All Shall be Well: Saturday 5 March 2022 at 7:30pm

The Lady Chapel of St Albans Abbey.

A collection of a cappella choral music for Lent on the themes of grief and suffering and the promise of Paradise in the afterlife.

The legendary Miserere by Gregorio Allegri, with its mixture of plainsong and glorious ornamentation, has a complex history. Originally composed in 1638 for the Sistine Chapel Choir, the story goes that transcribing it or performing it elsewhere was prohibited by the Pope on pain of excommunication. The fourteen-year-old Mozart on a visit to Rome in 1770 is alleged to have transcribed it from memory and allowed it to be published. In 1831, Felix Mendelssohn heard it sung a fourth higher and so produced the section including the famous top Cs. Consequently, the version sung nowadays has been described as a patchwork derived from many different sources.

As senior choirmaster at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice in the early eighteenth century, Antonio Lotti composed much high-quality sacred music. His eight-part setting of the Crucifixus from the Credo of the Mass depicts the pain and exhaustion of crucifixion using musical devices such as suspensions, chromaticism, discords and modulation.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was one of the most prolific and highly acclaimed musicians of the sixteenth century. His work is seen as setting the standard for Renaissance polyphony. The intricate Stabat Mater dolorosa for double choir, written for the Sistine Chapel Choir around 1590, has many changes of rhythm and mood to describe Mary’s suffering at the foot of the Cross.

Palestrina’s influence, along with that of Wagner, can be heard in the motet Christus Factus Est composed by the devoutly religious Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. First performed in 1884, it depicts Christ’s journey of ‘obedience unto death’.

The wingbeats of angels bearing us to Paradise are represented by a solo viola and cello In Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds’ piece In Paradisum (2012). The words from the Requiem Mass antiphon sung as the body is taken from the church for burial are voiced by the choir.

Similar words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet are used in John Tavener’s piece Song for Athene, sung at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997, together with text from the funeral service of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In All Shall Be Well (2009), for double choir and solo cello, Roxanna Panufnik sets 14th century texts from the plainsong hymn Bogurodzica sung by Polish knights as they went into battle and from the Revelations of Divine Love by the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich. The knights’ pleas that they go to Paradise are answered by Julian’s comforting words: “at the last day, you shall see it all transformed into great joy”.

The Lark Ascending: Saturday 13 November at 2:00pm

SACC Lark ascending poster
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The Lark Ascending

In this concert, our first since February 2020, we present music for solo violin and choir, a choral masterwork from the 19th century and a piece of musical storytelling. Seating for this concert will have families seated in the front rows, with socially-distanced seating for others at the rear of the church

Ralph Vaughan WiIliams’ The Lark Ascending written on the eve of the First World War is seen as a rural idyll of an England soon to be lost forever. Paul Drayton’s 2018 choral arrangement of this popular piece has the original solo violin part soaring high above a chorus representing the landscape beneath, sometimes wordless and at other times singing lines from George Meredith’s 1881 poem of the same name, the original source of inspiration to the composer.

Cecilia McDowall’s five movement cantata Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo tells the extraordinary story of Nujeen Mustafa, a Kurdish teenager with cerebral palsy forced by conflict in 2014 to flee her home in Syria in a wheelchair and travel 3,500 miles to a new life in Germany. With words by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the piece contains a wealth of musical effects including chorales, rhythmic spoken sections, body percussion, and a solo violin part infused with Middle Eastern flavours.

Written for a cappella double choir is Josef Gabriel Rheinberger’s magnificent Mass for double choir in E flat (Op. 109) (Cantus Missae), composed in 1878 and regarded as his prime achievement. Rheinberger spent his working life in Munich at the Royal Court of Ludwig II of Bavaria, teaching at the Royal Conservatory, playing the organ at several city churches, conducting the Munich Oratorio Society and coaching the soloists at the Royal Opera. The Mass recalls the old compositional style of spatially separated choirs used by Renaissance composers such as Gabrieli and Monteverdi in Venice and led to Rheinberger being awarded the Order of St Gregory by Pope Leo XIII to whom it is dedicated.

Alan Ridout’s Ferdinand for speaker and solo violin is an adaptation of a 1936 children’s story Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf written shortly after the start of the Spanish Civil War about a young bull who would much rather sit under a cork tree and smell the flowers than compete in the bullfights with all the other bulls. Originally seen as a pacifist allegory and banned by Franco and Hitler, it still has many resonances nowadays in the context of discrimination and social exclusion.

Conducted by John Gibbons with Midori Komachi violin

Tickets £15 (£1 child (under 18), £5 student)

Call 07587 842846 or e-mail tickets@stalbanschamberchoir.org.uk

or buy online at TicketSource

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SACC on the road

At the invitation of the Canon Precentor, a former member of SACC, a small group of choir members travelled to Derby on 25 September 2021 to give a lunchtime recital in the beautiful cathedral.

Our programme was as follows:

BrucknerLocus Iste
PalestrinaSicut cervus
Giovanni GabrieliJubilate Deo
RachmaninoffBogoroditsye Dyevo
Orlando de LassusAve verum corpus
VictoriaO quam gloriosum
LottiCrucifixus

and we also sang a couple of lighter encores.

Lock-down Rachmaninov

It’s over a year since we last performed live for you – February 2020. We’ve missed the live singing and seeing you all. As things start to improve, we will be opening up for rehearsals and performances again in the coming months.

In the meantime, we have been keeping busy. A few of us took up our conductor, John Gibbons’, challenge to perform Nunc Dimittis from Rachmaninov’s Vespers, recorded on our mobile phones, at home. He thought that might keep us occupied !!

Here is our ‘lockdown’ performance for your entertainment.

Looking forward to the day we can perform in person for you again. Keep watching the website as we have more planned.

Spanish Mystics: Saturday 1 February 2020

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Spanish Mystics

Join us to experience the mystical music, literature and art of Spain’s Golden Age

Saturday 1 February at 7:30pm, St Saviour’s Church, St Albans.

Tomás Luis de Victoria: Vespers

Geoffrey Burgon: Dos Coros

Geoffrey Burgon: Nunc Dimittis

with readings from the writings of St Teresa of Ávila
and St John of the Cross

Louisa Kataria: saxophone

Conducted by John Gibbons

The Spanish mystics were influential reformers of the Roman Catholic Church in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain. They were also the authors of spiritual masterpieces, attempting to express in words the soul’s deep longing to be united with God.

Dos Coros (1975) by Geoffrey Burgon is a choral setting of two poems by St John of the Cross (1542-1591), widely considered to be the greatest of the Spanish mystic poets. St John and his spiritual mentor St Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) – herself a significant writer – founded new convents and monasteries throughout Spain dedicated to a simple, austere and meditative life.

Spanish mysticism also finds expression in the music of the greatest Spanish composer of the Golden Age of Polyphony, Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). The Second Vespers of the Feast of the Annunciation is a collection of ten significant pieces of sacred music devoted to the Virgin Mary, published in Rome between 1581 and 1583. They might have been used at the Vesper (evening) service on the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March).

We are delighted to welcome saxophonist Louisa Kataria to perform Geoffrey Burgon’s Nunc Dimittis with us. This piece was written in 1979 for the BBC’s acclaimed dramatization of John le Carré’s novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The music will be interspersed with readings from the mystic poets while images by the great religious painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) (1541-1614) – another Roman Catholic reformer and mystic – will be displayed.

Please join us afterwards for drinks and party nibbles in the church hall

Tickets £15 (£5 child/student)

Call 07570 454744 or e-mail tickets@stalbanschamberchoir.org.uk

or buy online at TicketSource

Book now