Sinfonia Chorale - Autumn Newsletter 2022
The sad news of the death of our Queen arrived just as this newsletter was going to be sent out. We would like to honour this gracious lady by performing pieces which we know were meaningful to her, and we will take this opportunity to commemorate her dignified reign, and life.
The concert will take place on Saturday November 5th, 7.30pm at Beeston Parish Church. Our music will reflect the celebratory nature of the Platinum Jubilee, as we perform works from the extensive reigns of the two Queen Elizabeths, linking the past with the present. There will be a wonderfully varied selection of music, including works by William Byrd, Judith Weir, Benjamin Britten and Gerald Finzi, amongst others.
Music played a large part in the life of Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603). She was an accomplished musician who played virginals, the lute and also sang. As a powerful ruler, she could act as a patron and many songs were written in praise of her – reflecting her connection to God, and also to the people.
Throughout her 70-year reign, Elizabeth II supported classical music and the arts. She actually studied music herself and enjoyed a wide variety of styles, as was reflected in her list of favourite songs! From this compilation (easy to find on the internet), we will be singing Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek (1934/35), which Fred Astaire sang in the musical Top Hat. The Queen was also the patron of numerous musical charities, attended many events and honoured some wonderful musicians.
Born circa 1540 (d. 1623), the great English composer, William Byrd, began his professional career as organist and master of the choristers at Lincoln Cathedral. In 1570, he obtained the post of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, which expanded his networking and composing possibilities. He shared the post of organist with the talented Thomas Tallis, with whom he also printed and marketed part-music and lined music paper. Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558 – 1603) had granted them a monopoly for this venture. Byrd was a prolific composer over many genres, creating partsongs, fantasias, dances, consort songs, 3 Latin Masses, 4 Anglican Services and over 180 motets. He was a Catholic in an Anglican state and he and his wife were known to be recusants but Byrd managed to stay in favour with the Queen, composing for her and avoiding major punishment (apart from heavy fines). He was also writing Masses for Catholics to use secretly and we will be singing one of these - his beautiful Mass for Four Voices (1592/93). The settings lacked title pages, dates and the name of the printer and it is thought that this made them harder to trace, therefore anyone involved could avoid potential arrest. They were also published in single bifolia so they were easier to conceal. Times change, of course, and now the pieces are commonly heard in Anglican cathedrals.
Jumping forwards, Judith Weir was born in 1954 into a Scottish family but grew up near London. In 2014 she was appointed to the 395-year old royal post of Master of the Queen’s Music and has written operas, theatrical works, instrumental, solo and choral pieces, as well as for national and royal occasions. Her delightful setting of I Love All Beauteous Things was commissioned by the Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral to mark the 90th birthday of HM The Queen. The words are by Robert Bridges (1844-1930), who was Poet Laureate in the year Elizabeth II was born (1926).
Benjamin Britten’s Jubilate Deo (1961) was written for St George’s Chapel, Windsor at the request of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Despite the fact that the Duke actually chose this as one of the pieces of music to be played at his funeral, this 4-part choir and organ piece is lively and uplifting.
We will also be singing O Taste and See, the quietly moving piece written by Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) for the 1953 Coronation service. A set of 10 partsongs A Garland for the Queen was also created for this occasion (performed the evening before) and this collection echoes The Triumphs of Oriana (1601), a volume of madrigals by different composers, written in praise of Elizabeth I and published by Thomas Morley.
You will be pleased to hear that our talented accompanist, Michael Overbury, will also be playing Byrd’s Fantasia in C (BK25) and Walton’s Crown Imperial for the concert. We look forward to hearing his accomplished performance of these treats.
We are really looking forward to presenting some beautiful music from these eras, under the expert direction of our conductor, Richard Roddis, and it would be marvellous to see you all at our concert. Tickets are £15 (£7 for full-time students under 21) and include a glass of wine or fruit juice. They are available from our website or from Sandra Wakefield on 0115 9606236.
Sinfonia Chorale Summer Newsletter 2022
Summer is fast approaching and with it our July concerts!
Saturday the 2nd of July, 7.30pm, at St Mary’s Church, Lowdham sees our Music for a Summer’s Evening programme, which will include a varied selection of songs and short choral pieces. Palestrina’s O Holy and Glorious Trinity, Kodaly’s Matra Pictures and Ernst Toch’s Geographical Fugue are amongst the delights on offer.
Our wonderful accompanist, Michael Overbury, will be with us for both concerts. We will also be joined by a special guest on Saturday evening – Magnus Hawker-French, who is an accomplished trombone player (accompanied by Rachel Johnson on piano). Magnus was Nottingham’s Young Brass Player of the year in 2019 and has performed at various venues across Nottingham.
Please come and join us for what should be, a lovely concert - we would love to see you there!!
Tickets are £10 (£5 for students under 21) and are available from:
- The Bookcase, 50 Main St, Lowdham,
- The Sinfonia Chorale website
- contact Sandra Wakefield on 0115 9606236.
On Sunday the 3rd of July we will be performing at the lovely St Peter’s Church, Tollerton, NG12 4FT, at 3.00pm.
Magnus will not be joining us there but we will be singing a selection of pieces from those sung at Lowdham.
Tickets, available from Norma Smith on 0115 9373814 or Ruth Hartley on 0115 9376968 will be £10, and include a delicious cream tea with prosecco or fruit juice.
We hope that you are having a delightful Spring and we look forward to seeing you in July!
Best wishes to you all,
Sinfonia Chorale Spring Newsletter 2022
Spring is coming, the sun is shining and we are eagerly preparing for our March concert!
Perhaps some of you attended the Come and Sing day in January – according to feedback a good time was had by all, with people really appreciating the opportunity to sing again after such a long time. We are so glad that people felt safe and enjoyed themselves.
We also hope that many of you will be able to join us on March 19th, 7.30pm at St Martin’s Church, Sherwood (tickets £15, including refreshments) for the Stabat Mater concert.
Our talented accompanist, Michael Overbury, will also be treating us to some wonderful organ music, so please put the date in your diary and visit our website for more details!
The Stabat Mater is a sacred Catholic text, originating in the 13th century, which portrays the suffering of the Virgin Mother on witnessing the crucifixion of her son, Jesus Christ. The physical and emotional anguish lends itself to being expressed musically and there have been numerous settings of this text by many composers.
Born in 1710, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (family name Draghi) composed his Stabat Mater just before he died of tuberculosis in 1736. Despite a short life, he was an important early composer of opera buffa (comic opera) and worked for aristocratic patrons such as the Duke of Maddaloni. As well as operatic works, he wrote secular instrumental pieces and other sacred music. This beautiful, intensely moving Stabat Mater was composed for soprano, alto, string orchestra and basso continuo but we will be performing an arrangement for SATB chorus by Desmond Ratcliffe.
Antonio Caldara was born in Italy around 1670 and died in Vienna in 1736, where he had been Vize-Kapellmeister to the Imperial Court since 1716. As a boy, he was a chorister at St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice and had also studied cello, keyboard and the viol. Caldara was a prolific and popular composer, exhibiting great mastery over a wide variety of styles, including opera, chamber and sacred. His Stabat Mater (composed ca. 1725) is a dignified work, allowing for great emotional expression from the performers.
Our final choice of Stabat Mater is one composed around 1890 by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger (1839 – 1901). He was born in Liechtenstein but resided in Germany for most of his life. During a successful career of over 45 years, he published nearly 200 compositions, as well as being a professor of counterpoint and organ. In his earlier years he had been a virtuoso pianist and organist, until a disease affected his right hand, putting an end to his performing. This is the shortest version of the Stabat Mater in our programme, divided into 4 sections and described as having a ‘popular-traditional quality, using some baroque rhythms and ending in a quiet fugue’ (www.stabatmater.info).
These pieces are a delight to sing and aptly demonstrate the very different possible interpretations of one text. We hope that you will enjoy this wonderful music too and we look forward to seeing you soon.
Best wishes to you all,
Sinfonia Chorale Autumn Newsletter 2021
Greetings from Sinfonia Chorale during these uncertain times. We hope that you are all coping as well as possible with the difficulties that life has been throwing at us lately.
We have just resumed rehearsals after such a long time of trying to practise together via Zoom meetings, with backing tracks and Richard valiantly conducting! It’s lovely to be able to sing together again in the same room, albeit keeping more distance from each other, sanitising chairs and with some people wearing masks! After the enforced ‘hibernation’ it is wonderful to stretch the muscles, awaken one’s vocal folds, and get those endorphins flowing!
Providing we are still allowed to, we will be performing Brahms’ uplifting German Requiem and also his popular Liebeslieder Waltzes on Saturday November 20th, 7.30pm, at St John’s Church in Carrington. On piano we will be enjoying the marvellous combined talents of Michael Overbury and Philip Robinson. Not to be missed!
Composed in 1868, using text from Polydora by Georg Friedrich Daumer, the light and enjoyable Waltzes explore, over 18 relatively short movements, the myriad of emotions that being in love can stimulate. In contrast, our longer work (The German Requiem) uses words from the Luther Bible and is sacred but non-liturgical. Composed between 1865 and 1868, the piece might have been inspired by the death of his mother but, rather than being a Mass for the dead, this cleverly crafted work moves from darkness to light, giving hope to the living and comforting those who are grieving, which is a sentiment that definitely resonates with most people around the world today.
We would love to welcome you all back to enjoy a concert and hope that you feel comfortable enough to attend. The church is quite a large, airy space and, naturally, audience members can wear masks and sanitise, whilst we will continue to follow any precautions that the current government guidelines suggest. Tickets will be £15 and include a drink of wine or fruit juice. Please contact Teresa Marchewicz on 0115 9140525 with any enquiries, or visit our website
Looking further ahead, we hope to present a Christmas concert in Rainworth Parish Church on Tuesday December 14th at 7.30pm. Please join us for some Christmas jollity!
After New Year, on Saturday January 22nd, 2022 (starting at 10am), we are hoping to hold a Come and Sing event at Bramcote Parish Church. This will explore some beautiful settings of the Stabat Mater and, if you are interested, more details on how to book are available from our website.
Thank you so much for your support over the years – we are looking forward to seeing you again and sharing an uplifting musical experience!
Spring Newsletter 2021
The day you’ve all been waiting for (maybe!) has arrived at last… Sinfonia Chorale’s latest virtual choir performance is here! Our rendition of Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium is now on YouTube
This marks a year’s passing since we performed this piece in the Cathedral Church of St Barnabas, Nottingham, before the lockdowns started and Choir rehearsals were halted. Hopefully, we will all be able to meet up again soon and actually hold a concert!
We send our very best wishes to you all and hope that our performances might provide a little bit of springtime joy after this difficult year.
Sinfonia Chorale Winter Newsletter 2020-21
We wish a ‘Happy New Year’ to you all, despite the current circumstances, and we sincerely hope that 2021 will be better for everyone. It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly a year (the St Barnabas concert, March 2020) since our Choir has been able to sing together properly…
Unfortunately, it transpired that the marvellous, sociable, therapeutic act of singing was, possibly, one of the worst activities in which to engage, with regards to virus transmission. This was, and still is, a great shame for singers and audiences alike.
Adapting to the ‘new norm’ and exploring different avenues of keeping the Choir together has been interesting! The option of virtual choir singing has been very useful and generally positive, as it is the only way to sing together, albeit recording alone at home to start with! For those who had the equipment, time and inclination it has been quite fun and rewarding to view the end product with us all singing shoulder to shoulder (please visit us on the website and our YouTube channel)!
Looking to the future, we really hope that we will see you all again sometime in 2021. There is a tentative plan to hold a Come and Sing morning, looking at the beautiful Mozart Requiem on Saturday May 22nd 2021 at Bramcote Church. Naturally, this all depends on government guidelines at the time, but we will keep you posted and hope for the best!
Please visit our website for links to the Virtual Choir pieces (possibly more to follow!)
It would be lovely to hear from anyone who has stories about the Choir or, indeed, about anything they wish to share during these strange times.
Anecdotes, jokes, positive messages are all welcomed - let’s keep connected and support each other!
Stay safe and well.
Best wishes to you all.
Sinfonia Chorale x
Lockdown Newsletter Pt 2
The VIRTUAL SINFONIA CHORALE - Part II
Thanks to all of you who responded so positively to the Choir's first foray into the world of Virtual Singing.
The encouragement you gave us has motivated us to move on-wards and upwards from our first virtual performance which was always meant as a bit of fun - to try and stimulate interest in this novel way of performing.
Our Musical Director, Richard Roddis, has been particularly inspired by the possibilities that this new medium offers, and has contributed greatly to our second virtual performance by creating a conducting video to keep us along the straight and narrow.
The work chosen was William Byrd's Ave verum Corpus, a beautiful motet with some challenging and highly expressive part-writing all held together by Richard's leadership, and assembled by the Choir's technical boffins!
Although we sincerely hope that you enjoy this latest offering from the The Virtual Sinfonia Chorale, we feel that we must look to the future and plan for the return to our more conventional way of performing.
REOPENING CULTURAL LIFE IN THE UK
We therefore wish to bring to your attention (if you haven't already been made aware of this) the campaign that has steadily been gathering momentum throughout the country, and request that all supporters of Choral Singing take action as detailed below in the hope of a successful conclusion for all of us....
It has been suggested by many prominent musicians that we need to let the Government know that choirs in the UK need some advice and some answers. The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has set up a task force to help re-open cultural life - but this task force does not include a single musician amongst its members! We need representation. We need to let the Culture Secretary know that choirs and choral singing are a vital part of life in the UK. Richard Morrison, in a recent Times article, pointed out that there are 70,000 choirs in the UK, nearly all of which are in suspended animation. Yet no one in Government is providing advice on where we can go next, despite there being a taskforce looking at how to reopen cultural life. We need to ask the Government to commission some authoritative scientific advice, and it is suggested that we each individually email the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, at this email address email@example.com
A possible email is given here:
Dear Secretary of State,
I draw your attention to an article in The Times of 8th June by Richard Morrison, headlined Will no one in Government stand up for British choirs? here He points out that there are 70,000 choirs in the UK, nearly all of which are in suspended animation. There are therefore well over a million people who would love to resume singing, an activity with well-known associated physical and mental health benefits, but who of course wish to restart only when it is safe to do so. What all choirs need is authoritative, independent, scientifically based advice on, inter alia: 1) What national and local conditions must be met to ensure safety? 2) What configuration(s) should choirs adopt in rehearsals, and also in performance? 3) Is there any type of PPE that is effective and practical for choral singers? Please will your Department commission this research, to be completed and published by the end of July 2020?
(your signature, and choir or organisation you belong to)
It is suggested that you copy the email to
- your MP
- Radio 4 Front Row : firstname.lastname@example.org ,
- BBC Newsnight : NEWSNIGHT@bbc.co.uk
KEEP WELL - KEEP SAFE - KEEP SINGING!
The Sinfonia Chorale
What an unusual year this is turning out to be…we in the Sinfonia Chorale sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well during this difficult time.
Regrettably, we have had to cancel several concerts which had been planned for this year. Our summer events (July 4th and 5th) are, sadly, no longer viable and the November 7th 2020 concert (a Brahms programme) has been postponed by 12 months to Saturday 20th November 2021.
Depending on circumstances, we might be able to prepare and perform Christmas concerts this year - let’s hope so!
Please keep looking at our website for more information on future concerts, and we will also write again to keep you posted.
On a lighter note, we have attempted our own (slightly altered and with extra novelty value!) virtual choir rendition of Morley’s Now is the Month of Maying. The lockdown has certainly encouraged the use of new avenues of communication - we’re getting to grips with different technologies and hopefully this will add a new dimension to what we can do as a choir.
We’ve just posted our video for your perusal - you can be the first to see it - exciting!
Best wishes to you all.
Spring Newsletter 2020
To those of you who attended our Come and Sing event on January 18th, we would like to say a big ‘thank you’ and we hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did! You sounded marvellous and we truly appreciate your support.
The concert showcasing the chosen settings of O Magnum Mysterium is fast approaching - Saturday 14th March at 8.00pm, and tickets can be bought from our website - or from Sandra Wakefield on 0115 9606236. They are £12 or £5 for students under 21.
St Barnabas Cathedral, Nottingham, NG1 5AE makes a wonderful venue for these pieces. The generous acoustic enhances the beauty of the music and the expressive yearning towards an understanding of the mysteries of the Incarnation. We hope to see many of you there!
Tomas Luis de Victoria (ca. 1548-1611) was one of Spain’s most important composers, producing a repertoire which includes psalm settings and hymns as well as 21 masses and 44 motets. He was also a Catholic priest, singer and organist. In 1565 he went to Rome and became cantor at the German College. It is possible that he may have studied with Palestrina at around this time, and he did take over the position of maestro after Palestrina left the Pontifical Roman Seminary. He returned to Spain in 1587 and worked, for the remainder of his life, as chaplain and then organist to the Dowager Empress Maria.
According to some, Victoria’s sacred music reflected his ‘intricate personality’ and expressed a ‘passion of Spanish mysticism and religion’. The mass in 4 parts which we will perform, explores beautiful, simple lines, homophonic textures and rhythmic variations, as well as dissonance and expressive word painting, the overall effects of which can produce surprising contrasts of intensity and emotional connection to the subject matter.
We will also perform Victoria’s 4-part motet of the same title, published in 1572, upon which the mass is based. This beautiful, melismatic piece illustrates the use of imitation between the voices, dissonance, and echo rather than singing syllables at the same time, the combination of which creates a feeling of mystery.
Another important composer of the Counter-Reformation was the Italian contrapuntal expert Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594) who wrote more than 105 masses and 250 motets. His 6-part motet, O Magnum Mysterium was composed in 2 sections and published in Rome in 1569. Palestrina was attempting to create a more complex piece in some ways (6 parts), in response to those who were complaining about the ‘plainness of religious works’, but also trying to heed the arguments of others who thought Catholic liturgical music was becoming incomprehensible, by making the music more accessible (using fewer melismas, for example).
The motet has a harmonic style and Palestrina seems to reflect the importance of the birth of Jesus through repetition of certain phrases, using syllabic unisons and less imitation, thereby enhancing the clarity and meaning of the words. Strikingly, the piece ends with a joyful Alleluja section and on a strong plagal cadence, possibly to maintain the surprise and awe of the birth in the minds of the listeners.
We will also be performing some beautiful pieces by Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943), Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) and Javier Busto (b. 1949). Lauridsen’s setting, composed in 1994, is a lovely, intense work, which seems to combine a contemporary feel with a more classic Gregorian chanting style, weaving the voices together in a shimmering wall of sound, striking the emotional core of the listener. Apparently, he likes to spend time composing and accessing his ‘inner song’, in a secluded place on an island off the coast of Washington. Originally trained as a medical doctor, Busto is also a Spanish (from the Basque Country) choral music composer and conductor who is in demand, throughout the world, as a guest conductor and member of choral and composition contest juries. His works, and choirs, have received many prizes and his scores are published in several countries around the world. Busto’s O Magnum Mysterium opens with hushed ‘misterioso’ chanting from the 4 voice parts, creating an almost reverent atmosphere. The piece then explores different musical ideas in several defined sections, ending on a bright Alleluia, heralding the great birth.
The French composer and pianist, Francis Poulenc, was initially self-taught, then studied with the pianist Ricardo Viñes and also with Erik Satie. He wrote many sacred and secular pieces, for voice and instrument and was part of the group of young composers Les Six. With an artistic mother and a religious father, these contrasting elements seem to be reflected in Poulenc’s music - sometimes serious and sometimes very light and fun. His music is, generally, melodic, expressive and memorable. The O Magnum Mysterium was one of 4 Christmas motets that he composed in the early 1950s. Changing harmonies, unexpected twists and humming create a sacred and serene piece, building up to a peak of awe and praise.
We are looking forward to performing this beautiful music and hope that you will enjoy it, too!