St Albans Chamber Choir
St Albans Chamber Choir has been a major contributor to the musical life of the St Albans area and further afield for over 60 years, delighting audiences with music from the last six centuries and winning awards for its innovative programming.
This extensive repertoire and a cappella performances are the Choir’s hallmarks, and under the direction of its inspirational Musical Director John Gibbons BEM, the Choir continues to explore new repertoire, often bringing its audience little known compositions as well as light-hearted arrangements with performances ranging from early works modern performances of early works to new commissions by contemporary composers such as Jonathan Rathbone, Tarik O’Regan and Alexander L’Estrange, whose sixtieth anniversary commission, The Prophet, was performed by the choir In February 2019.
In April 2019, the Choir celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its international choral association with the Wormser Kantorei from St Albans’ twin town Worms in southern Germany. The two choirs meet and perform together every two years alternating between St Albans and Worms.
The Choir is also a member of the St Albans St Cecilia Festival Society.
The Choir continues to strive for the highest standards of performance, working with professional soloists and ensembles, notably with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the Choir’s 50th Anniversary Concert in 2009 and the Magna Carta concert in 2013.
Two critically acclaimed CDs are available, and the Choir took part in a film made for BBC TV during the summer of 2009.
The choir is delighted to have acclaimed British composer Will Todd as its President.
St Albans Chamber Choir is a registered charity number 280876 – to foster public knowledge and appreciation of choral music by giving performances of familiar and rarely performed works – and is affiliated to Making Music (The National Federation of Music Societies). It gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the Williams Church Music Trust.
John has been the St Albans Chamber Choir’s Musical Director since 2007.
He studied at Queen’s College, Cambridge, the RAM and the RCM, winning numerous awards as a conductor, pianist and accompanist.
As a choral and orchestral conductor, John has developed a reputation for provocative and stimulating programming, balancing popular classics with rarely-performed works of quality.
In addition to being Musical Director of St Albans Chamber Choir and Choral Director of Clifton Cathedral Choir in Bristol, John has a busy musical life as an orchestral conductor.
He works regularly with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and since 2016 with the BBC Concert Orchestra. He has also been Principal Conductor of Worthing Symphony Orchestra since 1997, has regularly conducted Ealing Symphony Orchestra since 1996 and in 2015 became Music Director of Northampton Symphony Orchestra.
John’s most recent discography includes the orchestral music of Malcolm Arnold (Oct 2021) and the third volume of the orchestra music of William Wordsworth (May 2021), both with Liepāja Symphony Orchestra on the Toccata Classics label. Other recent work includes four Mozart Piano Concertos with Idil Biret – two with the London Mozart Players and two with Worthing Symphony Orchestra – on the Naxos label (2019), two earlier volumes of Wordsworth’s orchestra music (Jun 2018 and Aug 2019), Bruckner’s 9th Symphony with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra (2015) on the Danacord label and the string concertos of Arthur Benjamin with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for the Dutton Epoch Label (2011).
John is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, vice-chairman of the British Music Society and a Trustee of the William Alwyn Foundation, and in June 2019, was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to music.
Will Todd taught himself the piano from an early age and grew up in County Durham in the northeast of England where his grandfather was a coal miner and his parents were teachers. His love of improvising has been the central force in a wide-ranging career of composing and playing.
His love of choral music is reflected in a large output including masses, anthems and larger sacred concert works including Mass in Blue, which has been performed hundreds of times around the world since its 2003 premiere. St Albans Chamber Choir has performed it twice in recent years with the Will Todd Trio with Will at the piano and his wife Bethany Halliday singing the soprano solo.
Will has worked with many of the UK’s leading music companies including Welsh National Opera, Opera North, The Halle Orchestra, Opera Holland Park, The Sixteen, The BBC Singers and the BBC Concert Orchestra. He has had a fruitful collaboration with the award-winning chamber choir Tenebrae with whom he has made the two highly acclaimed albums The Call of Wisdom and Lux et Veritas; the latter was voted one of the top 20 albums of 2014 by Classic FM.
Will Todd also has an impressive list of theatre works including The Screams of Kitty Genovese, produced most recently by Tête à Tête Opera in London and Edinburgh, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for Opera Holland Park, Migrations for Welsh National Opera and The Blackened Man, a prizewinner in the International Verdi Opera Competition.
He has been honoured to work with a wide range of choirs in Europe, the US and worldwide. He strongly believes in music making for all, and his personal motto when directing choirs is ‘find the passion’. Outside music his interests include supporting the environmental movement in any way he can, and he is planning to phase out his use of flying during the next few years. He lives with his family near London.
During the Covid-19 pandemic Will Todd was pleased to be able to work on a number of community-based projects supporting singers and youth choirs. His song Like A Rainbow Shining was written as a free resource for choirs worldwide and is available from willtodd.co.uk.
Will frequently performs as a jazz pianist, leading the Will Todd Ensemble, and is in high demand as a workshop leader and conductor of his own music. His music is published by Oxford University Press, Boosey and Hawkes and Tyalgum Press.
A Short History
St Albans Chamber Choir was founded in 1958 by John Rose and June Pepin (née Clark) with the aim of achieving the highest standards of performance in programmes of both familiar and less well-known music. John Rose conducted the Choir until 1965. As his successor, the Choir was very fortunate to appoint Richard Stangroom, whose musical knowledge and ability was to inspire the Choir for the next thirty years. It was Richard who took the Choir on its first visit to Worms-am-Rhein, St Albans’ German twin town, in 1969, and did much to foster the link that continues to flourish today.
Richard Stangroom retired in 1995, and it took a little while to find a musician of the right calibre to replace him. A worthy successor emerged in David Hansell, who continued to develop the Choir and introduce it to a wide-ranging and interesting repertoire. On David’s retirement in 2007, the Choir appointed John Gibbons as its musical director, an appointment which has taken the Choir in new directions and to new heights.
During its existence the Choir has commissioned works from, among others, Nicola le Fanu, John Joubert, John Tavener, and Malcolm Singer, whose Mask of Esther, a setting of an extended poem by Michelene Wandor, was given its world premiere in St Albans Abbey in May 2001 and its first London performance in January 2002. In its fiftieth anniversary season (2008-2009), the choir commissioned two pieces – O Nata Lux by Jonathan Rathbone and Martyr by Tarik O’Regan.
More recently, the choir awarded a sixtieth anniversary commission to local composer Alexander L’Estrange, and on 16th February 2019 performed his piece The Prophet which sets texts from the poems of Kahlil Gibran.
In 2001 the Choir launched its first CD recording Christmas across the Centuries, a sequence of music featuring medieval and modern settings of Christmas texts. A second CD Mixing their Music, an anthology of works by Victoria, J S Bach, Mendelssohn, and Howells, among others, was recorded in July 2004. Both these commercial recordings, released to much critical acclaim, are currently available.