Category Archives: Blues

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)

Choral Jazz and Blues

 

CHORAL JAZZ & BLUES

If you regularly attend performances by the Birmingham Festival Choral Society (which we sincerely hope you do!) you will find next month’s event something of a contrast.  All of the works are British, contemporary, in the jazz idiom – and, by all accounts, highly popular with audiences. The concert is called CHORAL JAZZ & BLUES: the lighter side of choral music.  Moreover, it will take place not at our normal church or concert hall venues but in the Informal setting of Trefoil House in central Birmingham, with food and drink at your table while you soak up the music.

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What of the music itself?  The main item, Mass in Blue, written by Will Todd, is a remarkable fusion of two very different musical traditions: the sung Mass (whose European origins date from medieval times) and the Blues (of African-American 19th century origin, a forerunner of jazz).  This reflects the Durham-born composer’s “double life”, on the one hand an experienced chorister and classically-trained pianist, and on the other a jazz musician in his ‘down time’.

The work, accompanied by a small jazz ensemble (piano, upright bass, drums – and a virtuoso soprano soloist) features the traditional sections of the sung Catholic Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Angus Dei).  For those familiar to conventional Mass settings, there will be much to recognise: plainchants and Latin rhythms interwoven with Blues-style syncopation, improvisation and melodies.  First  performed in 2003, Mass in Blue was an immediate success, and is an increasingly popular item of the choral repertoire.

Two further works in the jazz idiom feature in the programme. Songs and Sonnets is a cycle of seven familiar Shakespeare verses (including  It was a lover and his lass and Who is Sylvia?) by the revered British jazz pianist and composer Sir George Shearing, who died in 2011.  The concert will also include Birthday Madrigals by the popular choral composer John Rutter, who was commissioned to write this collection of songs on the occasion of Shearing’s 75th birthday.

CHORAL JAZZ & BLUES, with the Birmingham Festival Choral Society conducted by Kevin Gill, takes place at Trefoil House, Blucher Street B1 1QL, on Saturday 14 July at 6.30pm.  You are welcome to bring some supper to enjoy at your own table.  There will be a bar available from the start of the concert for wine and soft drinks.