The competition for the second Birmingham Festival Choral Society Oratorio Prize, is to be held on Monday 30th October at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The competition will take place between 7 and 8.45pm in the Recital Hall. You are invited to be in the audience to support the singers and enjoy this special event in the BFCS calendar!
Talented singers from the Conservatoire will compete for the prize which includes a trophy, a financial prize and a future engagement to sing the solo part at a Birmingham Festival Society Concert.
The winner of the 2022 Oratorio Prize was Baritone Jia Huang, and an account of that competition can be found here.
Directions to the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire can be found here.
Singing in a choir brings many benefits for body and mind, as Birmingham Festival Choral Society singers will confirm. We all look forward to singing on a Wednesday evening – and the feeling after giving a concert is tremendous! Added to that, it’s a great place to make friends, through sharing Wednesday rehearsals, weekend workshops and tours abroad.
Would you like to give us a try? Come along to our Open Rehearsal on Wednesday 6th September, where you will find a friendly welcome. If you come at 7pm there will be enough time to meet you and introduce you to a singing buddy who can guide you through the rehearsal. This is a ‘taster session’ to see if you feel this is the choir for you – there is no obligation.
If you’re not able to make it to the Open Rehearsal, you will still be welcome at any of our other Wednesday rehearsals.
Birmingham Festival Choral Society singers and supporters always love ‘Out of Town’ concerts. Our summer concert this year was extra special, as it was the first time we had given a concert in the lovely Pershore Abbey.
Our concert, ‘And all the people rejoiced’, included many choral favourites. The two halves of the concert each began with stirring works which had been heard recently in the Coronation of King Charles: I was Glad and Zadok the Priest (from which the title of the concert was taken). There was another royal connection through Tavener’s Song for Athene, which had made such an impact on worldwide audiences in 1997 when it was sung as the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, was taken out of Westminster Abbey.
Three of the lovely works we sang were pieces that had kept us going through zoom rehearsals during the lockdown, culminating in ‘virtual choir’ recordings. How much better it was to sing Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine, Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus and Rheinberger’s Kyrie to a live audience in such a beautiful setting!
The concert also included works which were new to us: The joyful Jubilate Deo by Peeters and Laudate Dominum by Dupre, the sublime Ave Verum Corpus by Mawby, and Evening Hymn by Gardiner.
Alexandra Eve Wynne, our soprano soloist, sang beautifully as always. She sang Mozart’s Alleluia and Laudate Dominum (the latter with the choir). Alexandra and the choir also sang Mendelssohn’s Hear my Prayer/O for the wings of a dove, which we had recently performed together on tour in the Rhineland of Germany.
One of the exciting things about this concert was that the abbey organ was brand new. It had been installed at a cost of £800,000 just a couple of months before. Kevin Gill showed it off to its fullest splendor in his two magnificent organ solos – the 1st movement from Rheinberger’s Organ sonata in F minor, and the Toccata in F minor by Widor.
The final credit must go to the maestro who planned the concert, rehearsed the choir and introduced all the items at the concert – David Wynne. His high standards produced a marvellous concert, enjoyed by the choir and the capacity audience in the Abbey.
We would like to thank Michael Whitefoot for this fabulous set of photographs of our Pershore Abbey concert. You can see more photos from our rehearsal and concert in Pershore and Lichfield last year on Michael’s website.
Tuesday 6th December was an important date in the BFCS calendar – the Carol Service for Crisis, the charity for the homeless. This event, held at St Martin’s in the Bull Ring, has become a regular fixture for our choir, and we are pleased to help to swell the congregational singing, and to perform a couple of Christmas carols too.
The stories of the Crisis members are very moving, reminding us how homelessness can affect people from all walks of life. It is sobering to reflect on how the situation is still as bad as ever, and the charity’s initial aim to end homelessness is as far away as ever. It is, however, inspiring to hear how Crisis can help people with training to get back into work, as well as help with benefits and finding accommodation.
Thanks to the staff of Crisis for sharing photos and these two videos – one from the service and one from their Christmas Hamper distribution project (both with a background of BFCS singing ‘Ding dong merrily on high’.)
The Birmingham Festival Choral Society performance of Elijah on 5th November was a thrilling occasion, with many audience members saying that it was the best BFCS concert they had ever heard! The choir, orchestra and soloists were all on top form, performing to a full house at the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre.
Many thanks also to Alfred White for the photos of a concert to remember.
The role of Elijah was sung with great dramatic effect by opera baritone Byron Jackson. A star performance! Our reviewer said that Byron’s singing of Elijah’s song of despair: ‘It is enough’ was one of the most moving performances that he had ever heard. Byron’s position high above the choir and orchestra increased the drama.
Molly Barker (Jezebel, an angel), Alexandra Wynne (widow, angel), Polly Stirland (youth, angel) and Peter Davoren (Obadiah, Ahab) were also first class. Alexandra’s performance was even more impressive when people realised that she had stepped in at 24 hours notice!
An E mail sent by a member of the audience said that The soloists were ALL superb – and I was brought up on Isobel Baillie and Kathleen Ferrier, spent some of my earliest wages on the recording with Janet Baker, Nicolai Gedda, and Fischer-Dieskau, and have since acquired the Renee Fleming / Bryn Terfel version! The trio and quartets were exquisite, and it was such a good idea to bring the soloists in for the last few bars of the final chorus, not least for the tenors, who will I’m sure have been grateful for the help with that sustained top A after an evening of very hard work.
The trio of angels singing ‘Lift thine eyes to the mountains’ was another highlight of the concert, as shown by the comments on social media below this photo:
Voices from heaven (TP), Spine tingling, absolutely incredible beauty (MF), Beautiful (NW), This was so movingly sung. Absolutely superb. Thank you to the three of you. (JA). A truly wonderful evening. Our friends who attended were ‘blown away’ by the performance with one saying it was the best concert of BFCS’s that he’s attended….(DM)
It was wonderful to sing those big choruses accompanied by the Central England Camerata and Kevin Gill on the organ. The individual instruments brought so much depth to the arias and slow movements too.
Don’t forget the choir, who sang their hearts out, just as their predecessors had done at the Premiere in 1846. We can see why this marvellous work has been such a favourite with choral societies to this day.
Another extract from that Email sent by a member of the audience…
Fantastic performance of Elijah on Saturday night. It’s a work I know well and love greatly, and the trip over from Coventry proved more than worth the effort.
The choir was excellent, and certainly enacted that great rule of performance – make sure you start and end well! That first cry for help and the triumphant final Amen were both exhilarating.
(Click on photos to open in full.)
Finally, a special mention goes to David Wynne, who prepared the choir so well, and brought such a wonderful collection of musicians together to perform under his leadership. Thank you David!
Felix Mendelssohn’s choral masterpiece Elijah is a dramatic telling of stories from the life of the Old Testament prophet. It’s all there – fire, storms, curses and drought, to be followed later by a song of the angels and ascent to heaven in a fiery chariot. The range of dramatic choruses and arias make it a great favourite with choral societies and audiences.
The part of Elijah will be sung in our concert by baritone Byron Jackson. The other vocal soloists in our talented line-up will be Carrie-Ann Williams and Polly Stirland (Sopranos), Molly Barker (Mezzo soprano) and Peter Davoren (Tenor).
David Wynne will bring together the Birmingham Festival Choral Society and soloists, Kevin Gill on the organ and the 22 piece Central England Camerata, making it a night to remember.
Saturday 5th November 7.30pm.
The Ruddock Performing Arts Centre, Kings Edward’s School, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2UA
Our concert in Lichfield Cathedral on 2nd July was a wonderful occasion! The choir, soloists and piano accompanists all came together under the leadership of David Wynne to produce a thrilling performance of Brahms’ A German Requiem and Finzi’s Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice. The main two works were supported by other Brahms compositions: Geistliches Lied for choir and organ, and Hungarian Dances no 5 and 8 for piano duet.
We are extremely grateful to photographer Michael Whitefoot for producing a superb set of photographs, from which these are selected.
Comments from the audience, posted on social media:
“Superb playing by the two accompanists. Fantastic concert.” LP
“It was an amazing concert, I got literal goosebumps” SE
“Lovely photos from a wonderful concert.” DS
“A great and really memorable concert. Thank you” KR
Kevin Gill and Stephen Hargreaves, our impressive piano duo, played the piano duet accompaniment to Brahms’ German Requiem, and two of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances.
Louise Wayman, soprano, and James Davies, baritone, were our talented soloists. (Click arrows)
“The Finzi was the standout for me, but Brahms’ ‘A German Requiem’ was navigated confidently, and the combination of Birmingham Festival Choral Society, soloists and accompaniment brought together an ensemble showing real enthusiasm and commitment.”
Our Passion Music concert on 26th March was a night to remember. Singing with the rhythmic backing of a jazz ensemble and the gorgeous jazz vocalist was a wonderful experience. All those weeks of preparation, and the inspiring workshop with the composer Will Todd came together to produce an evening of glorious choral jazz and blues.
Piano – Kevin Gill, Double bass – Mike Green, Drums – Julian Powell, Saxophone – Andy Isherwood, Soprano – Hannah Davey.
Passion Music, written by Will Todd in 2018, is an extremely moving telling of the Easter story of Christ’s passion through English texts set to jazz and blues. We also loved singing Mass in Blue once again.
The choir wore blue and yellow ribbons to mark the tragic situation in Ukraine. At the beginning of the second half the choir sang A Prayer for Ukraine, and a retiring collection for the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Relief Fund raised £620.
Thank you to talented photographer Kyle Simms for this great collection of photographs from the concert.
Will Todd’s Mass in Blue and Passion Music are very different from our usual repertoire, but we’re really loving those jazz rhythms and blues harmonies! Listen to our singers and Music Director talking about the Will Todd music we’re learning for the concert at the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre on 26th March.
The friendly Birmingham choir singing the world's best choral music.
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