Category Archives: Birmingham

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

CRISIS at christmas

St Martin’s in the Bullring was the venue for the ‘Crisis’ Carol Service on Tuesday evening. Birmingham Festival Choral Society was pleased to support this worthwhile charity by leading the carol singing in the service.

Our recent connection with Crisis had started two years ago, when they were the chosen charity for our Christmas Carol Concert. We were moved by the stories we heard of the work of the charity, so we were pleased to take up their invitation to lead the singing at their 2017 and 2018 Carol Services.

Last year we heard how Crisis had been set up in 1967 with the aim of ending homelessness, and had no idea that they would still be so badly needed 50 years later. This year, the Chief Executive told us that they have prepared a plan documenting how homelessness could be ended in 10 years, if the politicians have the will to make it happen. The charity will keep lobbying to keep up the pressure.

The rector of St Martin’s, Revd Jeremy Allcock, spoke about how the Christian gospel should lead to an ‘open hand, open heart and open door’. 

The stories told by clients were very moving, and reminded us that the loss of a home can be caused by all sorts of circumstances , and affect people of all ages. We heard how the charity helps people with substance abuse, and provides training to help people get into employment, and learn domestic skills.

We enjoyed singing the familiar Christmas carols, adding descants too. BFCS also sang ‘Away in a Manger’ to the Jacques tune, and a rousing ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ at the end. Singing “we all want some figgy pudding” led very naturally to refreshments at the back of the church, and a chance for singers to chat to people involved in the charity and give to the collection. The evening had been thought-provoking, and reminded us how fortunate we are to have our own homes to return to.

Carols in Grand Central.

Christmas carol singing started early for us this year, on the first day of December. A group of intrepid singers from Birmingham Festival Choral Society braved the
traffic jams and Christmas shopping crowds  to make our way to Grand Central and join in the big fund-raising event for Youth Music.

100 choirs were singing  in 8 rail stations up and down the country this weekend to raise money for the Youth Music charity, which invests in music making projects to help young people develop personally, socially and musically.  For further information, have a look at their website:  https://www.youthmusic.org.uk

We set up our keyboard and banners right under the departure boards, and off we went, singing a range of carols to the passing crowds. There was a loud hubbub in the station and regular tannoy announcements, so we soon realised that the pianissimo passages would have to be upgraded to forte!  A circle of supporters and passers by soon built up, and a number of people were singing along with us in the well known carols. 

The 30 minutes sped by , and soon another choir was lining up to take our place. The organisers thanked us for our contribution, and soon everyone had disappeared into the crowds again, with those Christmas melodies going round in their heads.

Many thanks to Bill Brown and Jane Arstall for these lovely photos of the event.

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’. 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.

Nov18 landscape - Copy (800x394)

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.

 

 

Nov18 flyer

Introducing the team for our November concerts.

The singers of Birmingham Festival Choral Society are  looking forward to joining with Ryton Chorale, David Wynne’s other choir, for two performances of ‘Grant us Peace’:

Saturday 10th November 7.30pm
Crossing Church and Centre, Newcastle Street,
Worksop S80 2AT

Saturday 17th November 7.30pm
St George’s Church, Edgbaston,
Birmingham, B15 3DQ.

Nov18 flyer

 

The vocal soloists for both concerts will be Holly Teague, soprano, and Miles Taylor, baritone.

Originally a violinist, Holly’s love of literature and theatre led her to study singing at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Conservatoire de Paris. Holly appears regularly as soloist for choral societies, enjoys singing in opera productions, and looks forward to teaching singing again at MAC in 2019.

Miles has much experience of singing in opera, oratorios and competitions in Yorkshire. He is now studying for a Master’s Degree at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

 

As an extra treat, we will have a harp accompaniment in Howard Goodall’s ‘Eternal Light’, played by Vera Khait.

Vera grew up in Russia, and came to study at the Birmingham Conservatoire in 2008. She now preforms regularly in classical music concerts, and has also worked in TV music with Sky Arts and Channel 4.

Vera Khait

 

We have a quartet of accomplished keyboard players to accompany the choirs in the two concerts.

For the Worksop concert on 10th November, Rupert Jeffcoat will play organ for both works, and Mitchell Holland will play the piano in ‘Eternal Light’. When not playing, Mitch will be singing in the tenor section of BFCS!

In Birmingham on the 17th November,  BFCS accompanist Kevin Gill will play the piano part in the Goodall and Darren Hogg will play the organ in both works.

 

 

Finally – the chorus will be formed from the singers of Ryton Chorale and the Birmingham Festival Choral Society , under the baton of maestro David Wynne! This is the first time that David’s choral societies have come together , and we look forward very much to singing together in the home towns of the two societies.

David Wynne, conductor.
David Wynne, conductor.

 

Ryton Chorale
Ryton Chorale

 

Birmingham Festival Choral Society.
Birmingham Festival Choral Society

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.

Nov18 flyer

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.

Summer flyer (1)

Our professional jazz performers for ‘Mass in Blue’

We have an exciting line up of professional jazz musicians for our performance of Will Todd’s Mass in Blue on Saturday 14th July!

Hannah Davey 2

Hannah Davey, sings the soprano solo, which is a major part of the work and has great moments of interplay with the choir. Hannah has the rare talent of being equally at home singing classical and jazz music. As well as professional singing, Hannah works with the charity ‘Music for Autism’which provides high calibre performance for children and adults with special needs.

Our Jazz Trio consists of Chris Corcoran, piano, Mike Green on upright bass and Dave Wilkes on drums.

Chris is well known in the Birmingham area as a director or accompanist for musical theatre. He enjoys arranging and composing jazz music, and has played and toured with many bands.

Mike’s experience varies from small intimate Jazz Clubs to appearing on national TV. In recent years he has been touring and recording with Gypsy jazz guitarist Remi Harris.

Dave was playing in the junior section of the Midlands Jazz Orchestra as young as 6 years of age! In more recent years he’s played with many bands on tour, and in theatre for shows such as ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Back to the 80s’ in Birmingham.

We can’t wait to perform ‘Mass in Blue’ with such  exciting musicians!

36580704_1966263700072897_2230185858919563264_o