A selection of choral gems, familiar and unfamiliar, with a “nocturnal” theme, interspersed with popular piano music by Chopin, feature in the concert by Birmingham Festival Choral Society on April 1st.
Among the best-known of these fine vocal works are John Tavener’s “Song to Athene”, which rose to fame in 1997 when performed at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales; a setting of the “Londonderry Air” by Bob Chilcott; and “Water Night” by the prolific American choral composer Eric Whitacre.
BFCS patron John Joubert, who celebrates his 90th birthday this March, and whose latest opera Jane Eyre received its premier performance last autumn, is represented by two part-songs, “There is no rose of such virtue” and “O Lorde, the maker of al thing”, the words of the latter being attributed to King Henry VIII.
Part songs by three British composers from an earlier era – Robert Lucas Pearsall, Hubert Parry and Edward Elgar – will also be heard, including Parry’s moving “Songs of Farewell”, well-known in the choral repertoire. Brahms’ sacred song “Geistliches Lied” and his secular “Vier Quartette”, together with Faure’s popular “Cantique de Jean Racine” also feature in the programme.
Many of these items will be performed a capella; for the remaining numbers the choir will be joined by regular accompanist Kevin Gill, who also provides an interlude with three of Chopin’s famous Nocturnes.
The concert marks a departure from the more typical repertoire of large-scale works, such as oratorios and masses, by the Society, which has been in existence since the 1840s. (Their next concert in June includes two hugely popular 20th Century works: Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”.)
More importantly, it introduces the Society’s newly appointed Music Director, David Wynne, a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire who has been active in teaching and conducting with both adult and junior choirs in the West Midlands and beyond.
The concert by Birmingham Festival Choral Society will take place on Saturday April 1st, commencing at 7.30pm, in the fine setting of St John’s and St Peter’s Church (Ladywood ARC), Darnley Road, Birmingham B16 8TF. Tickets (£14, students/under 16s £7) are available on the door before the concert, or beforehand from Ticket Source.
Post script: David Wynne and Tim Davis have been offered a slot on Radio WMs ‘Sunny & Shay’ programme between 3.30 and 4pm on Monday 20th March! They will be talking about David’s appointment as BFCS Music Director and the forthcoming concert.