Blow the Trumpet

With now less than a month to our concert in St. Edmundsbury Cathedral I thought it might be worth writing a little about our programme.
As the 22nd of November is St. Cecilia’s Day we thought it appropriate to celebrate the Patron Saint of Music with ‘music that celebrates music’. The programme will start with Lassus’ stunning 6 part Musica dei Donum, a piece written in praise of music and its ability to calm the senses. This will lead into a blazing processional piece for choir, brass and organ by the Belgian composer Flor Peeters, Entrata Festiva. Peeters wrote much music in particular for the organ and his style fuses earlier baroque and even renaissance techniques into a tonal 20th century musical language. A second work by Peeters, Canticum Gaudii, written for the same forces will end the concert. There then follow two pieces by the English renaissance composer, Peter Philips, proper to the feast of St. Cecilia. Cantantibus Organis is probably his best known work but the magnificent 8 part Cecilia Virgo (reminiscent of Gabrieli) has only been revived in recent years. The first part of the concert will end with the British première of Emile Naoumoff’s Concerto Sacré. This piece is essentially a concerto for piano and choir. The composer uses the words of the Latin Mass but in no way is this a liturgical piece. For example the Sanctus movement is placed after the Gloria and before the Credo to create a palindromic structure of short-long-short-long-short movements with the Sanctus at its centre. Naoumoff creates some wonderful effects – bells and cascades of shimmering notes in the piano part, chanting and organum in the choral writing. There are passages of meditative introspection and exuberant, even ecstatic, outpourings of praise.
The second half of the concert will begin with one of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzonas for brass in four parts, which will lead into his mighty 19 part motet Buccinate which exhorts us to ‘Blow the trumpet’ and to praise God with strings, organ, drums and voices. The major work in the second half is Kodaly last work Laudes Organi. Written in 1966 this work praises the organ and the choir that sings with it. In its turn, it is a concerto for organ and choir.

I am sure you will enjoy all the music which is dramatic, emotional and yet very accessible. We look forward to seeing you there.
Roderick Earle

Choral Steeplechase

On 13 September, thirty singers from Colchester Chamber Choir will be launching the Choral Steeplechase. They will visit as many churches as possible around Colchester and North Essex, and in each one will sing a short unaccompanied work from their repertoire of sacred and secular classics.

The venture is part of the wider ‘Ride and Stride’ fund-raising event, with one important difference. Instead of individual singers cycling between churches, the choir as a whole will race between steeples to see how many churches it can perform in. Sadly, it would be too unwieldy for the choir to cycle between venues, so it will rely instead on sharing cars for transport, and put its energies into singing a piece in each church. Each singer from the choir will seek sponsors, who will pay an agreed sum for each church/chapel visited on Saturday 13 September.

The money raised through sponsorship will be split equally between the Friends of Essex Churches Trust, a body established in 1951 which makes grants to historic churches and chapels of all Christian denominations and Colchester Chamber Choir which will use the sponsorship funds to help support young singers and musicians at the start of their careers.

If you want to sponsor us you can make a secure donation by following this link
or you can email info@colchesterchamberchoir.org
If you would like to see us on our travels you can view our itinerary here. We would love to see you!

Meet My Choir

Colchester Chamber Choir was delighted to be featured in the Meet My Choir slot on Radio 3’s The Choir programme on Sunday 11th May.

The Romantics

EXPLORING THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GREAT ROMANTICS

Colchester Chamber Choir is returning to home territory next month (Saturday 22nd March), after a nearly sold-out performance of Monteverdi Vespers at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in the autumn. We’re now moving forward several centuries to perform works by five great Romantic composers: Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Bruckner and Liszt. But the programme will not be what you would necessarily expect.

Rossini, Verdi, and Puccini are best known for their sumptuous Italian operas, but the composers of The Barber of Seville, La Traviata and La Bohème also wrote a handful of wonderful small scale sacred works, works of intense emotion, expression and drama which are rarely performed. I think you will be surprised and delighted to discover the deeper, more contemplative side of these great composers.
Liszt was possibly greatest virtuoso pianist of all time, a prodigy and superstar who loved women and was lionised by society. But he spent time towards the end of his life in Rome as a religious recluse and it was during this period of contemplation that he wrote the beautiful Missa Choralis which forms the centrepiece of the concert.

Bruckner is also best known for his expansive symphonies, but his small scale sacred works are also much loved by the choir and for this concert we are adding to our repertoire two more remarkable pieces: Virga Jessa and Vexilla Regis.

Monteverdi: Mass and Vespers 1610 1640 1650

Listen to choir director Roderick Earle’s Radio Suffolk interview where he talks about the choir and the Monteverdi concert.

Our next concert in St Edmunsbury Cathedral on 26 October will present some of Monteverdi’s finest sacred music as it might have been heard in the context of Mass and Vespers for the feast of St. Mark in Venice in the mid 17th century.
Drawing from the three of the major publications of Monteverdi’s sacred music (1610, 1640 and 1650) the concert begins with his last 4 part setting of the Mass published after his death in 1650 and ends with the rarely heard ‘alternative’ 6 part Magnificat from the famous 1610 Marian Vespers. In this version with only organ continuo the famous echo duet is sung by two sopranos.
Written in both the older polyphonic and the newer concertante styles, the various psalm settings appropriate to Vespers include his catchy Confitebor tibi III which Monteverdi describes as being in the French style with a soprano soloist alternating with the full choir. Two sopranos soloists feature again in the joyous 8 part Laudate Dominum III . The 5 part Laudate Pueri III and Beatus Vir II complete the setting of Vespers which begins with the massive double choir Dixit Dominus III.
Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (Director Jeremy White), one of the leading proponents of Gregorian chant, will sing all the appropriate plainsong Propers and Antiphons for the feast of St Mark as well as the hymn appointed for the feast, giving an appropriate framework for the larger choral settings.
This concert will be a unique opportunity to hear this great music, much of it written for performance in St. Mark’s Venice, in its appropriate liturgical sequence and in a fitting acoustic.

June 2013 weekend events

On the weekend of 1 and 2 June, Colchester Chamber Choir will be presenting two programmes, Magnificat (a full length programme built around Stanford’s great double choir Latin Magnificat) and Faire is the Heaven (a recital length programme) both of sumptuous British and American, twentieth century, unaccompanied choral works, many written in 8-parts or for double choir.

All concerts will include Barber’s justly popular Agnus Dei, a transcription of his famous Adagio for Strings and Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, a big favourite with audiences, Stanford’s 3 Motets Justorum Animae, Coelos Ascendit Hodie and Beati Quorum Via, two exquisite works by Walton, Drop, drop slow tears and Set me as a seal, and a curiosity by Elgar, They are at rest (written in 1910 for the ninth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s death). All concerts finish with Holst’s spectacular Nunc Dimittis.

 

One Equal Music

One Equal Music, is a programme of British and American unaccompanied works written between 1905 and 1994. Most are written in 8 parts, some for double choir, and they all have one thing in common, a rich and lush texture of multi-part choral writing.

Charles Villiers Stanford’s 3 Motets Justorum Animae, Coelos Ascendit Hodie and Beati Quorum Via start the programme followed by two wonderful works by William Walton, Drop, drop slow tears and Set me as a seal. Samuel Barber’s justly popular Agnus Dei, a transcription of his famous Adagio for Strings, ends the first part of the concert. Morten Lauridsen’s, O Magnum Mysterium, a big favourite with choirs since its composition in 1994, starts the second half of our programme. There then follows a curiosity by Edward Elgar. They are at rest was written for the ninth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s death in 1910, and was first performed at the Frogmore Royal Mausoleum. William Harris’s two great double choir anthems Faire is the Heaven and Bring us, O Lord are favourites with the great Anglican choral foundations and Herbert Howells’ two early and highly original motets Salve Regina and Regina Coeli were written for Westminster Cathedral. The programme ends with Gustav Holst’s wonderful Nunc Dimittis.

I sang many of these great works in my choral days. I am sure you will enjoy them!

Roderick Earle

Seasons Greetings

Season’s Greetings!

Colchester Chamber Choir wishes you a very Happy Christmas
and a prosperous New Year.

Thank you for your support and encouragement during
2012.

We hope you have enjoyed our season’s concerts and we look forward to
seeing you again at our first concert of 2013, One Equal Music, on the 9th February at St Teresa’s church in Colchester.

O Sacrum Convivium

O Sacrum Convivium (O Sacred Banquet) is a short unaccompanied motet by Olivier Messiaen, written in 1937. Surprisingly, it his only liturgical work for Messiaen was a deeply religious man and his inner spiritual life was one of the main inspirations of his compositional output. Lasting only a few minutes this short work encapsulates Messiaen’s approach to tonality with harmonies that subtly shift and refract like the stained glass in Cocteau’s window from Notre-Dame de Jérusalem on our poster.

It is around this stunning work that we have built our autumn programme, offering works by five French composers from the end of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries.

Best well known is surely the Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Fauré together, perhaps, with Maurice Duruflé’s 4 motets sur des thèmes grégorien. We will also sing Marcel Dupré’s impressive 4 motets, and Francis Poulenc’s wonderful 4 Motets pour un Temps de Péntitence and  his Salve Regina, undoubtedly amongst the finest works of this repertoire. Finally, you will hear a rarely heard Pie Jesu by Armand Vivet and the exquisite Hymne à la Vierge by Pierre Villette.

So, do come and hear the choir sing this wonderful music, music which is imbued with that uniquely French harmonic language and which I guarantee will linger long in your memory.

 

Bach and Beyond

In our next concert Bach and Beyond we are turning to the great tradition of German sacred music from the baroque and romantic eras.

One of Johann Sebastian Bach’s great motets, Lobet dem Herrn, starts the programme and is mirrored at the end of the concert by two motets by Johannes Brahms Ach, arme Welt and O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf.

In between we are offering three rarities. The 5 motets we are singing from Israelsbrünnlein by Johann Schein (Bach’s predecessor at Leipzig) are remarkable for their expressiveness and rhythmic invention. Written in the style of Italian madrigals, they are firmly in the Lutheran tradition of Schűtz and Bach, setting words from the Old Testament and were meant for liturgical and domestic performance. For these seventeenth century pieces we will be joined by Duo Labryinthe; Jadran Duncomb (theorbo) and Claire Bracher (viola da gamba).

Max Reger is well known for his organ music but he wrote some fantastic motets and sacred songs. We will be singing three of these including the 8-part Der Mensch lebt und bestehet. The Austrian Hugo Wolf, best known for his songs, wrote a remarkable set of sacred part-songs regarded by some as amongst the finest choral works of the late Romantic. Like the Reger works these pieces are written in a homophonic style that has its origin in the harmonic tradition and style of the Lutheran chorale.

Finally, at the centre of the programme we are singing the unaccompanied 8-part motet Denn Er hatt seinem Engeln befohlen by Felix Mendelssohn. This motet was later included in ‘Elijah’ where it appears with an orchestral accompaniment.