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 nearly 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, the Choir continues to explore new repertoire, often bringing its audience little known compositions ranging from modern performances of early works to new commissions from contemporary composers such as Jonathan Rathbone, Tarik O’Regan and Alexander L’Estrange.
The Choir has a long-standing association dating from 1969 with the Wormser Kantorei from St Albans’ twin town Worms in southern Germany. The two choirs meet and perform together every two years alternately in St Albans and in Worms. The next joint concert celebrating the 60th anniversary of the association between the two choirs will be in St Albans Abbey on 27 April 2019.
The Choir is also a member of the St Albans St Cecilia Festival Society, and in 2017 performed a major concert in St Albans Abbey featuring Rachmaninov’s choral masterpiece The Bells with fellow members Radlett Choral Society, Hardynge Choir and St Albans Symphony Orchestra.
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 and is affiliated to Making Music (The National Federation of Music Societies). It gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the Williams Church Music Trust.
A Short History
St Albans Chamber Choir was founded in 1958 by John Rose and June Pepin (née Clark) (d. 24 Oct 2018) 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.