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. 

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80 x 2 not out!

Members of the choir celebrated the significant birthdays of two of our number this evening at the end of the rehearsal. Judith and Mary both celebrate their 80th birthday and we marked the occasion with cake and wine. The Precentor was on hand to act as wine waiter and the ladies were presented with cards and potted orchids.

Love Came Down at Christmas – concert

Break out the mince pies – we’re spreading the festive cheer in our forthcoming seasonal concert.

This time we’re swapping the Cathedral for Cradley, in Herefordshire. The village’s St James the Great church is the venue for a sparkling evening of seasonal music and readings.

Traditional carols, some new workings of old favourites and contemporary classics will all feature in our Sunday, December 13 performance.

Interspersed with Christmassy readings and an interval filled with seasonal refreshments, we’re sure the audience will leave feeling suitably festive!

The music 2015cradleymaking begins at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £10 and £5 (students and under 16s) and are available on 01886 880402 or on the door.

Israel in Egypt – concert dedicated to the very special Ian Bell

OUR performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt is now being held in memory of popular Lay Clerk Ian Bell who was due to take one of the solo roles.

Ian, who had been a friend and colleague of our Musical Director Stephen Shellard for nearly 25 years, had been battling a terminal illness for some time and had been expected to sing on Saturday, June 13.

However his health suddenly deteriorated and he died in St Richard’s Hospice at the end of April. His memorial service last month saw Worcester Cathedral packed in tribute with family, colleagues and friends from across the UK.

Ian’s part is now being sung by his long-time friend Steve Grice who joins fellow soloists Vicki Field, David Barclay, Tom Hunt, Sebastian Field and Kirsten Offer.

Dedicating the performance of this magnificent oratorio was the natural thing for us as Ian had often fulfilled the role of solo bass in many previous Chamber Choir concerts.

Stephen says: “On his move to St Richard’s Hospice Ian had asked me for a copy of the Handel so that he might begin to prepare for the performance. He also talked about making an appearance with the Cathedral Choir at Evensong before long. However, fate stepped in and denied us one last chance to hear his superb bass voice.

“It was a pleasure and privilege to have known and worked with him for all those years”

The Worcester Chamber Orchestra will be accompanying on period instruments and we are particularly pleased to be joined by Lichfield Cathedral Chamber Choir who are the second choir for the many exciting double choir choruses.

This is a rare chance to hear one of Handel’s most exciting oratorios – described as ‘fierce and fabulous’ when it appeared on The Times’ recent Hot 50 list of things critics would pay to see this summer – in the beautiful surroundings of Worcester Cathedral. The concert begins at 7.30pm and tickets cost £15 (students and under 18s, £5).
They are available from the cathedral shop, on 01386 860389 or via www.worcestercathedralchamberchoir.co.uk

Ian Bell

Ian Bell

 

Israel