Flowers of the Field

Saturday 15 June 2013 St Saviour's Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Flowers-Web-200px.jpgThe title for this concert was inspired by the Missa ‘Ego flos campi’ (I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys, from the Song of Songs,) by Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (c.1590 – 1664). Padilla was born in Spain but moved to the New World in 1622, where his prodigious output made him one of the most important Mexican composers of the post-Renaissance era.
The choral works were contrasted with two enchanting flute solos, In Ireland, by Hamilton Harty,which was full of Irish charm, and Orange Dawn by Ian Clark, which transported listeners to the Great Rift Valley in Africa. These were brilliantly performed by Hattie Webster, principal flautist with St Albans Symphony Orchestra, with John Gibbons accompanying on piano.
The remainder of the programme featured flower-themed music from the beginning of both the 20th and 21st centuries from some outstanding British composers. E J Moeran (1894 –1950) followed in the English lyrical tradition of Delius and Vaughan Williams, and his Songs of Springtime are delightful settings of seven poems by Shakespeare and other Elizabethans. Bob Chilcott (b. 1955) chose four short strong poems celebrating the natural world for his joyous I Share Creation, while Paul Mealor (b.1975) took Tennyson's enchanting Now Sleeps the Crimson petal and three other rose-focused verses for his madrigals. For those in the mood for Glyndebourne or Garsington, the concert finished with a flourish of Italian opera, the delightful Italian Salad by Richard Genée, with Andrew Shepstone as soloist.

This concert was part of St Albans Summer Music 2013

2–7 April 2013

Concerts in Worms, Germany

The 26th biennial meeting with the Wormser Kantorei, SACC's German twin-town counterpart choir, took place in Worms in April 2013. These exchanges have been running since 1969.
3 April 2013 - Masters of the English Renaissance - Liebfrauenkirche
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SACC performed unaccompanied Tudor music as part of the prestigious 'Wunderhoeren' series of events celebrating medieval and renaissance literature and music in Worms
See www.wunderhoeren.de for more information.
6 April 2013 - Joint concert with Wormser Kantorei
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Das Wormser Theater
A rare performance in Germany of
Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony
and works by Brahms.
Ealing Symphony Orchestra
Anna Gorbachyova (soprano)
Olafur Sigurdson (baritone)

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Sacré Bleu! Jazz-inspired sacred music

Saturday 2 March 2013 St Albans Cathedral
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Sacr%E9-Bleu-Web-200px1.jpgSt Albans Chamber Choir first performed Will Todd's toe-tapping spectacular Mass in Blue to a packed St Saviour's Church in January 2011. Following this sell-out performance, the Choir was delighted to welcome back Will Todd, Bethany Halliday and the Will Todd Ensemblefor a repeat performance, this time in the big band version. 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 and admiration for jazz music and its performers but also his own experience as an improviser, and since its premiere in 2003 has been performed to great acclaim all over the world. The thrilling young soprano Bethany Halliday has been enthusiastically commended for her vocal versatility for her many performances of this inspiring piece.
The theme of jazz-inspired sacred music was followed up with Leonard Bernstein's rousing Chichester Psalms, exciting settings of several of the best known psalms, in Hebrew, for treble solo (Emma Huggett), and choir, performed on this occasion in the small-scale orchestration for harp (Ruby Aspinall), organ (Tom Winpenny) and percussion. Bernstein is one of the most widely-performed composers of the 20th-century and his eclectic style successfully bridges the divide between classical and popular idioms, especially jazz.
The programme was completed by Antony Saunders’ inventive arrangement of Gershwin’s popular showpiece I Got Rhythm for choir and piano, and by a set of jazz versions of popular songs from Bethany Halliday, accompanied by Will Todd and other members of the Ensemble.
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Centenary Celebrations

Saturday 19 January 2013 St Peter's Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Centenary-Celebrations-Web-200px.jpgCentenary Celebrations marked the anniversaries in 2013 of the births of two great British composers, the renowned Benjamin Britten and the lesser-known George Lloyd. Lloyd was a very successful and acclaimed composer in the 1930s, but after the War the mood had changed, and he is largely forgotten today. His final work, the Requiem Mass, finished only three weeks before his death in 1998, was dedicated to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales. Written for soloist, small chorus and organ, the solo part, sung by the internationally-renowned tenor Michael Solomon Williams,imbues the piece with an archaic beauty normally the preserve of a composer like John Tavener.’ (Gramophone).
Williams also performed one of the best-loved English solo song-cycles, On Wenlock Edge, Ralph Vaughan Williams's setting of words by A E Housman, accompanied by the Wigram Quartet with Susie Arbeid, piano.external image Michael-Solomon-Williams_12-293x300.jpg
The concert closed with the festival cantata Rejoice in the Lamb (1943), one of Britten’s best-known and best-loved works, which sets the poem Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart (1722–1771). Written whilst Smart was in a lunatic asylum, it is an extraordinary but ecstatic paean of praise to God from all created creatures, and Britten effortlessly matches in music the different moods and images conjured by the text. Tom Winpenny accompanied both this and the Requiem on the organ.

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The World is Burning

Saturday 24 November 2012 St Saviour's Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
external image World-is-Burning-web-200px2.jpgJohn Tavener’s emotionally-charged work The World is Burning opened this programme of choral works illustrating the transcendental power of music to bring light out of darkness. Commissioned by the Monteverdi Choir for their 30th anniversary in 1993, it is typical of Tavener’s rich sonorous sound-world inspired by the Eastern Orthodox Church, and contrasts solo voices with a many-layered chorus.
The programme also included J.S.Bach’s joyous choral motet Singet dem Herrn, works by Purcell and Schütz and a glorious 16-part choral arrangement of one of Mahler’s sublime Rückert-Lieder. Tom Winpenny performed two organ solos, Bach's Chorale Prelude on Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, contrasted with the much more recent Anton Heiller's Variations on the same theme.
Returning to contemporary composers, there was a second chance to hear the Choir's recent commission from Jonathan Rathbone, and an equally uplifting work by Jonathan Dove, and the concert ended with Samuel Barber's own stunning 8-part choral arrangement of his world-famous Adagio, originally written for string orchestra.

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A Night with the Birds

Saturday 22 September 2012 St Saviour's Church, St Albans
John Gibbons Conductor
external image Birds-Thumbnail.jpgMany composers across the centuries have written music inspired by birds and birdsong, and this programme brought together some of the best, including charming Renaissance madrigals by Vautor, Bartlet, Janequin and Arcadelt, and two popular 20th century works, Stanford’s The blue bird and Vaughan Williams’s The turtle dove.
external image Alissa-Firsova-199x300.jpgThe Missa Entre vous filles by the late Renaissance composer Orlande de Lassus was, however, inspired by birds of quite a different feather, as it is based on the extremely secular French chanson Entre vous filles de quinze ans, (Oh, you fifteen-year old girls). The programme ended with the appropriately-named contemporary composer Jonathan Dove's exciting setting of the nursery rhyme Who killed Cock Robin.
The Choir was joined by the acclaimed Anglo-Russian pianist and composer Alissa Firsova, who played two bird-themed solos by Messiaen, Le Merle bleu (from Catalogue d'Oiseaux) and La Colombe, and Balakirev's The Skylark.