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.
John studied at Queen’s College, Cambridge, the RAM and the RCM, winning numerous awards as conductor, pianist and accompanist.
As a choral and orchestral conductor, he 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 recent discography includes Bruckner’s 9th Symphony with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra (2015) available on the Danacord label (DACOCD 754) and William Wordsworth: Orchestra Music Volume 1 with the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra on the Toccata label (TOCC0480).
In June 2019, John was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to music.
Will Todd, President
Accomplished composer and jazz pianist Will Todd studied music at the University of Bristol. His music is regularly broadcast on Classic FM and BBC Radio 3, and encompasses choral works both large and small, opera, musical theatre and orchestral pieces, as well as jazz compositions and chamber works.
He has worked extensively with community choirs, children’s choirs, youth choirs and church choirs, and directs regular workshops in the UK and internationally.
Will has also collaborated with award winning choirs The Sixteen and Tenebrae, as well as with the BBC Singers, BBC Concert Orchestra, The Halle Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, Opera Holland Park, Welsh National Opera, The Bach Choir and The Genesis Foundation.
In 2016 he collaborated with the former children’s laureate Michael Rosen to create Lights, Stories, Noise, Dreams, Love and Noodles, a work commissioned by The Bach Choir for youth singers, choir and band.
His discography, al on the Signum Classic label, includes Lux et Veritas and The Call of Wisdom (Tenebrae: Nigel Short), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Opera Holland Park),Mass in Blue, and most recently, Passion Music, Jazz Missa Brevis (2019), a fusion of jazz and choral music commissioned by the choirs of St-Martin-in-the-Fields.
Accompanied by the Will Todd Trio with Will at the piano and his wife Bethany Halliday singing the soprano solo, St Albans Chamber Choir has performed Mass in Blue (2003) twice in St Albans in recent years to great critical acclaim. The choir also performed his Songs of Love (2012) in July 2015, and reprised this piece, along with two others, on 20 October 2018.
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.