standards of both the boys’ choir and the girls’ choirs. Young voices are constantly evolving. Boys’ voices break around the age of 12 or 13, so their time singing the top line is always limited.
Despite being almost at the end of his tenure here, Krippner and his singers still have much work to do.
There are two more BBC Radio3 broadcaststo come.
On Tuesday December 21, the choirs are to record a service of Choral Evensong to be broadcast on April 27 next year. Then on Wednesday December 22, the choirs are to broadcast live from the Minster the last Choral Evensong service before Christmas. There is an opportunity for people wishing to be in the congregation for this broadcast to do so, but they must be seated in the Minster by 3.40pm.
To be invited to sing on BBC Radio3’s Choral Evensong, Krippner knew would be a challenging target. That he achieved it and had a second and third invitation, too, as well as a live Radio4 Sunday Worship service during his tenure is a testimony to the dedication to his role and the attention to the detail of the sound his choirs produce. This blend, which he has achieved with talented youngsters, choral scholars in their teens and a range of adult voices, has been admired by all who attend services and concerts.
Asked where his love of music began, Krippner was clear. “It started with my father.”
Growing up in the Bavarian village of Haingrün, young Ronny was a part of the local church choir singing the alto part with women from the village. “I could never sing the highest notes,” he said. “Choir rehearsals back then were rather different. Adults could smoke if they wanted and drinks were consumed, too. But everyone had fun.” For the young Krippner, rehearsal nights were the time of the week when he was allowed to stay up late.
As well as his father conducting the church choir, Krippner remembered him playing the electric organ in a band called “Braat und Schmool”, who performed for local weddings and village events. It was playing the electric keyboard in the Krippner front room without any printed music when Ronny realised the talents of his father. Playing by ear was a gift and helped to cement a strong father and son bond, especially when dad played the Ghostbusters theme to his son. Ronny has had a lifelong devotion to the movie: he recently visited the cinema recently to see the new Ghostbusters: Afterlife movie in full fancy dress.
As well as maintaining a cathedral-style repertoire of church music each week at the Minster with five sung services, Krippner raised the standards of singing so that they were able to be heard in so other churches and cathedrals too. From Rochester to Portsmouth and from Canterbury to Wells, the choirs of the Minster have sung in all the cathedrals in the south-east of England. They have sung, too, at St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, while on tour they have sung in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and Regensberg Cathedral in Germany.
Krippner studied church music at university. It was, though, his meeting with Roger Sayer, then the organist of Rochester Cathedral, which changed the direction of his musical focus.
At a summer course by the shores of Lake Constance, Krippner was introduced to the English organ music tradition. He was amazed later when he realised just how much music a cathedral choir had to learn and perform every week. He decided that he wanted to be a part of this.
Studying for a Master’s at Exeter University, singing in the cathedral choir there before undertaking a role at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, provided Krippner with the background necessary for his role at Croydon Minster. That, coupled with a PhD on organ improvisation, has helped him to achieve so much here in Croydon.
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