We do hope that you will be able to come to hear two beautiful works of choral sacred music at the next Birmingham Festival Choral Society concert.
Mozart’s much-loved Requiem will be performed by BFCS on 18th November, using Czerny’s beautiful, and rarely-heard, accompaniment for piano (four hands).
Mozart died at only 35 – poignantly, whilst working on his Requiem Mass. The mysterious circumstances around his last days formed the basis of the film ‘Amadeus’. The Requiem is a serene epitaph to a supremely gifted and revered composer.
In contrast, Ralph Vaughan Williams lived until his mid-80s. His Mass in G Minor, the other work in the concert, is notable for being the first Catholic Mass to be written in England since the Reformation. His experiences shortly before, as an ambulance driver in in the first World War, must surely have had some influence on the contemplative style of the piece. The Mass reflects the style of Byrd and other great Elizabethan church composers which was enjoying a revival in the early 20th century. It was first performed as a concert piece in Birmingham in 1922, and was first used as an integral part of the Mass in Westminster Cathedral in 1923.
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.
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!”
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
St George’s was full when Birmingham Festival Choral Society gave their last Birmingham concert with Patrick Larley as Music Director. It was extra special to perform Mozart’s beautiful ‘Ave Verum corpus’, and we all enjoyed singing the Masses by Schubert and Mozart. The sopranos and altos also sang Schubert’s ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, which was a special treat.
We were delighted to welcome back our Conservatoire soloists, Elouise Waterhouse, Robert Tilson and Alistair Donague for a third concert with us. Sarah Ann Cromwell first sang with us ten years ago, when she was a Conservatoire student. Her singing of Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate was one of the highlights of yesterday’s concert!
Concert 8 pm, Sunday 22nd May, Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire.
BFCS has many happy memories of concerts at the Adrian Boult Hall, and is delighted to be performing there one last time, as part of their ‘City of Sounds’ festival. We will be singing Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Ave Verum Corpus, with Queen’s Park Sinfonia and the Conservatoire vocal soloists from our March and July concerts.
BFCS looks forward to future concerts in the new Conservatoire concert hall after their move to the new Eastside campus.