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

Shakespeare in Song: Saturday 30th April 2016

]Next Concert – Saturday 30 April 7.30pm

St Saviour’s Church
St Albans
AL14DF


Vaughan Williams  Serenade to Music
Vaughan Williams  Three Shakespeare songs

And works by Shearing, Mäntyjärvi, Moeran, Rodney Bennett & Milner

Conductor John  Gibbons

Readings by Rosemarie Partridge & Terry Prince

William Shakespeare’s verse has long been an inspiration and source for many composers. In celebration of the four- hundredth anniversary of his death, this concert features a selection of songs and music, setting lyrics drawn from the bard’s plays and sonnets, where the timeless beauty of his words is enhanced by song.

The programme includes the choral version of Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, which was dedicated to Sir Henry Wood. Its text is an adaptation of the discussion about music between the lovers Jessica and Lorenzo from the beginning of Act V of The Merchant of Venice. Declarations of love are juxtaposed with comparisons of the movement of heavenly bodies (the “music of the spheres”), while contemplating the beauty of music by night and by day. At its premiere in 1938, this exquisite and passionate setting moved Rachmaninov to tears.

Other Vaughan Williams works being performed include Three Shakespeare Songs, with words drawn from The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These expressive miniatures for unaccompanied choir range from the eerie portrayal of underwater bells in Full Fathom Five to the nimble and flighty Over Hill, Over Dale.

The programme also features two delightful groups of settings by composer, jazz pianist and swing-band leader George Shearing, who drew on Shakespeare’s sonnets for the words to his Music to Hear and Songs and Sonnets. Other Shakespeare songs by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, E J Moeran, Anthony Milner are also included, as is Richard Rodney Bennett’s Full Fathom Five, another of the three very different versions of Ariel’s song in the programme.

The performance is interspersed with Shakespearean readings by Rosemarie Partridge and Terry Prince of The Company of Ten, and is conducted by our Musical Director, John Gibbons.

Tickets £14 (£1 child/student)
Tel 07570 454744 or email tickets@stalbanschamberchoir.org.uk
or online at allaboutstalbans

 Part of the St Albans Shakespeare Festival

Concert Review: Duruflé Requiem by Candlelight, Saturday 6th February 2016

Chamber Choir Requiem concert shows the way

One of the delights of concerts by the St Albans Chamber Choir is that musical director John Gibbons frequently springs surprises.

Often it is a performance of a work by a little-known composer or a neglected work by a well-known one and occasionally he puts his own twist into something with outstanding results.

Saturday’s concert by the choir at St Peter’s Church in St Albans was full of all three starting with Charles Villiers Stanford’s wonderful and all-too-rarely performed unaccompanied Magnificat for Double Choir, a powerful and joyous work which made a fitting start to a concert where the first half was made up mainly of 20th century English music.

The choir followed with the setting of Psalm 130 – Out of the depths I cry unto thee – by the little known English composer George Lloyd.

At the heart of the work is a stunning soprano solo, delightfully sung by Joanne Scott.

Yet another little-known English composer is Edmund Rubbra and here John Gibbons introduced his own twist to the composer’s Song of the Soul.

Normally performed with just an organ accompaniment, John added a cello part to Saturday’s performance which was exquisitely played by Michael Wigram.

The first half ended with Parry’s At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners from his Songs of Farewell, a fine and moving work well handled by the choir.

A feature of the first half of the programme was two short organ solos by St Albans Cathedral Organ Scholar Nicholas Freestone with Herbert Howells’ Master Tallis’s Testament and In Paradisum by the French organist Jean-Yves Daniel- Lesur.

The main work of the evening was Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem.

While the work itself is undoubtedly a masterpiece, the all-too-brief Pie Jesu which lies at its heart is its absolute highlight and on Saturday its performance by mezzo soprano Helen Charlston accompanied by Nicholas Freestone and Michael Wigram was, for me, the pinnacle of  the entire evening.

Helen, former head chorister of the St Albans Abbey Girls’ Choir and founder of Amici Voices, together with the two instrumentalists, produced one of those spine-tingling moments which will stay with me for a long time.

The tenor solo in the Requiem was sung by Andrew Shepstone.

JOHN MANNING, Herts Advertiser, February 2016

Duruflé Requiem by Candlelight: Saturday 6th February 2016

Next Concert – Saturday 6 February 7.30pm

St Peter’s Church
St Albans
AL1 3HG

Stanford Magnificat for double choir
Rubbra   Song of the Soul
and works by Hubert Parry and George Lloyd

John Gibbons conductor

Nicholas Freestone organ

Helen Charlston mezzo-soprano

Andrew Shepstone baritone

In his 1947 Requiem, Maurice Duruflé blended themes from the Gregorian plainchant Mass of the Dead with mid-20th century rhythms and harmonies to create a work of great spiritual intensity. His consummate skills as an organist are demonstrated in the accompaniment, which fully matches the calm and meditative character of the vocal parts.

Duruflé’s masterpiece will be complemented by four 20th century works of English mysticism: Charles Villiers Stanford’s Magnificat for double choir, George Lloyd’s powerful and lyrical setting of Psalm 130, Edmund Rubbra’s Song of the Soul, a 1952 composition of great beauty and spiritual depth, and Hubert Parry’s At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners, from his seven Songs of Farewell (1918).

For this performance, the Choir will be accompanied by organist Nicholas Freestone, with mezzo-soprano  Helen Charlston and baritone Andrew Shepstone, and directed by the Choir’s informative and charismatic conductor, John Gibbons.

Tickets £14 (£1 child/student)
Tel 07570 454744 or email tickets@stalbanschamberchoir.org.uk
or online at allaboutstalbans

Concert Review: Bach B Minor Mass, 28 November 2015

Mass meets Bach’s hopes

One of  the pinnacles of  Johann Sebastian Bach’s huge career is his monumental Mass in B Minor yet surprisingly the great man never heard it in its entirety as it did not receive its complete performance until more than a century after his death.

But I would like to think that the performance given on Saturday by the St Albans Chamber Choir with the Lawes Baroque Players and four outstanding young soloists from the Amici Voices would have met his expectations.

The combination of the choir, soloists and orchestra in St Saviour’s Church, St Albans, produced a performance of exceptional quality.

The mass is a monumental work which demands great stamina from hose performing it but throughout the choir performed excellently. Its performance of the section of the credo beginning Et incarnates est de Spiritu Sancto was particularly fine.

Equally the four soloists, soprano Bethany Partridge, alto Helen Charleston, tenor Hiroshi Amako and baritone Michael Craddock brought real quality to the overall performance. These are young performers of great quality and talent which shone though in their performances.

But equally the outstanding performance by the Lawes Baroque Players, both collectively and individually, was an essential part of making a great overall impact.

The group, brought together by Harpenden-based violinist Miles Golding, is made up of some of the country’s leading exponents in the use of period instruments and throughout the evening the quality of the music they produced was an absolute delight.

One must not forget conductor John Gibbons who steered the epic work through its many changes in mood and tempo. His direction produced a sensitive and well regulated performance.

JOHN MANNING, Herts Advertiser, November 2015