Welcome to the 53rd season of St Albans Chamber Choir.

external image SACC-Season-2011-12-Brochure1.jpgClick image for full brochure

Welcome to our 53rd concert season in which we look forward to sharing the delights of choral music with an ever-wider audience. For many, the highlight of this season will undoubtedly be Monteverdi’s Vespers in St Albans Cathedral on 19 May 2012, for which we will be joined by distinguished vocal soloists from I Fagiolini and The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble. Our season opens with a Christmas concert when the Abbey Girls Choir joins us for a performance of Britten’s stunning A Boy was Born and other seasonal music. We begin 2012 with a celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II featuring music from her coronation, followed by a musical Double Bill exploring some of the great works written for double choir. We close the season in September with a programme of music inspired by birds and birdsong featuring some of the loveliest English part-songs. So much to look forward to – we hope you will join us.

Forthcoming concerts 2011/2012

Get the full details of this season by downloading our brochure.

Monteverdi Vespers of 1610

Saturday 19 May 2102 St Albans Cathedral
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Vespers-thumbnail.jpgTo those already familiar with Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, this stunning work needs no introduction. To those who have yet to experience it, it can literally be described as a masterpiece in the original sense of a display of all the best that a craftsman, in this case a composer, had to offer. Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) was working during a period of great musical development as the Renaissance gave way to the Baroque style. Already established as a madrigal and opera composer, in 1610 Monteverdi published the Vespers for the Blessed Virgin, a sacred work on a scale not attempted before. It showcased all the skill in setting words he had developed in his madrigals and a great variety of approaches for voices and instruments in both the old and new styles in the various movements. The result is a unique work, at once both deeply spiritual yet also extraordinarily theatrical.
This performance featured two internationally-renowned virtuoso Early Music ensembles, I Fagiolini, director Robert Hollingworth, and The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, whose recent collaboration in the world premiere recording of Striggio's 40-part mass was awarded both a Gramophone Award and the Diapason D'Or in 2011. The vocal soloists in this performance were Anna Crookes (soprano), Clare Wilkinson (mezzo-soprano), Matthew Long and Nicholas Hurndall Smith (tenor), and Gregory Skidmore and Charles Gibbs (bass).
There was a pre-concert discussion at 7pm featuring John Gibbons, Robert Hollingworth (I Fagiolini) and Gawain Glenton (ECSE)

Double Bill

Saturday 17 March 2012 St Saviour’s Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Double-Bill-thumbnail.jpgDouble Bill explored the exciting colours and textures of music written for unaccompanied double choir, featuring some choral gems of the early twentieth century. For many composers their works for double choir become their best known, which is true of Sir William Henry Harris (1883–1973), whose much-loved anthem for double choir Faire is the heaven (1925) opened the concert.
The Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890 –1974) wrote his famous Mass for unaccompanied double choir between 1922 and 1926. Deservedly described as one of the greatest a cappella works written last century, it is a truly wonderful work, combining intensely personal moments of religious contemplation with outbursts of overwhelming glory.
This mass setting was contrasted with one by German composer, Josef Gabriel Rheinberger (1839–1901). He wrote twelve masses but his best known is his Mass for double choir in E flat, Op 109, written in 1878. It too reveals the influence of Bach, and also Mendelssohn, but also looks back even further to the late-Renaissance splendour of Venice’s cori spezzati (spaced choirs) tradition.
Esteemed local piano duettists Harvey Dagul and Isabel Beyer, who celebrated their own Diamond Jubilee of performing together only last November, continued the Double Bill theme and performed Mozart’s Theme and Variations in G and Tarantella by Rheinberger.
The concert ended with the masterly Magnificat for double choir, written in 1918 by Irish composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924) and acknowledged to be this composer’s finest unaccompanied choral work. Although intended as a tribute to Parry, the vivacious and spirited writing throughout clearly has its roots in the great motets of Bach, especially Lobet den Herren, and Brahms.

Elizabethan Jubilee

Saturday 4 February 2012 St Peter’s Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Jubilee-thumbnail1.jpgIn Elizabethan Jubilee St Albans Chamber Choir celebrated in music the two Elizabeths, our own Queen Elizabeth II and her predecessor Elizabeth I. Our Queen came to the throne almost exactly sixty years ago to the date of this concert, on 6 February 1952, and 2012 sees the celebrations of her Diamond Jubilee. Her coronation was held in 1953 and some of the music from that splendid occasion featured in this programme, contrasted with works from the reign of the earlier Elizabeth, known as ‘our Glorious Oriana’.
The concert opened and closed with two much-loved and gloriously celebratory anthems. Handel’s thrilling Zadok the Priestwas written between these two periods, for the coronation of George II in 1727, but has been sung at every coronation since;Parry’s I was Glad was originally composed for Edward VII in 1902.
Sir William Walton (1902–1983) was commissioned to write two pieces for the 1953 coronation, the ceremonial march Orb and Sceptre and the Te Deum; both featured in this programme, together with his famous Crown Imperial.
William Byrd (1543–1623) was justly called ‘a father of music’ during his lifetime, and his vocal music in particular stands supreme in the Tudor period. Appointed to the prestigious post of ‘Gentleman of Her Maiesties Chappell’ in 1572, he adapted Psalm 21 for his direct homage to Elizabeth I, O Lord make thy servant Elizabeth.
Long live fair Oriana by Ellis Gibbons (1573–1603), older brother of the more famous Orlando, featured in The Triumphs of Oriana, a book of English madrigals compiled in 1601 in honour of Elizabeth I, along with John Bennet’s All creatures now. The programme also included Orlando Gibbons’ famous anthem O clap your hands and his Fantasie for organ, performed by Tom Winpenny of St Albans Cathedral.

A Boy was Born

Saturday 3 December 2011 St Saviour’s Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Boy-was-born-thumbnail4.jpgThe first Chamber Choir concert of the season was an Advent programme including Britten’s remarkable A boy was born. This was completed when he was only nineteen, but shows all the technical mastery and striking originality that characterises this composer. Scored for adult choir in four to eight parts together with a unison children’s choir, the piece, a celebration of the coming of the Christ-child, mainly sets words from old English poems and carols, but also includes a wonderfully atmospheric setting of Christina Rossetti’s In the Bleak Mid-Winter. St Albans Chamber Choir was delighted to welcome the St Albans Abbey Girls Choir for this performance.
external image Abbey-Girls-Choir-thumbnail1-300x199.jpgexternal image HMSC-photo-cropped_5_1-300x216.jpgThe Abbey Girls Choir, formed in 1996, is regarded as one of the finest ensembles of its type in the UK. In addition to the Britten, they also performed settings of Christmas texts by Warlock, Howells andVaughan Williams, conducted and accompanied from the piano by their director Tom Winpenny.
The Chamber Choir also sang John Tavener’s Hymn to the Mother of God, and contrasting settings of Hodie Christus natus est byPalestrina and Poulenc, and O Magnum Mysterium by Gabrieli andPoulenc. The concert included the premiere of choir member NicholasHare’s carol Welcome Redemption’s Dawn, and closed with the spirited and witty arrangement of The Twelve Days of Christmas by Andrew Carter.