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

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

A Tudor Christmas: Saturday 9 December 2017

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Saturday 9 December 2017

7.30pm

St Peter’s Church, St Peter’s Street

St Albans AL1 3HG

John Gibbons conductor

 


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TRAVEL BACK TO TUDOR AND STUART TIMES for a concert of glorious music written by the musicians of the royal court for performance at church services around Christmastime.

The centrepiece is the seven-part Mass Puer natus est nobis (A boy is born to us) by Thomas Tallis, believed to have been composed for a flamboyant ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral on Christmas Day 1554 following the recent marriage of Queen Mary Tudor and King Philip II of Spain.

The earliest piece in the concert comes from the early 1500s – Quid petis, o fili? (What do you seek, my son?), a Christmas carol in both English and Latin by Richard Pygott, a member of Henry VIII’s Chapel Royal.

John Sheppard was another Gentleman of the Chapel Royals of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary. He wrote the responsory Verbum caro factus est (The Word was made flesh) to be sung at Matins on Christmas Day.

William Byrd’s set of six Christmas and Epiphany motets O magnum mysterium – Beata Virgo, Hodie Christus natus est, Puer natus est nobis, Surge, illuminare Jerusalem, Viderunt omnes and Tui sunt coeli were composed in 1607 for private Roman Catholic ceremonies during a period of religious persecution by Mary’s successor, the Protestant Elizabeth I.

Two musicians from the Chapel Royal of the Stuart king James I are also represented. Robert Ramsey wrote the lament Sleep, fleshly birth following the untimely death of James’s older son Prince Henry in 1612, while Orlando Gibbons was organist at Westminster Abbey in 1616 when he composed the beautiful anthem See, see the Word is incarnate, setting an extraordinary text which covers the whole of the liturgical year.

The music will be interspersed with seasonal readings by members of the choir.

We look forward to welcoming you to St Peter’s Church to hear some wonderful music then to meet the performers and enjoy some Tudor-style refreshments in the hall afterwards.

 

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