Golden Jubilee Celebrations: Saturday 27 April 2019

St Albans Chamber Choir Golden Jubilee Celebrations with Wormser Kantorei Saturday 27 April 2019 at 7.30pm, in 
the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, St Albans AL1 1BY

John Gibbons and Stefan Merkelbach conductors
Ealing Symphony Orchestra

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the association between St Albans Chamber Choir and the Wormser Kantorei from St Albans’ twin town of Worms in southwestern Germany, the two choirs combine with Ealing Symphony Orchestra to present a concert of the following works:

Mozart – Krönungsmesse (Coronation Mass)
Vaughan Williams – Dona nobis pacem
Handel – Zadok the Priest
Alwyn – The Innumerable Dance

Mozart’s Mass No.15 in C major, K. 317, later known as the Krönungsmesse (Coronation Mass), was first performed on Easter Sunday, 4 April 1779 in Salzburg Cathedral. The 23-year-old Mozart had just taken up the post of court organist and composer to the exacting Archbishop Colloredo and was required to write a missa brevis (short Mass) but with full orchestral accompaniment and four soloists. His response was to create a 30-minute masterpiece capable of filling a huge cathedral and creating an atmosphere of great joy. The nickname Krönungsmesse was added in 1862 but its origin is obscure. It may stem from the Mass having been performed in Prague in 1791 at the coronation of Leopold II and also of Francis I the following year. It certainly became popular at the Imperial Court in Vienna in the early nineteenth century as the preferred music for coronations.

Vaughan Williams served with the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front in World War 1. He wrote the cantata Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace) in 1936 amid widespread anguish that the worsening political situation in Europe would lead again to war. His passionate, heartfelt plea for peace uses texts from poems by Walt Whitman, himself a hospital volunteer during the American Civil War, a speech given in the House of Commons in 1855 by John Bright in an attempt to prevent the Crimean War, sections of the Bible and part of the Mass. From its initial anguished cry, the work dramatically depicts the violence of war then moves into a quieter reflective sequence of reconciliation. The work is scored for choir, large orchestra and soprano and baritone soloists.

Zadok the Priest is the most popular of the four anthems which Handel composed for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline in Westminster Abbey on 11 October 1727. The words from the Book of Kings have been sung at every English coronation since that of King Edgar in Bath Abbey in 973, and Handel’s setting has been sung at every British one since 1727.

Several of Alwyn’s pieces were inspired by the poetry of William Blake. The Innumerable Dance: an English Overture, written in 1933, is a tone poem for orchestra in praise of Spring. The score is prefaced by some verses from Blake’s poem Milton, including ‘every tree and flower and herb soon fill the air with an innumerable dance’ – Blake’s vision of nature in all its glory.

The link between the two choirs began in 1969 with a town-sponsored visit to Worms by the Chamber Choir. This was followed by a visit to St Albans in 1971 by the choir now known as the Wormser Kantorei, and the first joint concert in what has become the longest-established link in St Albans’ town-twinning programme. For fifty years the two choirs have met and made music together every other year, alternately here and in Germany, and there are many friendships between individual choir members that have been running nearly as long. Today the link is stronger than ever and we celebrate fifty years of music-making together with a concert conducted by both current Musical Directors.

Tickets and Booking:
Premium £25 – Centre front with full view
Classic £20 – Centre middle with full view or slightly restricted view
Standard £15 – Centre back with full view or restricted view
No View £10 – Centre or side aisles (No View seats will only be released when seats with views have sold out)

Children (under 16) £5 in any seat class
Students (with ID) £5 in Classic or Standard class
Wheelchair spaces at face value, with carer going free

Cathedral Box Office: 01727 890290 or online at or visit the Cathedral

Mystic Voices: Saturday 16 February 2019

Mystic Voices

Saturday 16 February at 7:30pm, St Saviour’s Church, St Albans.

Sergei Rachmaninoff: The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.

Alexander L`Estrange: The Prophet – 60th Anniversary Commission

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s first choral masterpiece, The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, is a setting of the texts of the Eastern Orthodox Eucharist service. It is named after John of Antioch, a fifth-century Archbishop of Constantinople, who was famous for his inspirational sermons (Chrysostom means golden-mouthed). Rachmaninoff composed it in a burst of inspiration in just three weeks. He wrote ‘Not for a long time have I written anything with such pleasure’.

After its premiere in Moscow in 1910, the ecclesiastical authorities refused to sanction it for use in church services and when Rachmaninoff fled into exile after the Russian revolution, the work fell into obscurity. A chance discovery of part books in a monastery in Pennsylvania led to its being republished in 1988 and this glorious piece has now become an established part of the Russian liturgical repertoire.

For the choir’s sixtieth-anniversary commission, local composer Alexander L’Estrange has set three texts from Lebanese-American writer Kahlil Gibran’s book of inspirational poems, The Prophet, published in 1923. The book contains chapters on a number of subjects including joy and sorrow, freedom, work, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching and friendship, and from these Alexander has selected the sections on marriage, children and death and set them for a cappella double choir.

Conducted by John Gibbons

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

Tickets £15 (£5 child/student)

Call 07570 454744 or e-mail

or buy online at TicketSource

Book now

Renaissance Christmas: Saturday 8 December 2018

A Renaissance Christmas

Saturday 8 December at 7:30pm, St Peter’s Church, St Albans.

Polychoral Christmas music from the royal courts and cathedrals of 16th and 17th century Europe.

Two outstanding masterpieces by Franco-Flemish composers form the centrepiece of this concert of multi-part music.

Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/1455–1521) composed the six-part motet Praeter rerum seriem towards the end of his career. A  parody  mass  of  the  same name for seven voices by Cipriano de Rore (1515/1516–1565) was probably written as a homage to his predecessor at the court of the Dukes of Ferrara in northern Italy.

Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554/1557–1612) was organist at St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice from 1585 to 1612. We will be performing his setting of the Magnificat for 17 voices.

Pierre de Manchicourt (c. 1510–1564), another Franco-Flemish composer, composed the six-part motet O Virgo virginum in 1534 while maître de chapelle at Tournai Cathedral in Belgium.

Several eight-part motets complete the programme: Nesciens Mater  by  Jean  Mouton (c. 1459–1522), Hodie Christus natus est by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594) and two settings of In dulci jubilo by the German composers Hieronymus Praetorius (1560–1629) and Samuel Scheidt (1587–1654).

Conducted by John Gibbons

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

Tickets £15 (£5 child/student)

Call 07570 454744 or e-mail

or buy online at TicketSource

Book now

Sax & the City: 20 October 2018, St Saviour’s Church @ 7:30pm

Click above to download flyer

Contemporary music for saxophone and voices.

In the 1840s, Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax set out to invent an instrument that could combine the agility of the woodwinds with the power of the brass instruments, to fill the vacant middle ground between the two sections. The result was the saxophone, nowadays said to be the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice in terms of richness of harmonics and expressivity.

Our concert showcases three pieces for alto saxophone and voices, along with two choral works by our president, Will Todd, and other lighter pieces with a city theme.

Timepieces – Three Auden Lyrics (2011) by Ian Stephens sets three poems by WH Auden (Domesday Song, Our bias and Funeral Blues) for alto saxophone and SATB choir.

Richard Sisson set Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem Pied Beauty for the choir of Merton College Oxford in celebration of their 750th anniversary in 2015. It uses alto saxophone and organ.

Vocalise (1915) by Sergei Rachmaninoff is a song without words, sung using any one vowel of the singer’s choosing, and has been has been arranged for many different instrument combinations. We will be performing it in an SATB arrangement with alto saxophone and piano.

Will Todd’s Angel Song II (2008) is part of a larger choral work inspired by the idea of voices from heaven. It is another wordless piece; the text is designed to create the echo of the word ‘hosanna’ but with no consonants, so that the music feels as if it comes from ‘on high’.

Songs of Love (2012) sets three works by the Greek neo-romantic poet Maria Polydouri:  I Love You, A Kiss and I Sing Because.

The lighter pieces in the programme include arrangements of Tony Hatch’s Downtown, New York, New York by John Kander and Fred Ebb and The House of the Rising Sun (trad.)

Conducted by John Gibbons

Isabel Kernthaler       saxophone

Nicholas Robinson       organ and piano

Concert Review: Festive Bach, Saturday 28 April 2018

Alan Knott reviews St Albans Chamber Choir’s recent Festive Bach concert

St Albans Chamber Choir’s concert Festive Bach on Saturday, April 28 attracted such a large audience to St Saviour’s Church that extra chairs had to be put out.

Escaping the cold and damp evening (and wall-to-wall snooker on TV), the music lovers of St Albans and Harpenden flocked to hear the choir, with Amici Voices and the Lawes Baroque Players, performing Bach cantatas composed for church services from Easter to Pentecost.

Close your eyes and you could have been in Leipzig three hundred years ago, hearing music which is not only universal in its inevitable working out to a satisfying conclusion, but personal in its direct and joyful confirmation of faith.

Musical director John Gibbons set a cracking and exhilarating pace throughout, emphasising the playfulness of the music. Bach can be fun.

The performers were well up to the challenge. Amici Voices – Rachel Ambrose Evans, Helen Charlston, Hiroshi Amato and Michael Craddock – confidently and superbly provided the solo parts.

The Lawes Baroque Players ably and securely underpinned the whole performance, with trumpets providing an extra flourish. The choir excelled throughout, showing their virtuosity in the demanding unaccompanied motet, Fürchte dich nicht, as well as in the joyful affirmation O ewiges Feuer. This must have lifted the spirits of everyone in the audience.

Alan Knott

Herts Advertiser, 10 May 2018

Concert Review: Songs of Farewell, Sunday 25 February 2018

John Manning reviews St Albans Chamber Choir.

Music of the 20th century by such composers as Duruflé and Fauré did much to endear French music of that period to audiences in the UK but until Sunday night few in St Albans had heard of Alfred Desenclos.

Yet his Requiem Mass written in 1963, the main work in St Albans Chamber Choir’s concert in St Peter’s Church, was a real delight.

John Gibbons, the choir’s musical director, first heard the work in a BBC Radio 3 review of a new recording by a London choir and immediately decided he wanted to perform it.

The result was Sunday’s fine performance by the chamber choir accompanied by organist Martin Stacey, who had stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Christopher Cromar who was indisposed. The work is very French, and while not quite up to the standard of Duruflé or Fauré, is a welcome addition to the repertoire.

Hubert Parry’s Songs of Farewell opened the concert. Written during the latter years of World War One, they came at a time when the composer was depressed at the futility of the situation. The six songs are deeply moving, and the choir’s performance reflected the mood of the music.

For me the high spot of the evening was Sir Michael Tippett’s five spirituals from A Child of our Time. The five are choral gems and the choir’s performance was excellent, particularly the solo spots by unnamed members of the choir.

They opened the second half with the short song O Tod, wie bitter bist du by the Bavarian composer Max Reger.

Best known for his organ music, performances of Reger’s songs are something of a rarity and, for me something of a revelation for, I must admit, I generally find his organ works too heavy and loud for my taste.

The song, in contrast, exhibited a much lighter touch and the performance by the choir. My personal views of Reger’s music applies to Martin Stacey’s choice of his second solo, Reger’s Introduction and Passacaglia in D minor which followed the song.

But it has to be said his performance of the work and his earlier performance of Herbert Howells’ Master Tallis’ Testament proved his skill and artistry and also that he had great respect for St Peter’s Church’s powerful organ


Herts Advertiser, 1 March 2018