Our Christmas Concert is nearly here! It’s one of our favourite times of the year – Christmas music, mince pies and mulled wine in the warm and attractive venue of Ladywood ARC. We do hope that many friends, new and old, will be able to join us.
We will be supporting a charity that has grown out of great personal sadness. The Cameron Grant Memorial Trust has been founded to raise awareness and support mental health in young people. Please give generously.
Birmingham Festival Choral Society are pleased to be supporting Crisis, the charity fighting to end homelessness, at their Christmas Carol Service in St Martin’s in the Bullring.
To quote from their website:
Join us for Crisis Skylight Birmingham’s Carol Service at St Martin in the Bull Ring for an evening of carols, mince-pies and drinks as we gather together to kick-start our Season of Wellbeing and Celebration, honouring our achievements of the past and looking forward to a future without homelessness.
Tuesday 3rd December 2019 St Martin in the Bull Ring, Edgbaston St, Birmingham B5 5BB
Carol Service: 6pm – 7:00pm Refreshments: 7:00pm – 7:30pm
This is a free, public event but please click here to reserve a ticket so we can make sure we have enough mince pies for everyone!
To learn more about this worthwhile cause, please have a look at the Crisis website.
BFCS, and many other choirs across the country, will be singing the new carol ‘Ring the Bells for Christmas’. The composer, Paul Fincham, is donating all of his royalties from the purchase of the sheet music to ‘Crisis’. We are very pleased to support this fund raising venture.
Our Messiah concert on 16th November was a wonderful occasion for both performers and audience. So many people came to hear the concert that the conductor and performers had to be turned back five times, as people were still arriving and more chairs had to be found! Eventually we were all settled and that wonderful music began…
Handel certainly knew how to write music that is a pleasure to sing! We received many compliments from members of the audience on our diction, phrasing, dynamics and energy. One ordained listener said that the concert was an inspiring spiritual experience for him.
Please click the arrows to see photos from all sections of the choir.
The Musical and Amicable Society were a perfect balance to the choir. They played beautifully and effortlessly.
” The trumpet shall sound”
What did our concert have in common with the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan? David Blackadder, the trumpeter! At the royal wedding he played Handel’s beautiful ‘Eternal Source of Light Divine, with the soprano Elin Manahan Thomas.
He is on the right of this photo, with Matthew Frost.
Our wonderful soloists: James Williams, baritone, Phillipa Thomas, Mezzo, Penelope Appleyard, soprano and Xavier Hetherington, tenor.
The man who brought it all together: our talented Music Director David Wynne. His wardrobe of shoes is a constant source of fascination!
We were delighted with the standing ovation and long applause at the end of the concert . A memorable concert from start to finish!
Many thanks to Alfred White for this wonderful gallery of photographs. Thank you also to Mary Keating for the picture of ‘the shoes’ and one other from her seat in the audience.
We are delighted to to tell you about the top class soloists and baroque orchestra who will be performing ‘Messiah’ with us on 16th November! The concert will take place in the gothic church of St Alban the Martyr, Highgate, Birmingham, known for its beautiful acoustics.
THE BAROQUE ORCHESTRA
The Musical and Amicable Society society last performed with Birmingham Festival Choral Society in Bach’s St John Passion, in 2018. They are a collective of professional period-instrument specialists, performing in combinations ranging from small ensembles to full orchestra all over the country. Their presence will add a touch of Baroque magic to our performance!
Penelope Appleyard , Soprano.
Known for her clear and agile voice, Penelope Appleyard enjoys a busy freelance career as a soloist and ensemble singer, predominantly in the field of early music.
Penelope studied with Christine Cairns and Andrew King at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and in 2019 was awarded Honorary Membership of the Conservatoire for notable success since graduation. She has performed and recorded throughout the UK and internationally.
Xavier Hetherington, Tenor.
After graduating from St John’s College, Cambridge, and a brief period of study in Moscow, Xavier returned to the UK to study privately with Christine Cairns. He won a prestigious scholarshiop to the Royal College of Music, London, where he learns with Russell Smythe.
As a concert soloist Xavier has sung in Cathedrals and churches throughout England and in halls such as St John’s Smith Square and Wigmore Hall. He supported by Opera Prelude and has taken part in Operas in many places including the Royal College of Music, Dartington Festival and in the chorus at Glyndebourne.
Phillipa Thomas, Mezzo.
Phillipa Thomas began her studies at the University of York, where she was awarded the Concerto Prize, before continuing to further success, winning first place in the Birmingham Conservatoire Singing Prize. Since then, she has performed many operatic roles.
On the oratorio platform, Phillipa has been fortunate to work as a soloist with renowned choral societies and orchestras across the UK. Her extensive knowledge of and passion for sacred music has led to frequent performances of works from a variety of periods.
Phillipa has also recorded numerous oratorio solos as part of a project with the professional ensemble Blossom Street Singers. Phillipa is currently working at Oper Köln in their production of Brett Dean’s Hamlet and future projects include a follow-up album to the widely acclaimed Blossom Street recording, This Day.
James Willams, Baritone.
James Williams studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London, during which time he received training from eminent figures, such as Richard Bonynge, Simon Keenlyside and John Shirley-Quirk. Since graduating, he has enjoyed an active performing career throughout the UK, Europe and Asia.
James served as Musical Director for Brent Opera during their productions of Macbeth, Martha, and Nabucco, while having worked as a répétiteur for various London-based opera companies. As a composer, he recently witnessed the premiere of his Mass for St. Helen, as well as his commemorative cycle of war songs for baritone and piano, performed to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
Saturday 16 November 2019, 7.30pm
Church of St Alban the Martyr, Stanhope St, Birmingham B12 0YF
We hope that you are looking forward to our ‘Gloria’ concert on Saturday 30th March. Here are the programme notes about the feast of music awaiting you there:
Welcome to our concert. I trust that you weren’t expecting a quiet relaxing occasion: the title should give you a clue that this will be an evening of joyful celebration, and the presence of a brass band makes that even more obvious! Variety is the name of the game, with no fewer than six British (and one French) composers represented, and there are links with four coronation ceremonies and several other royal occasions. We may also note how composers often draw inspiration from the Bible, with settings of four psalms and another scripture passage on display.
By far the oldest text which we are performing is the “Old Hundredth”, an English version of Psalm 100 which first appeared in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter (1561). The words are attributed to a Scots clergyman, William Kethe, and the tune to a Frenchman, Louis Bourgeois. The arrangement which we are singing (which includes the instruction “all available trumpets” for the final verse!) was made by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Vaughan Williams had written a Te Deum for the coronation of George VI in 1937, and might well have hoped for a repeat performance in 1953. Instead, however, William Walton (1902-1983) was commissioned to write a new version, which is the one we are singing tonight. The words of the Te Deum, a translation of a fourth-century Latin hymn, describe how God is praised by many different groups. Here they are given a dramatic setting, full of antiphonal effects and making good use of the brass – as you would expect for the pomp of a coronation. It was first sung as the Queen left at the end of the ceremony. Although we are not singing Vaughan Williams’ setting, we are (in compensation?!) featuring his exuberant setting of Psalm 47, O clap your hands, written in 1920.
The anthem which has been sung at every coronation since 1902 is the spectacular I was glad, by Hubert Parry (1848-1918). As it happens, the tradition of singing Psalm 122 as the monarch enters Westminster Abbey dates all the way back to Charles I, the words having been set by a number of composers including Henry Purcell and William Boyce. At the 1902 coronation, Parry’s setting actually had to be sung twice, as the director of music misjudged the timing and finished it before King Edward VII had even arrived!
We are also featuring pieces by two composers with special links to BFCS. To mark the centenary of his birth, we will perform three pieces by Jean Dattas (1919-1975), former organist of Notre Dame in Paris, whose daughter is one of our sopranos. When we first sang the two movements from his Messe cum Jubilo in 2016, on our tour of Burgundy, they excited great interest: tonight we are adding a simple but effective setting of Ave Maria. And as a tribute to our patron John Joubert (1927-2019), who died two months ago, we are singing his exuberant setting of Psalm 150, O praise God in his holiness.
So to our youngest composer, Will Todd (born 1970), whose jazzy Mass in Blue we performed last July. The three pieces in this concert have a more traditional feel, albeit with several syncopated episodes. The Lord is my Shepherd, a setting of the well-known Psalm 23, is part of a Te Deum which was commissioned in 2009, and Stay with me, Lord was commissioned by the Sixteen in 2008, but then extensively rewritten for a 2012 performance by Tenebrae. The third piece, The Call of Wisdom, has a royal connection: it was composed for the Queen’s diamond jubilee, and first performed at St Paul’s Cathedral on 5 June 2012 in her presence. In the text, taken from the book of Proverbs, Wisdom calls on us to follow her, ignoring the lures of gold or silver.
The actual title of our concert derives from our final musical offering. John Rutter (born 1945) has recently composed pieces for two different royal occasions; however, his setting of the Gloria is an earlier work, dating from 1974. Rutter divides the text into three sections: the first is fast and full of verve, whereas Domine Deus is quiet and meditative, with some beautiful solos for the upper voices. The final section, Quoniam tu solus sanctus, starts at almost breakneck speed; it finishes with a repeat of the opening Gloria, a lively fugue (Cum sancto Spiritu), and a splendid Amen. It has been said that Rutter “writes music that people want to perform and to hear”. We have certainly enjoyed preparing this piece, and indeed the whole repertoire – so we hope you will enjoy listening to it all!
Glorious choral works with organ, brass and percussion. The concert includes works written for royal occasions, and music written by Jean Dattas, who was born 100 years ago.
Rutter: Gloria, Walton: Coronation Te Deum, Parry: I Was Glad, Vaughan Williams: Old Hundredth, Vaughan Williams: O Clap Your Hands, Will Todd: The Lord is my Shepherd, Will Todd: Stay with Me Lord, Will Todd: Call of Wisdom, Jean Dattas: Ave Maria, Kyrie and Sanctus.
Birmingham Festival Choral Society, Gemini Brass, Kevin Gill: organ, David Wynne: conductor.
St John’s and St Peter’s Church, Ladywood ARC, Darnley Road, Birmingham, B16 8TF
Take a break from the Christmas preparations, and come and enjoy an evening of Christmas music with Birmingham Festival Choral Society!
Next Saturday the choir will be singing carols old and new, and a selection from Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’. The evening will also include readings of Christmas poetry and opportunities for the audience to join in singing well-known carols.
We hope that the concert will raise a big sum for our nominated charity: B.I.D. Services (formerly Birmingham Institute for the Deaf). A representative of the charity will tell us about the important work they do.
Last but not least, we’d love you to join us for seasonal refreshments after the concert!
A term’s work came to fruition in our two ‘Grant us Peace’ concerts: on 10th November in The Crossing Church, Worksop and 17th November in St George’s Church, Birmingham. The concerts came at a time when the media had been full of programmes and events about the centenary of the ending of the First World War. ‘Eternal Light’ by Howard Goodall and ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ by Vaughan Williams gave musical expression to the emotions around the tragedy of war and the desire for peace.
A fascinating blog about our concert programme and the background to the music can be read here. It was written by Anne Elliott, Music Librarian at the Library of Birmingham:
‘Eternal Light’ by Howard Goodall was particularly well received by both choir and audience. This work was based on the Requiem Mass, with the addition of words from the war poets, set to beautiful melodies. The rhythmically challenging sections which had caused so many problems in rehearsal, were very powerful when they came together, and made an effective contrast to the slower movements. It was good to be able to communicate this to the composer on Twitter and receive a reply!
It was not possible to communicate directly with a composer who died 60 years ago, but the Vaughan Williams work ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ was much enjoyed nonetheless. Dramatic war sections alongside lyrical hopes for peace made it a moving piece to sing and listen to.
Behind the altos was a poignant plaque to Raymond Lodge, the son of the Principal of Birmingham University, who was killed in action in 1915. At the end of the church was the main war memorial with the shocking list of all 72 young men from St George’s parish who died in the First World War.
We are indebted to Alfred White who took the following great pictures of the Birmingham concert – a night to remember!
Our performers: Holly Teague, soprano, Miles Taylor, baritone, Vera Khait, harp, Kevin Gill piano, David Wynne, conductor. Darren Hogg was hidden away, playing the organ.
The combined choir of Birmingham Festival Choral Society and Ryton Chorale singing in St George’s Church:
Once again, we hand over the blog to another musical organisation. This time it’s Birmingham Festival Choral Society and their contribution to the Armistice commemorations. We met members of BFCS in an earlier post which talked about a weekend away rehearsing. As this post goes out, it falls between two concerts which BFCS and Nottinghamshire-based Ryton Chorale are presenting together on the theme of war and peace. The two works are Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light, and Ralph Vaughan William’s Dona Nobis Pacem.
Poppies flowering in Flanders
I know the VW well, having played in two performances, but I don’t know the Goodall. Both composers take ancient Latin texts from the church liturgy and add new words. In VW’s case, more poetry from his beloved Walt Whitman, and the Old Testament; and from various sources for Goodall’s work.
Here’s a piece from one of BFCS’ singers about her experience…
The ‘Grant us Peace’ at St George’s Church, Edgbaston, on Saturday November 17 at 7.30pm brings together two choral societies who share David Wynne as their Music Director: Birmingham Festival Choral Society (BFCS) and Ryton Chorale in Worksop.
Pieces chosen give much food for thought about the tragedy of the lives lost and the effect on those left behind. Music includes Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1936 cantata Dona Nobis Pacem, and Howard Goodall’s Requiem Mass, Eternal Light, first performed on the 90th anniversary of the Armistice in 2008.
Dona Nobis Pacem meaning Grant Us Peace was written in the vanguard of the Second Word War by a composer deeply affected by his earlier experience as a stretcher bearer in the Great War.
The cantata opens with a prayer from the Catholic requiem mass, which gives the work its title, and also quotes liturgical and scriptural texts along with secular poems; notably by the 19th Century American poet Walt Whitman, who himself had served as a medic during the Civil War.
In comparison, composer Howard Goodall was known in his early career for his film and television themes. But his piece Eternal Light: A Requiem aims for a mood of solace for the grieving. He even described his work as being “a requiem for the living, addressing their suffering and endurance…focussing on the consequences of interrupted lives”. The work ends with Cardinal Newman’s poem “Lead Kindly Light”.
The concert on November 17 features soloists, who are all current or recent award-winning students from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. These include Holly Teague (Soprano), Miles Taylor (Baritone), Vera Khait (Harp), Kevin Gill (Piano) and Darren Hogg (Organ).
Tickets can be bought in advance here or on the door and cost £14 adults (£7 under 16, students, and escorts for disabled people)
The full Grant Us Peace concert programme is:
Saturday 17 November 2018, 7.30pm
St George’s Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 3DQ
Howard Goodall, Eternal Light
Vaughan Williams, Dona Nobis Pacem
Birmingham Festival Choral Society and Ryton Chorale.
Holly Teague, Soprano
Miles Taylor, Baritone
Kevin Gill Darren Hogg, Piano and organ.
Vera Khait, harp
Conductor: David Wynne
From concert entry in ‘Weekend Notes’ by Alison Brinkworth, taken from press release by Tom Dance (BFCS Bass singer). Link to original article here.
The friendly Birmingham choir singing the world's best choral music.