Category Archives: Birmingham Events

Two cities come together in song.

 

‘Two Cities, One Voice’

The Bramall was packed for our second concert with Liverpool Welsh Choral on Saturday! 400 people in the audience, and 250 on stage were eagerly awaiting our big ‘Carmina’ concert.

In the first half was Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Chichester Psalms’, a work with beautiful melodies and contrasting discordant passages with complex rhythms. 13 year old James Corcoran was our soloist, singing the Hebrew version of ‘The Lord’s my shepherd’. The Mixed Metal Percussion Ensemble then amused us with a clever item ‘Suitcase of Sounds’.

It was a warm night, so people were pleased to spill outside into Chancellor’s Court to enjoy interval drinks and conversation in the evening sun.

 

Carmina Burana was the showpiece in the second half! Three choirs singing the famous ‘O Fortuna’ was a powerful opening to the work!

‘O Fortuna’ sings of the Wheel of Fortune – the ups and downs of life. Our posters had all used the image of a fragment of a medieval fresco in Rochester Cathedral, depicting the Wheel of Fortune. It was most interesting to meet a man in the interval who had come to the concert as a result of seeing one of our posters. This image had attracted his attention immediately, as he had been a pupil at the Cathedral School in Rochester, and looked at that fresco on the wall many, many times!

The programme used the image of a screenprint ‘O Fortuna’, made by one of our former sopranos , Norma Southwick, some years ago.

It was good to sing the whole work, as well as O Fortuna at the beginning and the end. The tenors and basses had a particularly large part to sing in the Taverna section. Sam Oram, our baritone soloist, sang the solos in the drunken scene with great conviction!

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The children’s choir in Carmina Burana, drawn from David and Alexandra Wynne’s junior choirs at St Chad’s Cathedral and the Junior Conservatoire, provided an important contribution, and sang their part with confidence.

Edward Harrisson (tenor) and Loretta Hopkins (soprano) both sang very demanding solos with ease.

Finally, the whole scene, with Kevin Gill and Stephen Hargreaves playing the two pianos, Mixed Metal Percussion Ensemble, the soloists and the three choirs, all under David Wynne’s clear and confident direction. Bravo!

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Birmingham Festival Choral Society and Liverpool Welsh Choral thoroughly enjoyed singing these choral works, and the visits to each others cities has led to warm friendships between the two choirs. It has taken a lot of work for the organisers over two years, but it was definitely worth it! Here’s to the next time!

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Message from the MD of Liverpool Welsh Choral, Keith Orrell

Well done everyone last night. Two great concerts and many happy friendships and musical highs. All the best BFCS.

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Carmina – this Saturday!

Following our very successful concert in Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, we’re really looking forward to singing again with Liverpool Welsh Choral on Saturday (17th June). The Liverpool singers will join us on the stage of the Elgar Concert Hall, Bramall Music building, to sing Carmina Burana and the Chichester Psalms once again.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham and her consort will be there – we hope you will be too!

Click here for ‘Carmina’ tickets.

We will also be joined by young singers from David’s Wynne’s Junior Choirs at St Chad’s and the Birmingham Conservatoire.

The soloists will be Loretta Hopkins, Samuel Oram and Edward Harrison.

 

Simplified Carmina

 

Come to our Open Rehearsal!

 

Do you love singing? Come and try a choir practice with Birmingham Festival Choral Society! (No obligation). Chat to our singers over coffee and cake in the interval.

We are a friendly mixed choir who sing a wide variety of the world’s best classical choral music. We’ll be learning Carmina Burana and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms this term, in preparation for concerts with the Liverpool Welsh Choral.

As well as concerts in Birmingham and the Midlands, we tour abroad every 3 years – great for singing experiences, as well as strengthening choir friendships.

We look forward to meeting you!

OPEN REHEARSAL

Wednesday 26th April, 7.00 for 7.15pm. Finishing time 9.30pm

Lordswood Girls School, Knightlow Road, Harborne, Birmingham B17 8QB  

Click here for map.

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‘Nocturne’- a highly successful debut for our new MD.

It was a great concert on Saturday, attended by Birmingham’s Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. A full audience heard beautiful Chopin Nocturnes played on the piano by Kevin Gill, and many lovely choral items fitting in with the theme of night. It was a challenging and full repertoire, prepared and directed by our talented new music director, David Wynne.

Open up these links to see the pictures and comments.

'Music evoked by the beauty of night'. David Wynne's first concert as our Music Director.

Posted by Birmingham Festival Choral Society on Thursday, April 6, 2017

BFCS on Radio WM!

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Tim Davis and David Wynne were guests on Radio WMs Sonny and Shay programme this afternoon, talking about Birmingham Festival Choral Society, David’s new appointment as Music Director, and the forthcoming ‘Nocturne’ concert.

David was challenged to give Sonny some singing exercises and decide what voice part he was – the conclusion was 1st Bass! Tim managed to get in every last detail about the choir, history, website and rehearsals – well done!

Click here to hear the interview – go to 1:48:12

Our ‘Nocturne’ concert is nearly here.

NOCTURNE

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.

David Wynne, Music Director, Birmingham Festival Choral Society

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.

Tom Dance

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.

Click here to join our Facebook event for the Nocturne concert.

Nocturne

NOCTURNE

Our concert on 1st April contains a wide variety of popular choral music, in keeping with our ‘Nocturne’ theme. This will be the first BFCS concert conducted by our new Music Director, David Wynne! We hope that you will be able to share it with us.

Frederic Chopin           Three Nocturnes (Kevin Gill, piano)

Charles H.H.Parry        Songs of Farewell   (unaccompanied)

  1. My soul there is a country
  2. I know my soul hath power
  3. Never weather-beaten sail
  4. There is an old belief

Joubert                        O Lord the Maker of all Thing 

Joubert                        There is no Rose 

Robert Pearsall            Lay a garland 

Brahms                          Geistliches Lied (5’)

 Edward Elgar               

  1. My love dwelt in a northern land
  2. As torrents in summer

 

Brahms                         O schöne Nacht, Vier quartette Op92, 1 – 4.

Eric Whitacre              Water Night

 Tavener                        Song for Athene

 Faure                             Cantique de Jean Racine 

 Chilcott                        Londonderry Air 

 

Click here for tickets

 

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New year resolutions, new Music Director.

Have you made a New Year Resolution to join a choir? Come along to our free Open Rehearsal next Wednesday, 4th January and give us a try, with no obligation! We recommend arriving at 7pm, in order to find your way around and meet some singers before the rehearsal starts at 7.15pm. Please pass the message on to any prospective singers you know.

More information about the choir can be found here: Join our choir

Next Wednesday is also special because we will be welcoming our new Music Director, David Wynne. There will be an extra long coffee break (with cake!) to give us time to get to know each other.

Open Rehearsal Event on Facebook.

There is some lovely music coming up this term, so we do hope that new singers will choose to join us in preparing for our next concert:

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‘In Paradisum’. Come to hear the Requiems by Fauré and Duruflé.

Just two weeks until our French concert!

We hope you will be able to come and enjoy this much loved music with us.

IN PARADISUM

Beautiful Requiems by Fauré and Duruflé.

Saturday 19th November 7.30pm

Click here for tickets and concert details:

Read the programme notes below to get the background to this French sacred music.

 

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Programme notes

Welcome to a fascinating French evening, featuring three composers from very different epochs in the country’s history – linked to each other, and united in their love of choral and liturgical music.

The first mass which you will hear is by Jean Dattas (1919-1975), who was organist at Notre-Dame in Paris from 1949.  He studied under Marcel Dupré, Alfred Cortot, and Olivier Messiaen.  He moved to London in 1955, but for many years he returned every summer to play the organ at Notre-Dame.

Sylvie Dattas, Jean’s daughter, who is a member of BFCS, has the manuscript of his Messe (cum Jubilo), composed in 1951.  Early this year she gave it to our music director Patrick Larley, who edited and annotated two movements, the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, to be sung on our tour of Burgundy this summer.  We loved the music and felt it deserved another performance!

Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) was a good friend of Jean Dattas.  He was a well-known church organist in Paris, who was appointed as a teacher in the Conservatoire shortly before the Nazi invasion.  When he was commissioned in 1947 to write a Mass, he was already working on an organ suite, using themes from Gregorian chants.  He incorporated his sketches for that suite into the Requiem, and this background gives the work its distinctive character.

The Requiem, which was dedicated to the composer’s father, has notable similarities to the better-known version by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924).  Both are sensitively written, allocate the Pie Jesu to a soprano soloist, and finish with the quiet and meditative In Paradisum.  However, Duruflé’s setting is more sensitive to the words of the liturgy, and more closely modelled on plainchant melodies.  The original version was scored for a huge orchestra and organ, but we are using a later version, with organ alone.

The music beautifully captures the moods of the varied texts, most thrillingly in the Dies irae part of the Libera me movement.  Intriguingly, Duruflé concludes his Requiem with an unresolved discord, an unanswered question as it were.  Is this perhaps a reflection of the appalling experiences that the composer and his fellow-Parisians had so recently endured in the war?

Listen to ‘Libera me’ from Duruflé’s requiem here:

When Duruflé joined the Paris Conservatoire in 1920, Fauré, aged 75, was its director.  The youngest of six children, he had been the only one who showed any musical ability!  This was recognised early, and he was sent to a new music school in Paris at the age of nine.  When its founder, Louis Niedermayer, died in 1861, Fauré’s new piano teacher was Camille Saint-Saëns.  A few years later, he composed the serene and atmospheric Cantique de Jean Racine, which not surprisingly won him the school’s top prize.

His Requiem, undoubtedly his best-known work, was not composed for a particular occasion; indeed, it was started in the 1880s and did not reach its complete form until 1900.  It is interesting to note how this piece runs counter to most of the trends of the time. Most composers favoured large and loud orchestras and complicated textures (Wagner was much in vogue).  This Requiem, by contrast, is deliberately smaller-scale and contains comparatively little fortissimo singing – perhaps partly because Fauré was strongly influenced by the phrasing of Gregorian chant.

In his setting of the Requiem, Fauré followed the example set by Brahms’s German Requiem, which aimed to comfort the living rather than dwell on the fears of hell.  Fauré agreed with this approach, and the text of his Requiem omits the menacing words of the Dies Irae.  He said, “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”  The result is a very varied piece, veering from sombre to sunlit in mood; we hope it will lift your hearts this evening, as a beautiful climax to the concert.

David Fletcher.

Listen to the beautiful Sanctus from Fauré’s Requiem here: