Category Archives: Birmingham Events

Messiah – our professional performers.

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.

Handel’s MESSIAH

Saturday 16 November 2019, 7.30pm

Church of St Alban the Martyr, Stanhope St, Birmingham B12 0YF

Gloria – a concert not to be missed!

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.

Listen to BFCS singing music by Jean Dattas on tour in Auxerre, France.

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!

David Fletcher

Gloria Full flyer

Gloria! Choral works with organ, brass and percussion.

Saturday 30th March 7.30pm

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

Click here for tickets to ‘Gloria’.

Come to our Christmas Charity carol Concert!

Take a break from the Christmas preparations, and come and enjoy an evening of Christmas music with Birmingham Festival Choral Society!

Ladywood ARC

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!

Click here for tickets to our concert.

War and Peace, conveyed through music.

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:

https://lobmusiclibrary.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/grant-us-peace/

‘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:

And finally – the conductor’s shoes!

Grant Us Peace!

Read Birmingham Music Library’s  new blog about our ‘Grant us Peace’ concert, a singer’s experience of singing the music, and some fascinating background information.

In Concert

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 in Flanders 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…

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‘Grant us Peace’. Reflections on war and peace.

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.

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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.

 

 

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Grant us Peace

This term Birmingham Festival Choral Society will be preparing thought-provoking works by Vaughan Williams and Howard Goodall to mark 100 years since the ending of the first World War. We will join with Ryton Chorale, David Wynne’s other choral society, for two concerts in November.

The theme of the concert is ‘Grant us Peace’.

Vaughan Williams produced his plea for peace, ‘Dona Nobis pacem’ at a time when there were fears of a second World War, so shortly after the first. His texts were taken from the Mass, the Bible, a political speech and three poems by Walt Whitman. The phrase Dona nobis pacem (“Give us peace”), in different settings, punctuates the entire piece.

‘Eternal Light’ by Howard Goodall uses phrases from the Latin Requiem in each movement, beside words from English poetry from across the last 500 years, in an attempt to provide some solace for the living who mourn those lost as a result of war.

GRANT US PEACE.

Reflective music to mark the ending of the First World War.

Saturday 10 November 2018, 7.30pm

Crossing Church and Centre, Newcastle Street, Worksop S80 2AT

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 and Mitch Holland, Piano and organ.

Vera Khait, harp

Conductor: David Wynne

Poster image: Chris Fletcher.

Come to our Open Rehearsal!

Do you, or someone you know, fancy joining a choir – but aren’t quite sure? Why not come along to our Open Rehearsal on Wednesday 5th September? We’re a friendly group of men and women of all ages, united by a love of singing.

Come along to Lordswood Girls School  at 7pm to have time to be welcomed, and introduced to someone in your voice part who will help guide you through the rehearsal. We’ll have a break for refreshments and socialising half way through. The rehearsal finishes at 9.30pm.

Click here for more information about joining our choir. We’d be grateful if you would pass this information on to anyone you think might be interested in our Open Rehearsal.

This is the concert we’ll be working towards this term. The music promises to be inspiring and moving, as we think about the ending of the first World War 100 years ago.

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Shakespeare and the Latin Mass – jazz style.

A full hall for 'Choral Jazz and Blues' (Photo by David Jones)

Trefoil House was full for our ‘Choral Jazz and Blues’ concert on a hot night in July. Our guests relaxed at tables, sipping their drinks and eating their snacks as they listened to a style of choral music that was very different to the usual BFCS repertoire.

It was a treat for the singers to be accompanied by such skilful Jazz musicians. Chris Corcoran on piano, Dave Wilkes on drums and Mike Green on upright bass gave us a rhythmic accompaniment that really boosted our singing!

Photo by David Jones.BFCS accompanied by the Jazz trio Photo by David Jones)

The first half of the programme consisted of George Shearing’s ‘Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare’, and the ‘Birthday Madrigals’ that John Rutter wrote for Shearing’s 75th birthday. Both works fuse traditional choral music with American Jazz influences. The Jazz Trio then entertained us, while people refilled their glasses or stepped outside to cool down.

The highlight of the evening came after the interval. ‘Mass in Blue’, Will Todd’s popular setting of the Latin Mass, combines his background in sacred choral music with his love of jazz. Although the style had seemed unfamiliar at the beginning of term, the BFCS singers had soon come to love the beauty of the Kyrie and Sanctus, the fun of the Benedictus, and the excitement of the Credo and Agnus Dei! Our soprano soloist Hannah Davey was just awesome, effortlessly moving between the loudest sections, with top Cs, and the spine-tingling beauty of the ‘Et incarnatus est’.

Hannah Davey 2

What a lovely surprise to find out that the concert had been recorded from the audience! Thank you to Alex Botten for sending this to us:

This concert was very popular with both singers and audience, and we hope to explore some other choral jazz works in the future. Watch this space!

 

David Jones IMG_3218Mandy Hart IMG-20180714-WA0001

Many thanks to David Jones and Mandy Hart for taking these pictures from the audience.

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