Tag Archives: concerts

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!

Read Birmingham Music Library’s  new blog about our ‘Grant us Peace’ concert, a singer’s experience of singing the music, and some fascinating background information.

In Concert

Once again, we hand over the blog to another musical organisation. This time it’s Birmingham Festival Choral Society and their contribution to the Armistice commemorations. We met members of BFCS in an earlier post which talked about a weekend away rehearsing. As this post goes out, it falls between two concerts which BFCS and Nottinghamshire-based Ryton Chorale are presenting together on the theme of war and peace. The two works are Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light, and Ralph Vaughan William’s Dona Nobis Pacem.

Poppies in Flanders Poppies flowering in Flanders

I know the VW well, having played in two performances, but I don’t know the Goodall. Both composers take ancient Latin texts from the church liturgy and add new words. In VW’s case, more poetry from his beloved Walt Whitman, and the Old Testament; and from various sources for Goodall’s work.

Here’s a piece from one of BFCS’ singers about her experience…

View original post 674 more words

‘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.

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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

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)

J S Bach: St John Passion

BACH: ST JOHN PASSION

During the holy season of Lent it is hard to imagine a spiritually more uplifting experience than listening to, or performing, one of the magnificent settings by J.S. Bach of the Passion of Jesus Christ.

One of the greatest choral works of all time, the St John Passion has been described as a deeply human, intensely dramatic telling of Christ’s betrayal, suffering and death set to music of heartbreaking beauty. It was first heard in St Thomas’s Church, Leipzig, in 1724 as one of the Good Friday liturgies; how fitting, therefore, that a performance by one of the Midlands’ premier choirs, the Birmingham Festival Choral Society, will be held on the eve of Holy Week, Saturday March 24th.

The choir’s Music Director David Wynne regards Bach’s St John Passion as “a remarkable work, combining large-scale chorus movements, congregational chorales and solo movements. It was written three years before the same composer’s St Matthew Passion and, being on a smaller scale, is often considered more intimate.”

Adding to the authenticity of the performance will be the participating orchestra, “The Musical & Amicable Society”, a renowned baroque ensemble, together with a team of distinguished international soloists led by Andrew King (The Evangelist). Moreover, for many who prefer sacred works to be heard in an ecclesiastical setting rather a concert hall, the Passion will be held in the one of the city’s most beautiful churches, St Augustine’s, Edgbaston.

The Birmingham Festival Choral Society’s performance of Bach’s St John Passion at St Augustine’s Church, Lyttleton Road, Birmingham B16 9NJ will take place on Saturday March 24th at 7.30pm.

Click here for tickets to Bach’s St John Passion

Final Bach flyer (5)

St Augustine's Edgbaston-5200
St Augustine’s Church, Edgbaston B16 9JN

Carmina! How did it sound?

From the Birmingham Post, 22nd June 2017:

2017-06-29 10.51.45

 

Reviews sent to our website , from members of the audience.

Superb! I’m not musically trained but I’ve been listening to 
classical music for decades 
& have heard a number of recordings of the Orff. 
A live performance is audibly preferable – even if the production 
is less to one’s taste. 
THIS was so strikingly superior and “live” to any recording I’ve 
ever heard – plus we could 
see how the less featured instruments actually perform. 

The joint choir, the juniors and the soloists were powerful, 
subtle and convincing. 
We thought it an excellent experience for the young singers to be 
there in the midst of the 
whole performance – and weren’t they mature throughout! 

The Bernstein was entirely new to us, again, convincing in its 
linguistic variety and engrossing. 

As to what can be released from a Pandora’s suitcase! And how 
they acted their parts in it! 
An astounding evening we would not have missed. 

*****

A wonderful Saturday evening at the Bramall.
A warm (very) summer’s evening, a perfect setting in the University, an audience bursting with anticipation—-and amazing performances by everyone.
The sound was quite literally stupendous—it amazed and dazzled and overwhelmed….
Everyone involved must be—and quite rightly—very proud….

*****

A brief note to say how much we enjoyed the concert on Saturday. 

The Chichester Psalms were new to us and a little challenging. The percussion was excellent and superb entertainment. Carmina Burana was magnificent. Congratulations to all who took part.

The looks on the childrens’ faces at the percussionists’ faces was almost worth the ticket price alone. 
We frequently attend your concerts – travelling from Nuneaton.
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A warm welcome for our singers in Liverpool!

“Two Cities, One Voice” finally became a reality last weekend, when 69 singers from Birmingham Festival Choral Society travelled to Liverpool to sing with the Liverpool Welsh Choral.

The weekend events started with a joint rehearsal on Saturday, led by David Wynne, followed by food and socialising outside with the friendly singers of the Liverpool choir. The campus of Liverpool Hope University looked beautiful in the evening sun.

 

 

Singers dispersed to various Liverpool Hotels for the night, or were guests of Liverpool singers. Sunday morning was taken up with a 3 hour rehearsal led by Keith Orrell, the MD of the Liverpool choir. This was the first time that all of the forces for Carmina Burana had been brought together – the two big choirs, the chamber choir of Belvedere Academy, the percussion group and harpist, soloists Katherine Blumenthal, Elgan Llr Thomas and Gareth John, and pianists Kevin Gill and Stephen Hargreaves.

The Sunday afternoon concert was an amazing experience for everyone involved! The tiredness from the morning was soon forgotten, and we pulled out all the stops to sing the rhythmic and beautiful music of the Chichester Psalms, which was followed by lovely solo items from the Chamber Choir and the harpist. After the interval – the big finale, Carmina Burana! The men of both choirs deserve a special mention for the complex and difficult parts they sang so well in both works.The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Liverpool, our families and friends from Liverpool and Birmingham gave long applause at the end, and we boarded the coach back to Birmingham with those lovely tunes going round in our heads.

We look forward to the return leg on 17th June, when we will be the hosts to welcome Liverpool Welsh Choral to the Bramall Music Building at the University of Birmingham. We can’t wait to sing those amazing choral works again!

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Some feedback from Liverpool :

From Belvedere Head of Music :

Thank you to everyone today for making such a memorable and amazing experience for our girls. The concert was fantastic. Thank you for inviting us.

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From our guests :

A MESSAGE FROM HER MAJESTY’S LORD-LIEUTENANT OF MERSEYSIDE 

Dear Barbara, Sundays concert at the Philharmonic Hall was absolutely splendid. Two of my favourite works and I have never heard them performed better.

Thank you for asking us to be part of it. Please pass on my thanks to all concern.

Best wishes, Dame Lorna

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From Guy Kelland ( sponsor):

I was glad that we could help support what was a fantastic event, everybody is so talented. Both myself and my guests had a super time…keep singing!

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From our audience/members :

Just wanted to congratulate you and LWC on an absolutely amazing concert. Very well done to all. 

I was in the audience yesterday for the concert, and enjoyed every second of it. Friends in the audience, who had not been to our concerts in the past, were as impressed as I was.  You must feel very proud of the choir, I look forward to regaining my fitness level, so that I can again be part of such a wonderful choir

Thank you  for such an enjoyable concert yesterday, a resounding success, well done!

Our friends from Australia loved it and described it as ‘electrifying’ and ‘fantastic’ whilst a total stranger stopped me outside and said that she’d really enjoyed every minute of the afternoon. I hope all goes as well in Birmingham.

Firstly, what a great concert yesterday!  I really enjoyed performing as
I’m sure the rest of the choir did too, and what complimentary words we
received from Huw!  It makes it all worthwhile when you receive good
feedback from the audience, doesn’t it?

Thought we were amazing. Tim was very complementary (a harsh critic) said the diction was teally clear. All good comments from everyone I’ve spoken to.

WOW!!!….still singing all over after super concert. Choir was in excellent form, well supported by instrumentalists and amazing Belvedere  children. Shame  it was not a full house. Must have been upsetting facing so many empty seats.Hope the message gets home where needed!!!

I don’t usually respond after a concert, but I was quite emotional after today’s performance as I felt the joint choirs sang from their hearts + the deliverance was good – I hope you did too.

Wow! wow! wow! What a fabulous experience. Never known anything like it and we’ve had some marvellous concerts. My husband John was even singing all the way home. Thank you for such a brilliant day and all your hard work with us. Sure Birmingham will be excellent too.

 

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BFCS in Liverpool

 

 

 

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‘In Paradisum’. Come to hear the Requiems by Fauré and Duruflé.

Just two weeks until our French concert!

We hope you will be able to come and enjoy this much loved music with us.

IN PARADISUM

Beautiful Requiems by Fauré and Duruflé.

Saturday 19th November 7.30pm

Click here for tickets and concert details:

Read the programme notes below to get the background to this French sacred music.

 

notredamei

Programme notes

Welcome to a fascinating French evening, featuring three composers from very different epochs in the country’s history – linked to each other, and united in their love of choral and liturgical music.

The first mass which you will hear is by Jean Dattas (1919-1975), who was organist at Notre-Dame in Paris from 1949.  He studied under Marcel Dupré, Alfred Cortot, and Olivier Messiaen.  He moved to London in 1955, but for many years he returned every summer to play the organ at Notre-Dame.

Sylvie Dattas, Jean’s daughter, who is a member of BFCS, has the manuscript of his Messe (cum Jubilo), composed in 1951.  Early this year she gave it to our music director Patrick Larley, who edited and annotated two movements, the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, to be sung on our tour of Burgundy this summer.  We loved the music and felt it deserved another performance!

Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) was a good friend of Jean Dattas.  He was a well-known church organist in Paris, who was appointed as a teacher in the Conservatoire shortly before the Nazi invasion.  When he was commissioned in 1947 to write a Mass, he was already working on an organ suite, using themes from Gregorian chants.  He incorporated his sketches for that suite into the Requiem, and this background gives the work its distinctive character.

The Requiem, which was dedicated to the composer’s father, has notable similarities to the better-known version by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924).  Both are sensitively written, allocate the Pie Jesu to a soprano soloist, and finish with the quiet and meditative In Paradisum.  However, Duruflé’s setting is more sensitive to the words of the liturgy, and more closely modelled on plainchant melodies.  The original version was scored for a huge orchestra and organ, but we are using a later version, with organ alone.

The music beautifully captures the moods of the varied texts, most thrillingly in the Dies irae part of the Libera me movement.  Intriguingly, Duruflé concludes his Requiem with an unresolved discord, an unanswered question as it were.  Is this perhaps a reflection of the appalling experiences that the composer and his fellow-Parisians had so recently endured in the war?

Listen to ‘Libera me’ from Duruflé’s requiem here:

When Duruflé joined the Paris Conservatoire in 1920, Fauré, aged 75, was its director.  The youngest of six children, he had been the only one who showed any musical ability!  This was recognised early, and he was sent to a new music school in Paris at the age of nine.  When its founder, Louis Niedermayer, died in 1861, Fauré’s new piano teacher was Camille Saint-Saëns.  A few years later, he composed the serene and atmospheric Cantique de Jean Racine, which not surprisingly won him the school’s top prize.

His Requiem, undoubtedly his best-known work, was not composed for a particular occasion; indeed, it was started in the 1880s and did not reach its complete form until 1900.  It is interesting to note how this piece runs counter to most of the trends of the time. Most composers favoured large and loud orchestras and complicated textures (Wagner was much in vogue).  This Requiem, by contrast, is deliberately smaller-scale and contains comparatively little fortissimo singing – perhaps partly because Fauré was strongly influenced by the phrasing of Gregorian chant.

In his setting of the Requiem, Fauré followed the example set by Brahms’s German Requiem, which aimed to comfort the living rather than dwell on the fears of hell.  Fauré agreed with this approach, and the text of his Requiem omits the menacing words of the Dies Irae.  He said, “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”  The result is a very varied piece, veering from sombre to sunlit in mood; we hope it will lift your hearts this evening, as a beautiful climax to the concert.

David Fletcher.

Listen to the beautiful Sanctus from Fauré’s Requiem here: