Epiphany, 6th January 2024

Performance Review

Amongst the rest of the programme, the choir had the pleasure of performing “Polaris”, a lyric by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage set to an original tune by St Albans teenager Rebecca, it won the Radio 3 Carol Competition 2023.

Rebecca pictured with our Musical Director John Gibbons and Choir Admin Suzie Renshaw

One of our audience had this to say – “St Saviour’s is a beautiful concert venue, with fairy lights strung across the nave.  It can be chilly though – and a cup of mulled wine was an inspirational idea to help warm the audience on arrival –  and St Albans Chamber Choir certainly further warmed our spirits with their singing.  The Choir was on excellent form with all voices and parts blending well together.  The programme was varied, ranging from the sixteenth century right up to 2023 with John Gibbons’ introductions adding both background context and insight. The concert opened with Peter Cornelius’ well known “The Kings” , the solo part beautifully sung by Ralph Penny.  We were then treated to a performance of the winning carol in BBC Radio 3’s 2023 Carol Competition Junior Category – a setting of Simon Armitage’s Polaris by Rebecca from St Albans. This was enchanting, superbly accompanied by choir-member, Susie Renshaw, and it was particularly special to have Rebecca and her family in the audience.  Other highlights for this audience member included Morton Lauridsen’s  “O magnum mysterium” , Elizabeth Poston’s “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” and John Tavener’s “The Lamb”.  These were goose-bump inducing with their clarity and musical sensitivity.  Howard Goodall’s “Romance of the Epiphany”, by contrast, showcased the joyful, almost playful side to the Choir, leaving the audience tapping their toes.  The Choir’s energy was sustained throughout the programme and their enjoyment of the music was evident – not surprising when they produced such a beautiful sound.”

Original Description

Celebrating Epiphany – when a star led the Magi to Bethlehem  – this concert is full of joy and hope to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and kick off the new year with a festive selection of music and carols spanning the centuries.

We’re pleased to be given an opportunity to perform “Polaris” with music composed by a local St Albans resident – Rebecca composed the piece to accompany the poem by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, and in the process, at 13 years of age, this year became the youngest ever winner of the BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition.

Dating from the time of Mary I, Missa Puer natus est nobis by Thomas Tallis was unusual at the time. Written for 7 voice parts, rather than 5 and without switching between solo and chorus, the mass provides a rich sound with dramatic effects throughout.

Twentieth century delights include Bethlehem Down by Peter Warlock, written in 1927 together with poet Bruce Blunt, apparently to raise some money for Christmas drinking funds! John Tavener(the modern one) also took the words of a poem and set William Blake’s the Lamb to music in just 15 minutes, packing it full of unconventional harmony and interlocking lines.

Morten Lauridsen, the American mystic composer, sensitively and spiritually tells the story of the birth of Jesus in his composition O Magnum Mysterium, based on a Gregorian chant traditionally used for vigil on Christmas Day. Just slightly more contemporary, written in 2000, we sing the joyful and uplifting carol Romance of the Epiphany by Howard Goodall.

Please join us in the church hall after the concert for tea and cakes post concert.

Polaris – Rebecca
Peter Cornelius – The 3 Kings
Arnold Bax – I sing of a maiden
Thomas Tallis – Mass: Puer natus est nobis, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei
Peter Warlock – Bethlehem Down
Marenzio/Palestrina – Tribus Maraculis
Morten Lauridsen – O Magnum Mysterium
Elizabeth Poston – Jesus Christ the apple tree
Andrew Carter – 12 days of Christmas
Howard Goodall – Romance of the Epiphany