Come and Sing – Haydn’s Creation

Sunday 19 June 2-5pm, Homewood Road URC, St Albans, AL1 4BH

The St Cecilia Festival Society combines four choirs from the St Albans area – St Albans Chamber Choir, Aeolian Singers, Hardynge Choir and Radlett Choir – with St Albans Symphony Orchestra

We come together every two years to perform a major choral work in St Albans Abbey.

On October 15th we will perform Haydn’s Creation

Come and sing this amazing piece with us in a free workshop, led by our conductor, John Gibbons. Music and refreshments provided.

Book your place at workshop@stalbanschamberchoir.org.uk

I Got Rhythm: Saturday 11 June 2022 at 2pm

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Summer jazz with strawberries and cream

Taking its title from a set of brilliant improvisations by Antony Saunders of George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm for choir and piano, this concert showcases jazz-enriched choral music.

John Rutter celebrates another jazz great – George Shearing – in his choral suite Birthday Madrigals, written for his friend’s 75th birthday. Five poems from the era of the Elizabethan madrigal and two by Shakespeare are set to jazz rhythms combined with the styles of the English madrigal and part-song.

In the Beginning by Aaron Copland takes text from the Book of Genesis (King James Version) to describe the six days of creation followed by a day of rest. It is scored for choir and mezzo-soprano soloist.

Mystic composer Morten Lauridsen uses poems in French, Spanish and English by the twentieth century poets Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda and James Agee with the common theme of night in his song cycle Nocturnes for choir and piano.

In Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, composer Eric Whitacre and poet Charles Anthony Silvestri create a soundtrack to Leonardo da Vinci’s imagination as he dreams about the possibility of flight.

Heitor Villa-Lobos believed that if Johann Sebastian Bach had been born in twentieth century Brazil, he would have composed music like the Bachianas Brasileiras suite, fusing his own style with Brazilian folk and popular music. No 9 is written for an ‘orchestra of voices’.

Please join us after the concert for summer refreshments in the garden

Conducted by John Gibbons

Tickets £16 (£2 child (under 18), £5 student)

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

or buy online at TicketSource

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

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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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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

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Hail! Bright Cecilia: Saturday 23 November 2019

Hail! Bright Cecilia

Saturday 23 November at 7:30pm, St Peter’s Church, St Albans.

Twentieth and twenty-first-century British composers celebrate the patron saint of music.

Benjamin Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia

James MacMillan: Cecilia Virgo

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Silence and Music

and music by Bliss, Dyson, Gardner, Howells, Jackson and Walton

Samantha Cobb – soprano
Martin Stacey – organ

Conducted by John Gibbons

The legendary Christian saint, Cecilia, suffered martyrdom in Rome around 230 AD. It was said that she sang to God as she was dying, leading the Catholic Church to adopt her as the patron saint of music and musicians.

Her feast day has been celebrated on 22 November since the fourth century and for many centuries has been the occasion for concerts and music festivals, resulting in a large number of pieces dedicated to her.

Benjamin Britten, himself born on St Cecilia’s Day, composed his own Hymn to St Cecilia in 1942, setting WH Auden’s poem Anthem for St Cecilia’s Day. The broadcast of this work in 1946 prompted the Musicians Benevolent Fund (now Help Musicians UK) to revive the tradition of an annual service of celebration for St Cecilia in London. Our concert includes three works commissioned for this festival over the years: Sir George Dyson’s Live for ever, glorious Lord (1952), John Gardner’s A song for St Cecilia’s Day (1973) and Sing, mortals! (1974) by Sir Arthur Bliss.

The Choir of Royal Holloway College, London also holds an annual St Cecilia concert and we feature two of their commissions. James MacMillan uses a Latin text dating from the 1500s in his Cecilia Virgo (2012), while Gabriel Jackson’s La Musique uses French and English texts and was jointly commissioned by the choir and Dame Felicity Lott in 2013.

Where does the uttered music go? by Sir William Walton sets words by Poet Laureate John Masefield. It was written for the unveiling of a memorial window to Sir Henry Wood, founder of the Proms, in the church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in London on 26 April 1946.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ setting of his new wife Ursula’s poem Silence and Music is part of A Garland for the Queen, a cycle of part-songs commissioned from leading British composers by the Arts Council of Great Britain to honour Queen Elizabeth II in her Coronation Year (1953).

Herbert Howells also uses words by Ursula Vaughan Williams in his A Hymn for St Cecilia (1961), commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Musicians to mark his Mastership of the Company in 1959–60.

Please join us afterwards for drinks and party nibbles in the Octagon.

Tickets £15 (£5 child/student)

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

or buy online at TicketSource

Book now