ichael Procter was one of Europe’s leading facilitators in the realm of renaissance sacred polyphony. He called himself a ‘practical musicologist’, studying the music by singing it with different groups of singers at his music courses all over Europe. He explored many aspects of the repertoire, such as regional and national pronunciation of Latin in the sixteenth century, vocal ranges and transposition according to the rules of ‘chiavette’, but his keenest interest was the performance of the old music in its proper liturgical context. His most valued courses were the International Academy of Sacred Music, which for twenty-two years sang high mass on Trinity Sunday in St Mark’s basilica in Venice, and his annual week at the Premonstratensian Abbaye Saint Martin de Mondaye near Bayeux, where the course was privileged to sing vespers and mass with the monks.
Michael edited fresh music for all his courses, seeking out the original sources from libraries around the world. The resulting Edition Michael Procter contains some 1,300 pieces, many of which would otherwise be unavailable to modern choirs.
His interest in the Venetian composer Giovanni Croce led him to undertake a scholarly edition of the complete sacred works in fourteen volumes to coincide with the four hundredth anniversary of Croce’s death in 1610.
Michael went to school at Christ’s Hospital in Horsham, Surrey, where he formed and led his own choir, as well as finding a fascination for Morse code and amateur radio. After a short period in the Royal Navy and at Bristol University , he realised his life was to be in music. He studied under Alfred Deller at the Royal Academy and was the first student to gain the LRAM Diploma as a countertenor. On leaving after a very active period at the academy, he founded a concert agency and an early music magazine and worked as an administrator for John Eliott Gardiner for nearly three years. He then went to Highnam Court near Gloucester to develop a residential course centre, eventually moving from there to be director of Benslow Music Trust at Hitchin.
1990 was a difficult year. It saw the end of his marriage to Jenny (his second wife) and family life with Becky and Bethan. At about the same time, his cancer cost him a large piece of muscle from his shoulder but it did not stop him conducting. He ran courses such as Schola Polyphonica and Euromusica; he re-formed The Renaissance Singers , which had been dormant for ten years, and led them until in 1995 he met and married Claudia and moved to live in Germany.
He settled in Karlsruhe and set about expanding his catalogue of music courses and editions. At this time he founded the all male Ensemble Hofkapelle , fulfilling his dream of making the music available with the forces and voices for which it had been composed.
Michael and Claudia’s son Benedict was christened in 1999 by the monks at Mondaye and became the new focus of Michael’s life. They bought a house and moved a few kilometres from Karlsruhe to the village of Weingarten, where Michael became a pillar of the community. He ran the Schola in the local church and wrought peace in the parents’ association at Ben’s school.
There were memorable parties in the Procter household. Those of us who were privileged to see Michael and Claudia married at Alt Rahlstedt near Hamburg will always remember the magnificent entrance of the happy couple under a canopy of silks, attended by music and cooled by fans. Michael’s 60th birthday party in Weingarten in 2011 revealed another of his passions: he knew everything there is to know about Sherlock Holmes .
Michael died on 3rd May 2012, suddenly at home in Weingarten, aged 61. He is very sadly missed.