Concerts 2013-14

Inspirational choral globetrotting for our 55th season
external image SACC-brochure-postage-stamp-2013-14.jpgNothing can match the thrill of live performance and this is especially true of great choral music - it connects and inspires people in a way no other music can.
St Albans Chamber Choir is renowned for its adventurous programming and is passionate about offering audiences the chance to hear the widest range of choral music, spanning both centuries and musical styles. Under the leadership of its charismatic conductor, John Gibbons, the Choir continues to expand its repertoire, and the music chosen for this season has a distinctly global feel.
In a range of dynamic and versatile programmes the Choir will be performing works from Germany, Poland, Estonia, Russia, Italy, France, England, the USA, Brazil, Venezuela and Peru, and ranging from Baroque masterpieces to some of most vibrant choral music being written today.
John Gibbons, Musical Director

Go Brazilian!

5 July 2014 St Peter’s Church, St Albans
external image Go-Brazilian-thumbnail-200px-web-150x150.jpg The Choir went to the beach for this light-hearted programme with a Brazilian twist. Ranging from Villa-Lobos to the Beach Boys, this was an evening with a Latin American flavour, featuring a wide variety of choral pieces interspersed with saxophone solos.
Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is probably Brazil's best-known composer and Bachianas Brasileiras his best-known composition. A Brazilian take on Baroque style, this very popular set of nine suites was written for various combinations of instruments and voices between 1930 and 1945. No. 9 is the only one with a choral version by the composer himself.
The earliest piece in the concert is Los coflades de la estleya by Juan de Araujo (1646–1712), a Spaniard who spent all his working life in the service of the Catholic Church in South America. Other featured composers have been influenced by Latin American music: Jean Berger's (1909-2002) Brazilian Psalm resulted from a wartime stay in Rio de Janeiro, while Guy Turner's (born 1955) Tequila Samba summons up the rhythm of the dance under the influence of the spirit!
Astor Piazzola (1921-1992) is famous for fusing traditional tango with elements from both jazz and classical music, and his delicious History of the Tango for saxophone and piano, performed by David Wigram and Susie Arbeid, ran through the programme.

Rachmaninov Vespers

17 May 2014 St Albans Cathedral
external image Rachmaninov-thumbnail-200px-web.jpgThe glorious acoustic of St Albans Cathedral was the perfect setting for this programme of mainly unaccompanied music.
The magnificent All-night Vigil by Sergei Rachmaninov, otherwise known as his Vespers, is a setting of texts from the Russian Orthodox liturgy and encompasses a near-miraculous range of musical imagination while respecting the traditional chants on which it is based. Principally known for his piano concertos and symphonies, Rachmaninov was himself surprised that he could write such a work, and it remained one of his personal favourites. Written in multiple parts for unaccompanied choir, it is famous for the exceptionally low notes written for the second basses - the first conductor asked "Where are we to find such basses? They are as rare as asparagus at Christmas!" The soloists were Lorna Perry (alto) and Andrew Shepstone (tenor).
The first half of the concert featured shorter pieces from contemporary choral composers. John Tavener converted to the Greek Orthodox Church as a young man and its music was a significant influence on many of his compositions. Reading Tolstoy after a period of serious illness, Tavener was inspired to write Tolstoy’s Creed because “I found the Christianity he believed in was closer to the Christianity I believed in after being ill.” Poignantly, it was one of the last pieces Tavener composed before his recent death.
Tavener recognised Arvo Pärt as 'a kindred spirit' as he shared with him a common religious tradition and a fondness for textural transparency. The intense spiritual beauty of Pärt’s soundworld is particularly suited to the Cathedral's acoustic, and the Choir performed three of his shorter choral works, Magnificat, The Beatitudes and Littlemore Tractus. The Choir was joined for these pieces by Tom Winpenny (organ), who also played Messiaen’s Transports de joie.

Pole Stars: musical gems from Poland

1 March 2014 St Saviour's Church, St Albans
external image Pole-Stars-thumbnail-200px-web.jpgGórecki’s Salve, sidus Polonorum (2000) was the main work in a programme that ranged from the Baroque to the 21st century. This cantata exemplifies the key elements at the heart of all Górecki’s music - the Catholic faith and its expression in vocal and choral music steeped in the Polish tradition.
Gorczycki (c. 1666 –1734) is regarded as the most important Polish composer of the High Baroque; this programme featured his Stabat Mater and Sepulto Domino.
Szymanowski's Six Kurpian Songs of 1928 are one of the many of his works based on a variety of folk traditions. Borkowski and Łukaszewski are contemporary Polish composers; the very beautiful short piece Libera me (2005) is one of Borkowski's more recent works for a cappella choir, while the haunting Nunc dimittis (2007) of Łukaszewski has been described as ‘a true gem’.
The Choir was joined by Kamila Bydlowska, a prize-winning Polish violinist, and Lucy Colquhoun, a young British pianist, who performed pieces by Szymanowski and Witold Lutoławski.
The audience joined the performers after the concert for refreshments with a Polish flavour.

Concert programme
Marian Borkowski Libera me Wacław of Szamotuły Ego sum pastor bonus Grzegorz Gorczycki Sepulto Domino Grzegorz Gorczycki Stabat Mater Violin & piano Karol Szymanowski Nokturn i tarantela (Nocturne and Tarantella) Karol Szymanowski Six Kurpian Songs
Andrzej Hakenberger Exsultate Justi Paweł Łukaszewski Nunc dimittis
Violin & piano
Witold Lutosławski Subito
Henryk Górecki Salve, sidus Polonorum

The Christmas Story

7 December 2013 St Saviour's Church, St Albans
external image Christmas-Story-thumbnail-200px-web.jpgA capacity audience celebrated the season in style with this programme of festive music from 16th and 17th century masters, performed by 21st century experts.
The German composer Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) was among the first to introduce new musical ideas from Italy into Northern Europe. He studied with both Giovanni Gabrieli and Monteverdi, and his music had a great influence on the German composers who followed him, particularly J S Bach and Brahms. In his Weihnachtshistorie, Schütz brilliantly combines Lutheran fervour with Italianate recitative to create one of the first oratorios.
For this performance the Chamber Choir was joined by vocal soloists the internationally renowned tenor Rogers Covey-Crump (Evangelist), external image Rogers-Covey-Crump-Lottie-Davies1-218x300.jpgand local favourites David Ireson (Herod) and Emma Huggett (Angel).external image HMSC-photo-cropped_5_11-300x216.jpg
The period instrument ensemble His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, whose players are among the best in Early Music today, accompanied and also performed on their own, playing Canzon Cantionem Gallicam à 5 by Samuel Scheidt and Hans Leo Hassler's Canzon Duodecimitoni à 8.
The programme also included music by Giovanni Gabrieli, his unaccompanied Christmas motet for double choir Angelus ad pastores ait, and his setting of O Magnum Mysterium,two settings of the medieval carol In dulci jubilo by Schütz’s contemporaries, Samuel Scheidt and Michael Praetorius, and motets by Dering, Eccard. Handl, Mouton and Philips.

St Cecilia Festival Society Concert 2013

Saturday 26 October 2013 St Albans Cathedral

external image Brahms-Req-low-res-211x300.jpg

Brahms A German Requiem

Messiaen L'Ascension

The St Albans St Cecilia Festival Society has been making music in St Albans for more than fifty years. It brings together four local music societies (The Hardynge Choir, Radlett Choral Society, St Albans Chamber Choir and St Albans Symphony Orchestra) into St Albans Cathedral every two years to perform a choral and orchestral work that needs larger forces than any one organisation can provide. The post of conductor is rotated among the member organisations, and this year it was the turn of Bjorn Bantock, Principal Conductor of St Albans Symphony Orchestra.
The concert began with Olivier Messiaen’s L'Ascension in its original orchestral form, composed early in his career in 1932-33. These four meditations, each with strongly contrasting orchestration, were inspired by texts from the liturgy for the Feast of the Ascension, marking Christ’s ascent from earth to heaven.
The German Requiem (Ein deutsches Requiem) occupies a very special place among Brahms’ works; it has been described as the most personal musical expression that he ever wrote. The work was conceived during one of the most tragic periods of his life. After several restless months grappling with ideas for a memorial to his mother, and to his friend Robert Schumann – who had died nine years earlier – the Requiem was completed in 1868. The soloists for this performance were Geraldine McGreevy and David Stout.
The concert raised money for the Rennie Grove Hospice Care and Keech Hospice Care through the donation of the advertising revenue from the programme and a retiring collection.