Welcome to the 52nd season of St Albans Chamber Choir.



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. . . . in which English music is particularly strongly represented. We open with two beautiful works by Herbert Howells in a programme on the theme of Remembrance (November 20, 2010). The young English composer Will Todd’s jazz-inspired Mass in Blue (January 15, 2011) is a complete contrast and has already become a firm favourite with audiences and performers alike. The Choir returns to more familiar ground with a programme of a cappella early English music in the beautiful chapel at All Saints (March 12, 2011), before joining with the Wormser Kantorei for Ralph Vaughan Williams’s choral symphonic masterpiece, A Sea Symphony (April 30,2011). The season ends with the watery theme continuing in Water, water everywhere (July 2, 2011), which features the very popular American composer Eric Whitacre among British contributors.
Saturday 11 September 2010
Westminster Cathedral 6pm
Early Evening Mass
Josquin des Prez Missa Da Pacem
Brian Moles Drop, drop slow tears
Giovanni Gabrieli Jubilate Deo
Jacob Handl Pater Noster
The Choir made a second visit to the Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral in London to sing the first Mass of Sunday (Please note time – Saturday 6pm). This gorgeous building with its sumptuous acoustic is a wonderful venue for this beautiful music.


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Water, water everywhere

Saturday 2 July 2011 St Saviour's Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Water-water-thumb200px6.jpgWater, water, everywhere was an exploration in music of spectacular weather events, perilous sea voyages and dangerous sea-life, featuring works by some of the most exciting contemporary composers of choral music, and exploring those two great British obsessions – the seaside and the weather!
Richard Rodney Bennett, one of Britain's most versatile composer/performers, celebrated his 75th birthday in 2011. Equally at home writing for film, the concert hall or as a jazz pianist, his atmospheric choral work Sea Change brilliantly explores new sound worlds with extraordinary and evocative effects. The work takes its title from Ariel's song Full Fathom Five from Shakespeare's The Tempest, and the setting of this by Vaughan Williams was also performed.
Bob Chilcott, described by the Observer newspaper as ‘a contemporary hero of British Choral Music’, was commissioned by the BBC Singers to write a jazz-inflected work for a tour of Japan. The result was the inventive Weather Report, in which Chilcott weaves together a tapestry of well-known weather rhymes to create an energetic, quirky, and highly entertaining piece.
The young American composer Eric Whitacre is one of the most popular of our generation. His extraordinary piece Cloudburst (1992) is written for 8-part choir, piano and percussion and recreates a rainstorm in music, with the singers clapping, snapping their fingers and slapping their thighs, all building up to the climactic moment when the handbell ringers of St Columba’s School joined in the splash!
The programme also included some light-hearted songs of the seaside and a succession of watery piano works including Ravel’s delightful Jeux d'eau played by multi-talented Royal Academy pianist Seb Grant.
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The sea, the sea

Saturday 30 April 2011 St Albans Cathedral AL1 1BY
Conductors John Gibbons and Stefan Merkelbach
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Rawsthorne The Cruel Sea
Brahms Schicksalslied

Vaughan Williams

A Sea Symphony


Anna Gorbachyova (soprano) Toby Stafford-Allen (baritone)
Vaughan Williams'sA Sea Symphonyis an astonishing First Symphony that brilliantly fuses the British choral tradition with sumptuous orchestral textures which reveal the influence of Ravel. Composed at the same time as the Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis, the work mixes moments of noble grandeur with spell-binding textures reflecting the mystical side of Vaughan Williams's personality. Lovers of Brahms’s A German Requiem relished hearing his Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) - a work too rarely heard in live performance. The concert opened with the stirring music composed for the classic film The Cruel Sea by Alan Rawsthorne.
With the Wormser Kantorei and St Albans Symphony Orchestra


Intimations of mortality
Saturday 12 March 2011, All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney
John Gibbons Conductor
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William Byrd Infelix Ego
Orlando Gibbons What is our life?
Christopher Tye Peccavimus cum Patribus nostris
Robert Ramsey How are the mighty fallen
Robert Carver O bone Jesu
One for the chop? was the working title behind the early music programme St Albans Chamber Choir presented on 12 March at All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney. In all the pieces chosen, either the words or the music were composed in the face of imminent death or in the hope of eternal life, but far from making for a miserable evening, the resultant music was sublime, for these works were written in the 16th and 17th centuries in a time of great religious faith. This was a rare opportunity to hear some spectacular pieces, large in scale both in the number of voices and in length compared to most works of this period.
The highly original and monumental O bone Jesu by Scottish composer Robert Carver (1485-1570) is written for 19 voices, and extended motets by Christopher Tye (1505-1572) and William Byrd (1539-1623) allow the genius of these composers full rein. There were also shorter works by Gibbons and Ramsey, and the Chamber Choir was joined by the Romaldi Trio, who performed music for mandolin, mandola and guitar. The title proved sadly prophetic, as the Pastoral Centre at London Colney, the Chapel of which provided a sumptuous acoustic for this programme, is now due to close at the end of 2011, so this may have been one of the last opportunities to enjoy such ethereally beautiful music in this special venue.
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Post- Christmas Blues
Saturday 15 January 2011, St Saviour's Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
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With the Will Todd Trio and Bethany Halliday, soprano
Will Todd Mass in Blue
John Rutter Birthday Madrigals
Karl Jenkins A Parliament of Owls

"...Todd's own Mass in Blue, an upbeat piece that was really uplifting. The choir ... sang with gusto, clearly enjoying the work's soaring lines and rich bluesy harmonies, and Halliday sounded free as a bird. Todd and his players were excellent throughout." (Sheffield Telegraph)
This was the perfect antidote to dreary January days and the post-Christmas slump – a foot-stomping concert of jazz-inspired music!
St Albans Chamber Choir performed young British composer Will Todd's Mass in Blue, joined by Will Todd himself and his Trio, and the thrilling young soprano Bethany Halliday, who has been enthusiastically commended for her vocal versatility after her many performances of this inspiring piece.This upbeat setting of the Latin mass is a brilliant blend of driving jazz grooves and clear, strong, choral writing, against which the piano and solo soprano voice weave and blend in a delightful aural tapestry. The work reflects not only the composer's love of jazz music and his admiration of jazz performers, but also his own experience as an improviser, and since its premiere in 2003 it has been performed to great acclaim all over the world.
The programme also featured John Rutter’s jazz-influenced Birthday Madrigals, which were composed as a musical tribute for the 75th birthday of jazz legend George Shearing, and Karl Jenkins’sParliament of Owls. Scored for piano duet, saxophone and percussion, this joyous celebration of animal collective nouns is full of rhythmic wit and catchy melodies.

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Remembrance

Saturday 20 November 2010, St Peter’s Church, St Albans

John Gibbons Conductor

Herbert Howells RequiemJohn Ireland Greater loveHerbert Howells Take him, Earth, for cherishingJ S Bach Jesu meine Freude

external image remembrancethumbnail1.jpgLove, loss and faith have always inspired great music, and nowhere is this more evident than in the works of Herbert Howells (1892–1983), mainly remembered today as an outstanding composer of music for the Anglican church. The great loss of Howells’ life was the sudden death of his nine-year old son Michael in 1935; out of this tragedy came Howells’ masterpiece Hymnus Paradisi, one of the greatest pieces of English choral music ever written. This incorporated substantial parts of an earlier work, the Requiem: although this was begun before his son’s death, Howells clearly considered both works to be such personal outpourings that he did not release either for publication until much later, the Hymnus in 1950 and the Requiem not until 1980, only three years before his own death.
Howells’ unaccompanied motet Take him, Earth, for Cherishing was composed in the spring of 1964. Dedicated ’To the honoured memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States of America’, the work was premiered later that year in Washington, D.C. The moving text, a translation of a 4th century Latin poem, is brilliantly set to express not only the deepest feelings of profound loss, with which Howells was personally so familiar,but also the great Christian message of the hope of resurrection. Two centuries earlier, J S Bach composed his affirmation of faith, Jesu, meine Freude for the funeral of a prominent member of the congregation at the Leipzig church where Bach was Cantor. Although not written in response to a personal loss, this, the longest and most musically complex of his six motets, is nonetheless one of his most heartfelt works.