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

Book now

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

A Sea Symphony: Saturday 12 October 2019

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A Sea Symphony

Saturday 12 October at 7:30pm, St Albans Cathedral

St Albans Chamber Choir joins its fellow members of the St Albans St Cecilia Festival Society – The Hardynge Choir, Radlett Choral Society and St Albans Symphony Orchestra – and Vivamus in St Albans Abbey to perform music with a nautical theme:

Ralph Vaughan WilliamsA Sea Symphony – which sets text from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

Benjamin BrittenDawn and Sunday Morning from Peter Grimes

Benjamin BrittenFanfare for St Edmundsbury

Jonathan DoveSeaside Postcards – sung by a Massed Children’s Choir from across Hertfordshire

The post of conductor for this biennial concert is rotated among the member organisations. This year it is the turn of Rufus Frowde, Musical Director of The Hardynge Choir. Rufus read music at Oxford University and is currently Organist and Assistant Director of Music at the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace.

TICKETS (£28 – £10) are available from St Albans Cathedral either online at stalbanscathedral.org/Event/a-sea-symphony or from the Cathedral Box Office (tel 01727 890290) located in the Gift Shop and open 10 am–4.45 pm Monday – Friday, 10 am–3.45 pm Saturday and 1 pm–5 pm Sunday

John Gibbons awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

The following words are taken from Franki Berry’s article in the Herts Advertiser, 13 June 2019

John Gibbons BEM

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”…

Peace of Versailles: Saturday 29 June 2019

Peace of Versailles

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’s Cantate 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.

Tickets £15 (£5 child/student)

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

or buy online at TicketSource

Book now