Singing the praises of our 20th anniversary

We are so excited as we launch our new season of concerts and events – this is the start of a year-long celebration of 20 years of music making!

A gala dinner, a performance of the Brahms Requiem, featuring the composer’s arrangement for two piano accompaniment, an anniversary Evensong and reception are the highlights of our forthcoming celebratory season, which formally begins with the County Harvest Service in the cathedral next month.

Celebrations for this special year have been in the pipeline for some time but were originally completely unforeseen when, in 1998, then lay clerk Stephen Shellard outlined his dream to lead and conduct his own choir to Worcester Cathedral’s Chapter.

“I wanted to gather together the best amateur singers from across the Worcestershire diocese and beyond to form the first male and female choir to sing in the cathedral in its 900-plus years, but I never envisioned that it would be here 20 years later and such a successful and established part of the Cathedral and Worcester’s musical life,” reflects Stephen, who, now Senior Lay Clerk, took up his post as a member of the Cathedral Choir upon arrival from his native Dublin in 1990.

He was given the go-ahead and not only is the rest history, he made history by including women’s voices in the cathedral’s musical life.

The ensuing years have seen us expand from singing at traditional services to successful concert performances, acclaimed CD recordings, touring ventures and even backing Brit Award-winning trio Blake and accompanying rock legend and ‘Grumpy Old Man’ Rick Wakeman.

Much of our repertoire draws on its Anglican church music heritage and includes Bach’s St John Passion, Handel’s Messiah and Vivaldi’s Gloria while its recording career has produced several successful albums. The latest, Royal Worcester – Music for Royal Occasions features music from 500 years of royal ceremonies and was released in 2017 under our own Pink Giraffe label.

There have been visits to Dublin and a key musical role in 2013’s Christmas and Easter’s Gloucester and Worcester Cathedrals’ Mystery Plays while in 2007 we sang in the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass that was broadcast live from the cathedral on BBC1. Our performance of two carols from that evening have, to date, notched up more than 67,000 views on YouTube.

This year we were specially invited to sing the Hallelujah Chorus at the opening ceremony of the prestigious RHS Malvern Spring Show.

“It’s been an amazing 20 years,” says our current Chairman who was there for our very first season, Phil Crowther. “Singing bass with all these talented people, learning new music, performing in the Cathedral and around the country. The choir has become an important part of my life.”

While our big anniversary concert (keep up to date on details by coming back here or follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) is not until next April there’s still plenty of rehearsing ahead. The harvest service is followed by a concert of Remembrance readings and music, including a special arrangement of Fauré’s Requiem, on November 10 in Worcester and there are plans to perform a choral version of Elgar’s Sea Pictures with the English Symphony Orchestra as part of next year’s Elgar Festival.

Stephen is also working with some local composers on some new commissions for the choir and has some other ideas up his conducting arm’s sleeve.

“Watch this space,” he grins. 

Seeking tenors and basses ….

Rick Wakeman wanted to perform with the county’s leading chamber choir, so did hit harmony group Blake – do you?

Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir has vacancies for tenors and basses so please get in touch if you would like to join us.

Auditions are required but – there’s no Simon Cowells here – we’re a very friendly bunch!

We’re a choir of about 30 singers, all working to a high standard of musical excellence and, under our founder and musical director Stephen Shellard, have gained a reputation for musical sensitivity and ground-breaking performance.

Much of its repertoire is drawn from the traditional Anglican Church Music heritage and while recording catalogue includes music by Elgar, Parry, Vaughan Williams and contemporary Australian composer Paul Paviour.

Its latest CD, Royal Worcester, features music for royal occasions.

Apart from regular concerts, as member you will be expected to sing at Cathedral Eucharist and Evensong services several times a year, sometimes two or three times over one weekend, plus some other services.

We rehearse on Thursday evenings during term times and require an attendance level of at least 70% for any one project.

Any interested tenors or basses wishing to join us, please go to the contact section of our website www.worcestercathedralchamberchoir.co.uk, from where you can email our membership secretary. Or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Didn’t we have a lovely Lichfield time …

Weeks in the planning (you could even argue years since it was three years since they came to us), our ‘away day’ to sing with our Lichfield Chamber Choir colleagues on their home turf was worth all the work.  With our hosts sounding sublime in the first half’s Gerald Finzi’s Requiem da Camera, a setting of First World War poems it was a pleasure to join them in the second for Haydn’s Missa in Tempore Belli.Thee was also a grand opportunity between rehearsal and concert to check out Lichfield itself, especially for those on a first time visit.All in all, a grand day out and we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the occasion.  Lichfield’s conductor Martyn Rawles had some very nice things to say afterwards in thanking our MD Stephen and his ‘wonderful choir’.We’re delighted that he found us, he said, such a responsive group and that it was ‘quite something how we and Lichfield all came together in such a short space of time.Apparently, an orchestra member told him she could not remember the last time she had played for such a good choir!We’re all now looking forward to our next joint gig!

 

First World War commemoration has double the power thanks to combined forces

We’re travelling to Lichfield Cathedral this month to revisit old friends and perform an evocative musical commemoration of the centenary since the end of the First World War.

It’s going to be doubly powerful when we combine our voices with Lichfield Cathedral Chamber Choir for a performance of Haydn’s Missa in Tempore Belli.

This is the second time we have sung together.  Three years ago, Lichfield joined us on our cathedral concert platform to sing Handel’s oratorio, Israel in Egypt; an evening that was met with great acclaim and which proved an experience our Musical Directors have been eager to repeat ever since.

Martyn Rawles, Lichfield’s Musical Director who will be conducting the June 23 performance, says:  “We are hugely looking forward to welcoming Worcester’s wonderful Cathedral Chamber Choir to Lichfield in what promises to be a very moving evening’s music-making as part of Lichfield Cathedral’s programme of events to mark the centenary of the Armistice. Singing with our colleagues in Worcester three years ago was a very exciting occasion, and I know that combining the choirs again for one of Haydn’s final masterpieces will be a thrilling experience for performers and audience alike.”

Our founder and Musical Director Stephen Shellard agrees, adding: “We really enjoyed welcoming Martyn and his choir to our cathedral, and the memory of conducting our massed forces, and the success of that night is still vivid for me.  

We always said we would make the return trip to Lichfield and it’s just a shame that it’s taken us three years to organise it!”

Haydn’s piece, written soon after the French Revolution at a time when his native Austria was threatened with invasion, will take up the second half of the concert.

The first half, due to begin at 7.30pm, will see Lichfield Cathedral Chamber Choir, accompanied by the Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra, perform Gerald Finzi’s Requiem da Camera, a setting of First World War poems reflecting on the inevitable changes to English home life brought about by war.  

The soloists are Penelope Appleyard, Kate Symonds-Joy, Hugo Hymas and Andrew Randall.  

Tickets cost £15 (front of nave) and £13 (rear and side aisles) and are available from the Cathedral Bookshop, telephone 01543 306150 or via tickets@lichfieldcathedralchamberchoir.org.

Israel in Egypt concert

Worcester and Lichfield Cathedral Chamber Choirs in concert

Come on Eileen!

One of our sopranos is stepping out to really go for the high notes – of the sterling variety.

Intrepid Eileen Roberts is undertaking the 35-mile Llangollen Round Challenge to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

She is due to join hundreds of other walkers putting their best feet forward on the weekend of June 2 and 3 on the popular circular route, which visits every summit around the Vale of Llangollen in north east Wales.

Its total ascent is around 2,000 the equivalent, say the organisers, of going up Snowdon twice over.

Eileen who is aiming to raise £1,000, has set up a JustGiving page and is urging people to contribute to the cause.

“Like many people, cancer has affected many of my close friends and relatives,” she says. “This is a chance for me to support an excellent cause by walking in the beautiful valley where I grew up. Let’s hope for good weather!”

You can contribute by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/eileen-roberts1

Come on Eileen!

Making a Great Exhibition of ourselves at RHS Malvern Spring Festival

We’re delighted to be making a great exhibition of ourselves at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

The prestigious event, which attracts green-fingered enthusiasts and world-leading professionals from across the country and beyond, is celebrating the Great Exhibition of 1851 and we have been invited to recreate a key moment from its grand opening ceremony.

Organised by Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, the Exhibition was held in the the Crystal Palace, a magnificent glass structure especially built in Hyde Park, and was the first in a series of World Fairs recognising cultural and industrial achievement.

The elaborate opening ceremony, whose centrepiece featured a crystal fountain flowing with Malvern water, was attended by the celebrities of the day, including Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë, and featured state processions and grand music.

The latter featured a magnificent 600-voice rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, and it is that moment we will be reproducing – albeit on a smaller scale – to herald the opening of this year’s spring show.

“We are delighted to have been asked to lend our voices to this wonderful annual event, a highlight of any gardening calendar,” says our musical director Stephen Shellard, who will be conducting the singers at the ceremony on Thursday, May 10.

“We won’t be delivering quite the same level of sound as those original 600 voices did but we can guarantee this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival will begin on a realy high note!”

For more information about the festival, visit https://www.rhsmalvern.co.uk

Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir in Worcester Cathedral

Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir

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Royal Wedding revisited – musically!

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry couldn’t have timed their wedding better, says our musical director Stephen Shellard.

The day, when the world’s gaze will be trained upon Windsor Castle to see the sixth in line to the throne tie the knot, comes just one week before we perform highlights from our latest recording Royal Worcester – A Celebration of Music for Royal Occasions.

Our disc already includes music heard at William and Kate’s 2011 wedding and the concert, in Crowle’s St John the Baptist Church on May 26, will include pieces familiar from other magisterial events down the centuries, such as coronations and jubilee celebrations.

“We wish the royal couple all the best for the future – and thank them for choosing the date they did,” grins Stephen.  “Some of the most beautiful, uplifting and rousing music has been performed at royal weddings and if you like what you heard at Harry’s wedding, we can give you another ‘live’ taste a week after.”

The concert, whose title Royal Worcester also references the world-famous Worcester Porcelain factory, heralds the start of a busy year for us as we celebrate our 20th anniversary.

Our group was stablished by Stephen, Senior Lay Clerk at Worcester Cathedral, who wanted to create a group of high quality local singers with a prestigious concert repertoire and to further enrich the cathedral’s own choral tradition. 

We now sing regularly at services and also guest at other churches in the diocese. Our Nine Lessons and Carols services at Kempsey in recent years have proved particularly popular.

We are also proud of our established concert repertoire and have also been asked to perform with other artists, including rock legend Rick Wakeman. Our current CD, which is available from the Cathedral Shop and on Spotify, Amazon Music and iTunes, is the latest addition to a growing catalogue of recordings.

Future events lined up for our anniversary year include a a trip to Lichfield Cathedral for a joint performance with its own chamber choir of Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli a celebration weekend of singing Cathedral services and a gala dinner.

Our Crowle performance is due to start at 7.30pm and will include works such as Handel’s Zadok the Priest and I Was Glad, by Parry.  Tickets are available from the church, Crowle Post Office or on 01905 381820. 

Stephen Shellard

Harry and Meghan couldn’t have timed their wedding better, says our MD Stephen Shellard

May 26 concert poster

Royal Worcester CD

Our latest CD, Royal Worcester – Music for Royal Occasions

We’re looking for Tenors and Basses

Rick Wakeman wanted to perform with the county’s leading chamber choir, so did hit harmony group Blake – do you?

Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir currently has vacancies for tenors and basses so please get in touch if you would like to join us.

Auditions are required but – there’s no Simon Cowells here – we’re a very friendly bunch!

We’re a choir of about 30 singers, all working to a high standard of musical excellence and, under our founder and musical director Stephen Shellard, have gained a reputation for musical sensitivity and ground-breaking performance.

Much of our repertoire is drawn from the traditional Anglican Church Music heritage while our recording catalogue includes music by Elgar, Parry, Vaughan Williams and contemporary Australian composer Paul Paviour.

Our latest CD, featuring music for royal occasions, is due to be released in August 2017.

Apart from regular concerts as a member you will be expected to sing at Cathedral Eucharist and Evensong services several times a year, sometimes two or three times over one weekend, plus some other services.

We rehearse on Thursday evenings during term times and require an attendance level of at least 70% for any one project.

Any interested tenors or basses wishing to join us, please go to the contact section of this website where you can email our membership secretary.

jda-media-chamber-choir-photos-social-media-028

Royal Worcester – CD & concert dish up a majestic musical feast

Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir is to royally entertain the entire nation with the release of a majestic new CD.

Royal Worcester – A Celebration of Music for Royal Occasions, goes on UK release

after its official launch at a special concert in the city on Monday, July 24.

The regal occasion, in St Martin’s Church, London Road, will be a crowning moment of two appearances during Worcester’s Three Choirs week by the singers who come from across Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

The disc, recorded in Worcester Cathedral earlier this year, is the brainchild of the choir’s Musical Director Stephen Shellard who wanted highlight the building’s centuries of connection with Royalty.

“In the last year we have celebrated the life of King John, who was the catalyst for the celebrated Magna Carta and is buried at Worcester Cathedral, which is also the resting place of Prince Arthur whose death, at just 15, paved the way for his brother to inherit the throne as Henry VIII,” he explains.

“The CD’s title also reflects references the world-famous Worcester Porcelain factory which was granted the Royal Warrant in 1789 by George III.

“We are very grateful to the Portmeirion Group for allowing us to use Royal Worcester as  the disc’s title.”

The disc – and concert – features music spanning 500 years of royal ceremonies, ranging from the eternally popular Coronation favorites such as ‘Zadok the Priest’ by Handel  and ‘I Was Glad’ (Hubert Parry and Henry Purcell), to the lesser known but equally powerful ‘Behold O God Our Defender’ (Howells) and ‘O Hearken Thou’ (Elgar) as well as ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’ (Parry), which was sung at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Royal Worcester also features organ solos from Worcester Cathedral’s Assistant Director of Music Christopher Allsop and newly appointed Sub Assistant organist Richard Cook who joins the choir for the concert which is due to begin at 7.30pm.

It will be the second consecutive performance in two days for the Chamber Choir, which is also leading the Three Choirs Festival opening Evensong on Saturday, July 22nd at 5.30pm.

Concert tickets cost £10 (U16s half price) and are available from 01386 860389 and on the door.

Copies of the CD can be bought during the evening, from the Cathedral shop or ordered from the choir’s website. In the near future the CD will also will also be available for online streaming.

This is the first recording to be released under the Chamber Choir’s own Pink Giraffe label.  The name has been inspired by the pink giraffe depicted as being held by Adam in one of the medallions of the West Window which illustrates the Creation of Animal Life (see photo).

 

 

Stephen Shellard with the Royal Worcester CD

Stephen Shellard, Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir’s Musical Director next to King John’s tomb, with a copy of the new CD which is being launched in a concert in St Martin’s Church, Worcester, on June 24.