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

Click the image to download the flyer

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

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 www.stalbanscathedral.org 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 tickets@stalbanschamberchoir.org.uk

or buy online at TicketSource

Book now