Here Comes the Sun, 28th January 2023

Miki Phillips reviews St Albans Chamber Choir’s ‘Here comes the sun!’

Although the advert for the St Albans Chamber Choir concert at St Mary’s in Walkern on 28th January 2023 optimistically promised sunshine, on the day of the event winter gloom prevailed outside.  But inside the talented members of the choir brought their own light and colour, not just in the mix of their bright jackets, jumpers and scarves, but also in the variety of music with which they entertained the music lovers crammed into the pews and the overflow seats at the back of the church. 

The choir was led once again by their gifted and understated music director, John Gibbons BEM, who kept his singers on their toes by announcing the concert numbers as they occurred to him (rather than by following a set programme), and who’s off the cuff introductory comments about the music and its background were both informative and a delight.  These ranged from the sound picture he painted before the Rachmaninoff piece (monks chanting a bass line on autopilot while soprano angels swooped overhead) through to the sensory illusion of thousands of candles and billowing incense accompanying a very orthodox backdrop for the “Ave verum”.  This contrasted with his personal story about his family’s purported descent from the famed Orlando Gibbons prior to the introduction of “The Silver Swan”.

With only his tuning fork to find the note, John guided the choir through intricate multi part harmonies down the centuries and across music genres, from sacred and classical to folk and pop tunes.  Some were lesser known works, some were very familiar and some like the Howard Goodall version of “Love Divine”, opened the door to a joyous new setting of this traditional hymn’s well-loved lyrics.

And finally, after a fascinating medley of Beatles hits given the Gibbons treatment, the sun came out for us all with an upbeat version of George Harrison’s famous song, followed by tea, coffee wine and cakes. Funds raised at this event will be shared between Friends of St Mary’s and the St Albans Chamber choir.

Miki Phillips, March 2023 Walkern Journal

Love DivineHoward Goodall
Adam lay yboundenBoris Ord
Tomorrow shall be my dancing dayarr Willcocks
Verbum caroJohn Gibbons
O Radiant DawnJames MacMillan
… and a Beatles medley

The St Albans Chamber Choir concert in 2022.
A rare musical treat to lift the spirits
On 5th February 2022, on a fairly murky afternoon, more than 80 music lovers gathered in St Mary’s church to listen to the St Albans Chamber Choir perform a concert of choral music designed to lift the spirits into the light. The programme ranged from the sacred and sublime to operatic and concert pieces (including an intriguing fast changing miscellany of well known numbers where the audience was challenged to “Name that tune”) and ended in less highbrow music including a rousing toe tapping Tequila Samba. The choir’s Musical Director John Gibbons BEM provided an entertaining and instructive commentary on each piece of music and the choir members clearly enjoyed themselves singing a cappella using St Mary’s excellent acoustics to their best advantage.
(from a review by Miki Philips in the Walkern Journal)