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!
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
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.
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.
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).
Our music director Stephen Shellard was delighted to welcome the Mayor of Worcester Councillor Paul Denham and his wife Lynn as our special guests to our concert I Was Glad, in Worcester’s St Martin’s Church on Saturday, October 15. It was the first time we had invited the city’s mayor and mayoress to one of our performances and their attendance was much appreciated by all of us.
We’re very proud of these new publicity flyers which we’re hoping will send our profile soaring.
Along with the atmospheric photograph, taken during one of our many Worcester Cathedral services, the leaflet gives our potted history and outlines our future performance plans.
It also lists our most recent recordings (available to buy here and through major online stores) and shows where we can be found on social media.
Copies are already available in Worcester’s Tourist Information Centre but we’re working hard on distributing them round and about the county.
Definitely worth reading all about us!
Here is the text of the superb address given by Alexander Armstrong at the recent FCM Diamond Jubilee concert in St Paul’s Cathedral. Compulsory reading for all involved in Cathedral Choirs!
Your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen: good evening! What a spectacular event this is and what a great honour it is to be a part of it. I am thrilled to be here. Moreover, I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you briefly about the tremendous privilege of choristership: the single greatest leg-up a child can be given in life.
Now, I know that sounds overblown and, yes, it is a bold claim but the more I think about it the truer I realise it is. Someone made the mistake of asking me during an interview the other day what the benefits are of being a chorister. Well that interview ended up overrunning by half of an hour and I was barely halfway through my list.
The most obvious benefit is the total submersion in music. This is a ‘compleat’ musical education by process of osmosis. When you come to hang up your cassock for the final time at the age of 13 you will – without even having realised it was happening because you were just having a lovely time singing – have personal experience of every age and fashion of music from the ancient fauxbourdons of plainchant, to the exciting knotty textures of anthems so contemporary that the composers themselves might very well have conducted you. You will have breathed life into everyone from Buxtehude to Britten to Bach to Bridge to Bax to Brahms to Byrd to Bairstow to Bruckner to Bliss (and that’s just the Bs I can think of off the top of my head). But you will know them, know them and love them in the way only a performer truly can. Choral music, to this day, has the power to move me so profoundly that I can lose myself in it for hours and just ride out the happy contemplations it evokes. It is a constant and lifelong tiding of comfort and – euphoric – joy.
Then there is the musicianship you absorb as a chorister, not just the music theory, the maths (the Italian!) all of which is very useful, but elegant musical phrasing, the projection of good diction, the shaping of beautiful vowel sounds for optimum tone, the careful precision singing a psalm, which can only be achieved by listening intently to those around you and blending your tone and rhythm with theirs – all of these skills and sensitivities become second nature and all of them have strange and unexpected use and resonance in later life.
And then there’s the language – and I don’t mean the salty badinage of the vestry but the liturgy you’re immersed in, the psalms, the collects, the canticles – the poetry you get to sing (Herbert, Donne, Milton, Shakespeare, Hardy, Auden are all poets I first learnt to love – Christopher Smart even – by singing and performing their words). Your lexicon at the age of 13 is astounding, and your turn of phrase, taught by endless psalms and hymns, and not just the range of your vocabulary but your innate sense of the poetic. You will have come to know only too well the powerful quiet of an evensong, the sumptuous echo of a final amen sung from an ante-chapel but rolling around the clerestory like wine in a taster’s glass.
And let’s not overlook the discipline of choristership; the order it brings to a young person’s often chaotic life, the friendship, the focus. Punctuality is one of the first lessons you learn: the ignominy of arriving even a minute late is something no chorister wants to experience twice. Then self-possession, decorum and grace are all attributes you quickly learn to fake – in the first instance – before adopting them for real as you gradually mature. But where else in the modern world is a child taught gravitas? Where else is a child taught, for example, to bow with proper dignity and humility?
I owe my entire career to my experience as a chorister. It was where I learnt to perform, where I learnt to use the full range of my voice; where I learnt to listen, where I learnt to write comedy, where I learnt to carry a pencil at all times – but most importantly it was where I learnt the wonderful truth that something exceptional, something as beautiful as anything anywhere, can be created just by you and your friends. I remember on a choir tour to Salamanca (ooh travel there’s another benefit!) exploring the old cathedral with a couple of friends and finding ourselves alone in some sort of chapter house, we fired off a Boyce 3-part canon just to test the acoustics. A terrible, toe-curlingly self-indulgent thing to do but what a sound we made! And what a thing to discover: that we three – children essentially – carried between us all the components of something so joyous, so perfect, so complete. (And Boyce! There we are, there’s another B for my list.)
I was lucky enough to be a chorister at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh which had a good mix of boy and girl choristers as is now fairly typical in cathedrals up and down the country. And both there and at Trinity College, Cambridge where I ended up as a choral scholar, I sang with people from all walks of life (many of whom had their entire educations – at some of the country’s best schools I might add – paid for by the music they had first learnt as choristers). I sang alongside some people of different faiths and plenty of none at all. And I am always heartened by the ethnic diversity in our cathedral and college choir rooms. So you see, you don’t need to be a boy to be a chorister, you don’t need to be a toff to be a chorister, you don’t need to be religious, you don’t even need to be Christian. Although as I say that I’m aware there is a certain spirituality that all choristers come to know well – something that lurks in the silences of a darkening nave while rush-hour traffic chugs about just yards outside the West door. A spirituality that is wrapped up in the ritual, the mystery and the beauty of this ancient tradition we have become part of. And I’m going to call that spirituality The Privilege of Choristership. That is what we are here tonight to celebrate and to preserve for the future, ‘throughout all generations’.
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!
A brief potted history of our recording career has been published in this summer’s Worcester Cathedral Newsletter. You can read it in full here on page 15