The music’s live! again, and this time we’re in the company of a local choir, the Birmingham Festival Choral Society (BFCS, for short).
A Bit of history
BFCS has a long history, stretching way back into the nineteenth century. Its history is intertwined with that of the Birmingham Triennial Music Festivals. The Festivals were held every three years to raise money for the Birmingham General Hospital. As the nineteenth century progressed, the Festival administrators spent a lot of time and effort attracting the best musical talent to compose and perform new choral music. These commissions composed by Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Sullivan, Gounod, Stanford, and later, Elgar, represented some of the best music of the time, and the BFCS was there, right at the centre. BFCS singers formed the core of each chorus used at the Festivals.
The singers of Birmingham Festival Choral Society are looking forward to singing Bach’s St John Passion at the Sesquicentenary celebrations of the church of St Augustine of Hippo, Edgbaston. Apparently , this is the name for 150 years – which means that the church opened just 22 years after our choir’s first performance, in the Birmingham Triennial Festival.
The church has a notable choral tradition, and was the first Anglican church in Birmingham to have a surpliced choir. The composer Herbert Howells wrote his ‘St Augustine’s Service’ for the choir in 1967. The church sits in the middle of the beautiful St Augustine’s conservation area.
We hope that you’ll be able to join us for our concert here on 24th March. Click here for further details of the concert Bach: St John Passion
Birmingham was buzzing last weekend with hundreds of music and dance events happening in the ‘Birmingham Weekender’ event. There was ballet in the Bullring, an Orchestra playing in a multi storey car park, a parade through New Street led by a large mechanical elephant, and music and dance from all over the world.
[Photos: Christine Wright]
Birmingham Festival Choral Society was formed for the big Birmingham music festivals in Victorian times, so it was only right that we should be there at the big Birmingham music festival 170 years later!
We represented music of the Western Choral tradition, with pieces by Mozart, Elgar, Brahms and Chilcott.
[Photo: Jill Lampert]
[Above photos: Barry Whitehead]
It was a great experience to be a part of such an exciting event, and many of our singers took the chance to experience the performances going on over the city centre. The icing on the cake was having the chance to tour the brand new building of the newly honoured Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Read the Birmingham Post’s interview with our Music Director, David Wynne, published this week! David talks to Chris Morley about his career to date, and his future plans with Birmingham Festival Choral Society.
Do you love singing? Come and try a choir practice with Birmingham Festival Choral Society! (No obligation). Chat to our singers over coffee and cake in the interval.
We are a friendly mixed choir who sing a wide variety of the world’s best classical choral music. We’ll be learning Carmina Burana and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms this term, in preparation for concerts with the Liverpool Welsh Choral.
As well as concerts in Birmingham and the Midlands, we tour abroad every 3 years – great for singing experiences, as well as strengthening choir friendships.
We look forward to meeting you!
Wednesday 26th April, 7.00 for 7.15pm. Finishing time 9.30pm
It was a great concert on Saturday, attended by Birmingham’s Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. A full audience heard beautiful Chopin Nocturnes played on the piano by Kevin Gill, and many lovely choral items fitting in with the theme of night. It was a challenging and full repertoire, prepared and directed by our talented new music director, David Wynne.
Open up these links to see the pictures and comments.
'Music evoked by the beauty of night'. David Wynne's first concert as our Music Director.
Tim Davis and David Wynne were guests on Radio WMs Sonny and Shay programme this afternoon, talking about Birmingham Festival Choral Society, David’s new appointment as Music Director, and the forthcoming ‘Nocturne’ concert.
David was challenged to give Sonny some singing exercises and decide what voice part he was – the conclusion was 1st Bass! Tim managed to get in every last detail about the choir, history, website and rehearsals – well done!
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.
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.
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.
Visitors to the 50+show at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) were treated to two 30 minute performances of popular classics from BFCS in Harmony. The programme ranged from settings of ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ by Mozart and Elgar to ‘Joyful joyful’ from ‘Sister Act, which we had sung at a wedding last year. It was great fun – and the receptive audience included someone who came up to tell us that she had sung with the Birmingham Festival Choral Society many years ago, another who was interested in joining in the future, and others who asked for details for booking BFCS in Harmony.
BFCS in Harmony is a small offshoot of the big Birmingham Festival Choral Society (BFCS), and is available to hire for weddings, Christmas carol singing and other events. It is led by Margaret Jones, who also sings contralto in the big BFCS.
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.