The following words are taken from Franki Berry’s article in the Herts Advertiser, 13 June 2019
Extraordinary people from around the district and county have been recognised by the Queen for thier outstanding achievements.
This year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, awarded to people who have gone above and beyond in their respective fields, have been announced and there are several people from this area who made the list…
… The music director of St Albans Chamber Choir, John Gibbons, was awarded a BEM for services to music. He is a conductor, composer, arranger, pianist and organist, who has been an advocate of 20th century British music and supportive of young soloists at the start of their careers.
John said: “I am completely amazed. I never expected to get anything like this and it came as a complete surprise. Music is one of the greatest things we have in our lives and creativity is crucial going forward for all humanity.”
He described the St Albans Chamber Choir as a “dedicated group of singers” who undertake an “adventurous repertoire”…
Saturday 29 June at 7:30pm, St Saviour’s Church, St Albans.
Francis Poulenc: Figure humaine
Ildebrando Pizzetti: Messa da Requiem
and works by Milhaud, Ravel and Sandstrom
The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 brought the First World War to an end. To commemorate the 100th anniversary, we present a programme of music evoking mankind’s longing for a future lived in peace and freedom.
Francis Poulenc’s masterpiece Figure humaine (1943) was written during the German occupation of France in the Second World War. Dedicated to Pablo Picasso, it sets texts by the surrealist poet Paul Eluard which express the ‘suffering of the people reduced to silence’ and the hope of the final ‘triumph of freedom over tyranny’.
The Messa da Requiem (1922) by the Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti was a commission to commemorate King Umberto I, assassinated by an anarchist in 1900, and was written following the death of the composer’s wife. It expresses his ‘need for the hope of peace’.
Darius Milhaud’sCantate de la Paix (1937) is a tribute to the French statesman Aristide Briand, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in negotiating the Locarno Treaties in 1925 following the Treaty of Versailles.
Maurice Ravel wrote the tender song Trois Beaux Oiseaux du Paradis(Three beautiful birds-of-paradise) in 1914 shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. It presents a haunting image of three birds in the colours of the French flag bringing the news of a soldier’s death to the girl waiting for him at home.
In Across the Bridge of Hope, Swedish composer Jan Sandström sets a poem by twelve-year-old Seán McLaughlin, one of the 29 victims of the terrorist car bomb in Omagh in Northern Ireland in August 1998. Written after the Good Friday Agreement the previous April, the poem became the voice of all young victims in a world of war and violence and for their universal longing and hope for peace.
Conducted by John Gibbons, with Hattie Jolly – Flute
Please join us afterwards for drinks and party nibbles in the church hall.
St Albans Chamber Choir Golden Jubilee Celebrations with Wormser Kantorei Saturday 27 April 2019 at 7.30pm, in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, St Albans AL1 1BY
John Gibbons and Stefan Merkelbach conductors Ealing Symphony Orchestra
To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the association between St Albans Chamber Choir and the Wormser Kantorei from St Albans’ twin town of Worms in southwestern Germany, the two choirs combine with Ealing Symphony Orchestra to present a concert of the following works:
Mozart – Krönungsmesse (Coronation Mass) Vaughan Williams – Dona nobis pacem Handel – Zadok the Priest Alwyn – The Innumerable Dance
Mozart’sMass No.15 in C major, K. 317, later known as the Krönungsmesse (Coronation Mass), was first performed on Easter Sunday, 4 April 1779 in Salzburg Cathedral. The 23-year-old Mozart had just taken up the post of court organist and composer to the exacting Archbishop Colloredo and was required to write a missa brevis (short Mass) but with full orchestral accompaniment and four soloists. His response was to create a 30-minute masterpiece capable of filling a huge cathedral and creating an atmosphere of great joy. The nickname Krönungsmesse was added in 1862 but its origin is obscure. It may stem from the Mass having been performed in Prague in 1791 at the coronation of Leopold II and also of Francis I the following year. It certainly became popular at the Imperial Court in Vienna in the early nineteenth century as the preferred music for coronations.
Vaughan Williams served with the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front in World War 1. He wrote the cantata Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace) in 1936 amid widespread anguish that the worsening political situation in Europe would lead again to war. His passionate, heartfelt plea for peace uses texts from poems by Walt Whitman, himself a hospital volunteer during the American Civil War, a speech given in the House of Commons in 1855 by John Bright in an attempt to prevent the Crimean War, sections of the Bible and part of the Mass. From its initial anguished cry, the work dramatically depicts the violence of war then moves into a quieter reflective sequence of reconciliation. The work is scored for choir, large orchestra and soprano and baritone soloists.
Zadok the Priest is the most popular of the four anthems which Handel composed for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline in Westminster Abbey on 11 October 1727. The words from the Book of Kings have been sung at every English coronation since that of King Edgar in Bath Abbey in 973, and Handel’s setting has been sung at every British one since 1727.
Several of Alwyn’s pieces were inspired by the poetry of William Blake. The Innumerable Dance: an English Overture, written in 1933, is a tone poem for orchestra in praise of Spring. The score is prefaced by some verses from Blake’s poem Milton, including ‘every tree and flower and herb soon fill the air with an innumerable dance’ – Blake’s vision of nature in all its glory.
The link between the two choirs began in 1969 with a town-sponsored visit to Worms by the Chamber Choir. This was followed by a visit to St Albans in 1971 by the choir now known as the Wormser Kantorei, and the first joint concert in what has become the longest-established link in St Albans’ town-twinning programme. For fifty years the two choirs have met and made music together every other year, alternately here and in Germany, and there are many friendships between individual choir members that have been running nearly as long. Today the link is stronger than ever and we celebrate fifty years of music-making together with a concert conducted by both current Musical Directors.
Tickets and Booking: Premium £25 – Centre front with full view Classic £20 – Centre middle with full view or slightly restricted view Standard £15 – Centre back with full view or restricted view No View £10 – Centre or side aisles (No View seats will only be released when seats with views have sold out)
Concessions: Children (under 16) £5 in any seat class Students (with ID) £5 in Classic or Standard class Wheelchair spaces at face value, with carer going free
Saturday 16 February at 7:30pm, St Saviour’s Church, St Albans.
Sergei Rachmaninoff: The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.
Alexander L`Estrange: The Prophet – 60th Anniversary Commission
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s first choral masterpiece, The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, is a setting of the texts of the Eastern Orthodox Eucharist service. It is named after John of Antioch, a fifth-century Archbishop of Constantinople, who was famous for his inspirational sermons (Chrysostom means golden-mouthed). Rachmaninoff composed it in a burst of inspiration in just three weeks. He wrote ‘Not for a long time have I written anything with such pleasure’.
After its premiere in Moscow in 1910, the ecclesiastical authorities refused to sanction it for use in church services and when Rachmaninoff fled into exile after the Russian revolution, the work fell into obscurity. A chance discovery of part books in a monastery in Pennsylvania led to its being republished in 1988 and this glorious piece has now become an established part of the Russian liturgical repertoire.
For the choir’s sixtieth-anniversary commission, local composer Alexander L’Estrange has set three texts from Lebanese-American writer Kahlil Gibran’s book of inspirational poems, The Prophet, published in 1923. The book contains chapters on a number of subjects including joy and sorrow, freedom, work, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching and friendship, and from these Alexander has selected the sections on marriage, children and death and set them for a cappella double choir.
Conducted by John Gibbons
Please join us afterwards for drinks and party nibbles in the Octagon room
Saturday 8 December at 7:30pm, St Peter’s Church, St Albans.
Polychoral Christmas music from the royal courts and cathedrals of 16th and 17th century Europe.
Two outstanding masterpieces by Franco-Flemish composers form the centrepiece of this concert of multi-part music.
Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/1455–1521) composed the six-part motet Praeter rerum seriem towards the end of his career. A parody mass of the same name for seven voices by Cipriano de Rore (1515/1516–1565) was probably written as a homage to his predecessor at the court of the Dukes of Ferrara in northern Italy.
Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554/1557–1612) was organist at St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice from 1585 to 1612. We will be performing his setting of the Magnificat for 17 voices.
Pierre de Manchicourt (c. 1510–1564), another Franco-Flemish composer, composed the six-part motet O Virgo virginum in 1534 while maître de chapelle at Tournai Cathedral in Belgium.
Several eight-part motets complete the programme: Nesciens Mater by Jean Mouton (c. 1459–1522), Hodie Christus natus est by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594) and two settings of In dulci jubilo by the German composers Hieronymus Praetorius (1560–1629) and Samuel Scheidt (1587–1654).
Conducted by John Gibbons
Please join us afterwards for drinks and party nibbles in the Octagon room
Alan Knott reviews St Albans Chamber Choir’s recent Festive Bach concert
St Albans Chamber Choir’s concert Festive Bach on Saturday, April 28 attracted such a large audience to St Saviour’s Church that extra chairs had to be put out.
Escaping the cold and damp evening (and wall-to-wall snooker on TV), the music lovers of St Albans and Harpenden flocked to hear the choir, with Amici Voices and the Lawes Baroque Players, performing Bach cantatas composed for church services from Easter to Pentecost.
Close your eyes and you could have been in Leipzig three hundred years ago, hearing music which is not only universal in its inevitable working out to a satisfying conclusion, but personal in its direct and joyful confirmation of faith.
Musical director John Gibbons set a cracking and exhilarating pace throughout, emphasising the playfulness of the music. Bach can be fun.
The performers were well up to the challenge. Amici Voices – Rachel Ambrose Evans, Helen Charlston, Hiroshi Amato and Michael Craddock – confidently and superbly provided the solo parts.
The Lawes Baroque Players ably and securely underpinned the whole performance, with trumpets providing an extra flourish. The choir excelled throughout, showing their virtuosity in the demanding unaccompanied motet, Fürchte dich nicht, as well as in the joyful affirmation O ewiges Feuer. This must have lifted the spirits of everyone in the audience.