Category Archives: Choral

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’ – pictures of a great evening.

Many thanks to Alfred Whhite for these pictures of our concert last Saturday. The beautiful music by Fauré, Duruflé and Dattas was enjoyed by both the choir and the capacity audience.

One member of the audience sent the following message to our Birmingham Festival Choral Society Facebook page:

Thank you for a lovely evening of music. The Faure pieces were sublime!

Meet our new Music Director.

We are delighted to announce that David Wynne is to be our new Music Director.

David will take up his new post in January. It promises to be an exciting future!

david-wynne-publicity-photoDavid has been Music Director of the Ryton Chorale since 2013 and Arrow Vale Singers since 2012. He graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with a Masters degree in Vocal and Operatic Performance (studying as a bass-baritone) and has been a soloist in both oratorio and opera. While at the Conservatoire he was awarded a scholarship to study choral conducting with the influential conductor Paul Spicer.

In addition to his conducting posts David is closely involved in educational work: he is co-founder of the St Chad’s Choral Outreach Programme in Birmingham, and teaches and conducts at the Birmingham Junior Conservatoire.

Further information will be found on the link below.

david-wynne-conducting-biog

 

 

 

 

Come to our free taster session!

Come along at 7pm on Wednesday 7th September to sample a BFCS rehearsal, with no obligation! A very warm welcome awaits you. We meet at Lordswood Girls’ School, Knightlow Rd, Harborne, Birmingham B17 8QB.

The choir has just returned from a very successful tour to France, and is looking forward to preparing French music for our November concert. The major works in this concert will be the beautiful requiems by Faure and Durufle.

Happiness is singing in a choir

French feedback

One of the highlights of our tour was the enthusiastic response of the French audiences, and the fact that people travelled to different cities in Yonne to hear us again, bringing friends and family with them.

One member of the audience at St Julien du Sault uploaded this recording of our encore:

Halleluja! Section of our Encore at St Julien du Sault, recorded by Guy Bourras.

L’Yonne Republicaine, the newspaper for the region, published the following reviews of three of our concerts:

St Julien du Sault

Review from St Julien du Sault

Sens Cathedral

Review from Sens concert

Vezelay

Review from Vezelay

Auxerre

Review from Auxerre

 

Auxerre – the final concert.

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Auxerre is the capital of the county of Yonne which makes up a quarter of Burgundy. It seemed fitting that our last concert was held in Auxerre, as this had been our base for our five days on tour. 

Have a look once again at our tour video – it means so much more, now that we have visited these beautiful places!

Click here: A glimpse of the places in Burgundy where BFCS toured in July 2016

There had been several opportunities to spend time in Auxerre over the five days, and BFCS singers had enjoyed exploring the town and eating and drinking there.

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Horloge astronomique. Auxerre.

The final concert was held in the church of St Pierre which, the video tells us, has a better acoustic then the Cathedral. We were driven, wearing our choir uniform, to the coach park by the River Yonne, and then walked across the bridge to the church in the town. Some of us were asked if we were a hen party, as we were all dressed the same!! When we explained that we were a choir, our questioners said straight away “Oh yes – from Birmingham. We’ve seen about you in the paper!”

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Church of St Pierre, Auxerre

We were feeling very hot and tired at the rehearsal, and tuning began to suffer. Would this last concert be an anticlimax after the three wonderful concerts that had gone before?

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BFCS rehearsal in the Church of St Pierre, Auxerre.

We should have known better! Once again, the church miraculously filled up with 300+ people, the adrenaline kicked in, and we rose to the occasion. The tenors and basses at the back said that it was one of the best concerts of all, as all of the parts could be heard clearly, not blurred into a mush by a large resonance, as at Vezelay. One of the joys of touring is that you get to know the works very well, and we were confidently singing much of it from memory. We had all grown to love the ‘Cum Jubilo’ Mass (Dattas) in particular (the Rutter ‘Home is a special kind of feeling’ not so much!). Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, ‘God be in my Head'(Walford Davies)  and Notre Pere (Kedroff) were all very moving to sing. We each had our favourites from the thirteen works in the programme.

Sarah Anne endeared herself to the audience by speaking to them in French, then kicking off her shoes and standing on a chair to sing her solos!

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A full house to hear our concert in the church of St Pierre, Auxerre.
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Sarah-Anne Cromwell sings Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate and Alleluia.

Once again, the audience started slow hand clapping for an encore and they were rewarded with the Hallelujah chorus! Roger Millot appeared again with single roses for the sopranos and altos who hadn’t received one in Vezelay. As the singing ended, Patrick mouthed “finished”. Not only was it the last performance of the tour, but it was the last one that Patrick would conduct as our Music Director.

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Patrick and Gill Larley after his last BFCS performance, in Auxerre.

We made our way back across the bridge, with its beautiful view of the Cathedral at dusk. There followed a meal at the hotel, and BFCS concert party from midnight to 1.30am! Despite this, everyone was up in time for the coaches to set off for Birmingham at 9am the next morning – there was plenty of time for sleeping on the 14 hour journey.

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BFCS tours are a marvellous way of bringing everyone together to share wonderful singing in inspiring venues in beautiful parts of the world. The friendships made on tour all help to strengthen our choir throughout the year. The fact that about 90% of the whole choir had come on the tour, with ages ranging from 15 to 83 , shows how much they are enjoyed by everyone, and we would like to thank all of the tour organisers for making it all possible.

Christine Wright (2nd soprano)

Vezelay works its magic.

Vezelay is a very special place for many people. The little town on the top of the hill and the 11th century Basilica have been a place of pilgrimage for many centuries, and Vezelay is now recognised as a world heritage site. The views of the countryside from the hilltop are breathtaking.

Patrick Larley, our Music Director, and his wife Gill love Vezelay so much that they have visited here 27 years in a row. The Basilica is full of music: the spiritual community of monks and nuns sing services here every day, and many prestigious choirs visit here. Would we be able to attract the same audience as these professional singers, especially as our concert time was 9pm? There had been other concerts at 4pm and 5pm, and the day visitors had long gone.

No matter! Part of the joy of choir tours is singing in wonderful places, and we would treasure this experience, even if the audience was small. We knew that it would include Tom, a former member of BFCS who moved away from Birmingham about 13 years ago. Tom has adopted the lovely idea of booking European weekend breaks around our tours,and has attended our concerts in Slovenia, Estonia, Slovakia, Dublin, and now Vezelay.

We also knew that some other special visitors were taking a 3 hour drive from the South of Burgundy to be with us. These were the family of Sylvie Dattas, one of our second sopranos.

Sylvie is French, but has lived in England for many years. At each of our tour concerts, Sylvie has introduced the Kyrie and Mass written by her late father, Jean Dattas, in 1951 while he was organist at Notre Dame in Paris. Patrick Larley has transcribed the music from the original manuscripts, and our performances of the Kyrie and Agnus Dei on this tour are the first time this beautiful music has been heard in concert.

Before the concert, many BFCS singers wearing tour poloshirts were handing out leaflets in the town, and we had seen many posters in shop windows.

It all paid off, as at 9pm the Basilica was filled with 300+ people! We heard of people who had come to our concert in Sens, and had driven for 90 mins to hear us again in Vezelay. With such a wonderful audience, how could we fail to sing our very best? We included the Benedictus in the Schubert Mass this time, which has a beautiful part for soprano soloist  (Sarah-Ann Cromwell) supported by tenor (Mitch Holland) and bass (Patrick Larley). Kevin Gill also did a dazzling rendition of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Here is a video recording of ‘God be in my Head’ by Marilyn Kent:

We had prepared a very special encore for this special place: a setting of the Lord’s Prayer  (Notre Pere) that Patrick had originally heard sung by the monastic community here at Vezelay. Many people found this very moving.

However, that was not enough for this audience! They slow hand clapped until we sang again – the full Hallelujah Chorus! Roger Millot, our French tour coordinator, appeared with a bouquet for Sarah-Ann and individual roses for the sopranos and altos in the front row. Still they clapped, so we made a quick decision to sing Chilcott’s version of the Londonderry Air. Some wanted a fourth encore! Many people came up to thank us – I was told by one French gentleman that we made him feel the music in his heart.

It was the most wonderful experience. As we left the Basilica it looked beautiful in the warm light. People have been singing here for 1100 years, and we can now add ourselves to that number.