Have you got your tickets for the Brahms German Requiem yet?
We are two days away from the performance of the Brahms German Requiem in Worcester Cathedral. Tickets are still available in advance from Eventbrite or by using the QR code.
Tickets can be purchased at the door on the evening of the performance.
On Tuesday of this week of BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester’s Kate Justice interviewed one of our singers, Anne Renshaw. It is available for 28 days on BBC Sounds starting at 38 minutes into the program.
A large contingent of the Cathedral Chamber Choir joined the congregation for the Sunday Eucharist at the cathedral on Sunday 5th February to witness the valediction of our conductor, Stephen Shellard, on his retirement as Senior Lay Clerk. There was much applause and, following the service, further thanks in the Chapter House where Sam Hudson, the Director of Music, made reference to the number times Stephen has sung psalms, processed, performed the daily offices, and even how many times he had button and unbuttoned his cassock over the last 32 years! Although he leaves the Cathedral Choir, Stephen is still continuing to conduct the Cathedral Chamber Choir and with two big concerts on the horizon (Brahms Requiem and Venables Requiem) there will be plenty to occupy him (and the choir!).
Born on 12th October 1872, at Down Ampney in Gloucestershire, Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir wishes him a happy 150th birthday! At the Royal College of Music he was taught composition by two of the greats of the Victorian era Hubert Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford. The Chamber Choir brought these three great composers together (along with our own Edward Elgar) on our CD “Rise Heart“, released to coincide with the centenary of the first performance of Vaughan Williams “Five Mystical Songs”. The CD includes Parry’s “Hear my words, ye people” and Stanford’s hauntingly beautiful “The Bluebird”. If you are looking for something to celebrate the birthday of one of our local composers we recommend this CD!
We are looking to fill two tenor vacancies. Are you a tenor with good sight-reading skills and a willingness to make a firm commitment to our fine Choir? if you are we would love to hear from you.
Our contribution to Cathedral life includes the regular singing of Evensong and Sunday Eucharist. We also perform two concerts per year and occasionally sing in churches around the Diocese. A regular and prestigious event for us is the opening Evensong of the Worcester Three Choirs Festival. Beyond Worcester we make the occasional tour. Our recordings have been well received, across the world and have featured on Radio 3 and Classic FM.
Would-be members come along to try-out rehearsals and then audition with our Musical Director. For more information contact the Choir Secretary, Kevern Oliver
This is just a little roundup of odds and ends of what has been happening recently (since Christmas)!
The Church Times reported on 30th December 2020 that The Cathedral Choirs’ Emergency Fund had reached its £1million target and this was matched with funding from the Church Commissioners. This was good news but not, you might think, of direct relevance to the Chamber Choir. The article featured a photograph of the Chamber Choir singing at the Christmas Service on December 18th.
Related to that service on December 18th, the choir was featured by BBC Hereford & Worcester’s Kate Justice on her morning show singing Ian King’s new carol, commissioned for the choir, Away in a manger. Hear it here.
We are delighted to have been invited to resume singing services in the Cathedral. This has involved extremely careful planning and strict adherence to covid-19 guidelines.
We have all missed the music and fellowship of singing in the choir during several months of enforced silence. This made our reunion for Evensong on October 4th a joyous occasion. Of necessity we had to maintain social distancing, wear masks and avoid socialising, but worshipping and making music together in our lovely cathedral was wonderful.
Our next service is on November 1st when we will sing for the 10.30am Eucharist. Music for this will be the communion setting in F major by Harold Darke, Elgar’s “Ave verum corpus” and a newly commissioned carol by Ian King.
The Cathedral is planning a series of Christmas Carol services and we are greatly looking forward to our participation in this on Friday December 18th – we will be performing twice to allow as many people to join us in the congregation as possible (within strict and safe guidelines).
We will also be singing for the 10.30am Eucharist on Sunday December 20th.
Full details of these and all our planned events can be found here.
Until this week the Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir had been enjoying rehearsals and looking forward to a very busy schedule of services, concerts and a recording. However, we have now reluctantly reached the conclusion that we need to suspend our activities. This was a logical and inevitable response to the Government’s strategy on how best to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the Cathedral’s decision to suspend public worship until further notice.
This has resulted in our having to cancel planned services for at least three months; this is reflected in the updated events section. We intend to reschedule the July concert in Himbleton and the recording, once we can restart rehearsals. Please keep in touch with future plans by referring to this website.
All our members regret this situation. Our music and fellowship play a very important part in our lives and we hope that things will return to normal as soon as possible. Meanwhile, we hope all members and friends will stay safe and well.
One of our soloists’ role in our forthcoming concert makes it not only celebration of the patron saint of music – it’ll be a family affair too.
Soprano Sarah Kings will be taking the lead in one of our music for St Cecilia’s Day pieces from across the centuries – Meditations, composed by her brother.
It’s not the first time she’s performed sibling Steven’s music but she always finds every opportunity a proud moment, even if it does bring an additional pressure to those that come with being one of the choir’s regular soloists.
“I want to give my best,” she says, “but I’m also aware the audience won’t necessarily know the piece, which can take the pressure off a bit!”
It’s obviously a help having your composer on hand for any performance tips and, says Sarah, a choir member for 18 years, Steven is always happy to help.
“Although it tends to be more about what he means and is trying to achieve than the mechanics of singing, which he leaves (in this case) to our conductor Stephen Shellard.” she adds.
Steven and Sarah are Worcester born and bred. He attended Kings School and, now living in Bristol, his roles include accompanist and assistant chorus master to the Bristol Choral Society and the BBC National Chorus of Wales. He also conducts several choirs and is a seasoned pianist, soloist and chamber musician.
He has earned several awards and nominations for composing and his works have been performed at Worcester’s Three Choirs Festival, around Bristol and beyond.
Sarah went to the girls’ grammar school before gaining a music degree and pursuing careers in stock broking and IT. She is currently a carer for her father.
A conducting engagement means Steven can’t attend Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir’s O Sing Aloud! concert in St Martin’s Church, London Road, but Sarah knows he’ll be there in spirit. “He does do the proud brother bit,” she grins. “The sibling pride is usually mutual!”
O Sing Aloud! is on November 23 and also includes works by fellow Worcester composer Ian Venables, an arrangement of American classics by former Worcester Cathedral Director of Music, Dr Donald Hunt.
Performing Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending is violinist Shula Oliver and readings will be delivered by Gabrielle Bullock. Christopher Allsop, King’s School’s Assistant Director of Music provides organ and piano accompaniment for the evening that, under the baton of Stephen Shellard, also includes Fauré, Mozart and Parry.
Our O Sing Aloud! programme covers a broad musical spectrum – and not all of it is about St Cecilia who, unsurprisingly, has inspired many composers to put pen to (paper) score.
Here’s a few examples to whet the appetite for November 23.
Purcell’s Ode to St Cecilia was commissioned in 1692 by the “Gentlemen Lovers of Musick” and, set a poem by the Rev Nicholas Brady, features 13 movements praising the saint, music, and instruments. It’s a bit of a benchmark piece as it heralds the start of the English secular choral tradition. At the time of composition, St Cecilia Day celebrations were civic entertainments staged for the entire population. For musicians it was a commercial venture and the Odes were performed in public concert halls. Our concert features three excerpts from work.
The stars clearly combined when Benjamin Britten came along.s He was born on St Cecilia’s Day (November 22) and so his Hymn to St Cecilia must have been somewhat inevitable. Although it wasn’t an easy process: Britten initially had problems in finding a suitable text which led to a request to poet WH Auden who produced the words in 1940. Much of the music was composed while Britten was in America but when he returned to England in 1942 US customs officials confiscated the first part, believing it was some kind of coded message. Britten had to rewrite the entire first section from memory.
Haydn was only young when he wrote Missa Cellensis in honorem Beatissimae Virginis Mariae – otherwise known as the St Cecilia Mass. And he also had to write it from memory after the original manuscript was lost in a fire in1768. Seldom performed, it’s a heady mix of intricate fugues and elegant melodic lines.
Herbert Howells wrote his Hymn to St Cecilia using words from poet Ursula Vaughan Williams (aka Mrs Ralph Vaughan Williams) and, harking back to 17th century tradition, was commissioned by the Livery Club of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Set for four-part choir and organ, it premiered on November 22,1961, in St Paul’s Cathedral.
If anyone was going to get a -er- Handel on all of this it was George Friedrich with his 1739 cantata Ode for St Cecilia’s Day. He, again went to a poet for the text, this time England’s first Poet Lauret John Dryden, with its theme of music being a central force in Earth’s creation.
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