Thomas Tallis – Mass Puer natus est nobis Arnold Bax – I sing of a maiden Praetorius/Sandstrom – Es ist ein Ros entspungen George Lloyd – Invocation to the Virgin Mary Morten Lauridsen – O Magnum Mysterium Peter Cornelius – The 3 Kings Clemns non Papa – Magi veniunt ab oriente Marenzio/Palestrina – Tribus Maraculis Peter Warlock – Bethlehem Down Elizabeth Poston – Jesus Christ the apple tree John Tavener – The Lamb Howard Goodall – Romance of the Epiphany arr. Ralph Allwood – Jingle Bells arr. Andrew Carter – 12 days of Christmas
The programme for this performance will include Poulenc Figure Humaine and Fauré Requiem.
A note taken in interview with our Musical Director:
“Poulenc Figure Humaine is one of the great pieces of the 20th century, and it’s even more extraordinary that it was composed in 1943 in occupied France, and whether it’s capturing a sense of despair but the hope as well of what was going on, what life must have been like in France at that time, but it contains so many beautiful moments of music and then some of real terror. And then this incredible finale, which is Liberté, and it’s like a chance to express that desire to be free in the midst of occupation, which is quite extraordinary.
And coupled with that, the one of the great requiems of all time. Not a loud bombastic piece, but a piece much more about hope and light Fauré’s Requiem, which is just such a beautiful piece of music of such hope. And I know for so many people it’s one of the top requiems with that incredibly beautiful finale In Paradisum, where the sound just floats as if heavenward. And it’s amazing how it creates this effect at the very end of it, almost having left the Earth, with the bassist singing the fifth of the chord and not the root of the chord so the music is suspended in the air.” – John Gibbons
This concert falls on Remembrance weekend and pays homage to all those who have served their country in times of conflict.
Performed by the BBC Singers at this year’s Proms Poulenc’s Figure Humaine is described as ‘one of the most striking works of contemporary choral music’. Completed in 1943 during the Nazi Occupation of France, the work was based on anti-war poems written by Paul Éluard and completed in just 6 weeks.
Scored for 2 six-part choirs, the Cantata describes the misery and terror of conflict using breath-taking and often complex musical variety and expression, culminating in a climactic hymn to freedom.
In contrast to the dramatic and passionate anti-war masterpiece, we turn to the calmer but equally influential French choral work Fauré’s Requiem. Said to have composed it for pleasure and not as a tribute to his Father’s death, Fauré maintains a positive and comforting mood, focusing the work on redemption and the entrance to heaven, rather than the oppression of death. The piece was even played at his own funeral in 1924.
We are joined by members of Ealing Symphony Orchestra and Bass-Baritone Andrew Jarvis whose credits include singing at the Royal Opera House and duets with Katherine Jenkins at the Royal Albert Hall annual Festival of Remembrance.
Please join us at the back of the church for nibbles and drinks post concert.
A full programme booklet will be available on the door.
This concert takes us away from sacred choral works and delves into a world of folksongs, love songs, a unicorn, a robin and The Beatles!
Full of drama and character, Who killed Cock Robin?, by the English composer Jonathan Dove, takes the 18th century rhyme and inventively retells the witty story. The Beatles also gets a shake up with And I love her, Yesterday and Let it be set for choir by our own conductor John Gibbons.
An exception amongst the mainly English compositions in this concert is Unicornis Captivatur by Ola Gjeilo, a Norwegian composer. This piece, written in 2001, was inspired by a compilation of medieval chants found in a monastery. Ola explains, “I was greatly inspired by the colourful and powerful symbolism and just the sheer drama, joy and sense of triumph… with a wild medieval Latin text that includes a unicorn, lion, and a crocodile.”
Even the weather, the most quintessentially English of topics, is sung about in Bob Chilcott’s energetic and quirky piece, Weather Report.
Please join us after the concert for summer refreshments in the hall and garden.
With the impending Coronation of King Charles III, this concert celebrates uplifting and joyous music. We take a look at pieces from coronations dating back to James II in 1685, with music from Boyce, Purcell, Blow, Clarke and of course Handel. Handel’s setting of Zadok the Priest has been used at every coronation since George II in 1727, so will be in this line up but along with a few surprises. We look forward to seeing you there
Composed in early 1915, which was a time of great political upheaval in Russia and across the world, Rachmaninoff creates a reflective and deeply moving set of Vespers inviting a call for the resolution of conflict through prayer. An unaccompanied piece, he uses the choir as the orchestra, to divide and merge and create ethereal harmonies full of richness and colour with an impressive bass sound. Described as ‘the greatest achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church’, it is loved by singers and audiences alike. The call for resolution in conflict is still much needed and it’s an honour to be performing Rachmaninoff Vespers in the tranquil surroundings of the 14th century Lady Chapel of St Albans Cathedral. A huge work, full of tradition and emotion, yet aspiration for a resolution to conflict in a difficult time which still resonates today.
The programme stays in the Romantic period with MendelssohnDer zweite Psalm and Mahler Ich bin der Welt and dips into Renaissance for Allegri Miserere, originally solely sung in the Sistine Chapel.
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
Adam lay ybounden
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
O Radiant Dawn
… 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)