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!
Christmas Newsletter 2019
Thank you so much to everyone who attended our concert on Saturday 9th November - your support is greatly appreciated and we really hope you enjoyed the French music!
We are now working towards the Christmas concerts, which promise to be very enjoyable occasions and will put us all in a festive mood! Patchings Farm Arts Centre is the venue for the first concert, on Sunday 8th December at 7.30pm. Tickets (available from Patchings only) are £8.50 and include a glass of wine and a mince pie at the interval.
On Tuesday 10th December, at 7.30pm, the concert will be at Rainworth Parish Church (St Simon and St Jude). Tickets, which can be purchased on the website, will be £5.00 and this also includes refreshments. Please come along and join us for some Christmas cheer - audience participation is essential (and free!).
If you enjoy singing with us, why not book onto our Come and Sing Workshop? We’ll be exploring different settings of O Magnum Mysterium on Saturday 18th January 2020, at Christchurch, Chilwell, NG9 4AS. Please visit our website for more details
We look forward to seeing you!
Autumn Newsletter 2019
Autumn is fast approaching and that means one thing - another amazing Sinfonia Chorale concert! Save the date - Saturday November 9th, 7.30pm, at St Martin’s Church, Sherwood, NG5 3FU.
You can look forward to a wonderful selection of French choral music, including the Messe Solennelle by Langlais, Duruflé’s Four Motets and also French chansons by Fauré, Debussy and Saint-Saëns. In addition, you will have the great opportunity to hear organ pieces by Tournemire and Messiaen, expertly played by the renowned Michael Overbury.
Interestingly, Jean Langlais (1907-1991) studied improvisation with Charles Tournemire (around 1930) and later, in 1945, he became the successor to Cesar Franck and Tournemire at the organ tribune of Saint-Clotilde in Paris, only leaving the position in 1987.
Being blind from the age of 2, Langlais attended the Paris National Institute for the Young Blind (where he later worked as a professor for 40 years) and then he went on to the Paris National Conservatory of Music. He was a prolific composer of organ, vocal and instrumental music, and gave hundreds of recitals. The Messe Solennelle is a powerful, complex piece, combining thundering, and also intricate, organ passages with striking, colourful vocal sections, sometimes dissonant, sometimes very melodic.
In contrast, Maurice Duruflé’s (1902-1986) Four Sacred Motets (1960), based on Gregorian themes, are for unaccompanied voices and set Latin texts for different liturgical occasions. These beautiful motets have been described as ‘rich in subtle harmonies, well-written for voices, and reminiscent of impressionism’. They evoke a quiet, spiritual feeling, inspiring contemplation. Duruflé also had organ lessons with Tournemire.
We will also be performing one of the three movements from Tristia (Opus 18) by Hector Berlioz (1803-1869). The individual movements were published together as a whole in 1852, but were never performed during Berlioz’s lifetime. Meditation Religieuse (1831), the movement which we will present, is a setting of an English poem by Thomas Moore, translated into French by Louise Belloc. Berlioz uses contrasting dynamics and sustained harmonies to reflect a picture of the world as a ‘fleeting show’, with Heaven being the only true thing.
We hope that this has whetted your appetite for some delightful French music. It would be wonderful to see you on November 9th
Please visit our website to purchase tickets (£10), or call Sandra Wakefield on 0115 960 6236.
Best wishes to you all!
Summer Newsletter 2019
Hello to everyone on this summery day!
We have a treat in store for you on Saturday 6th July, 7.30pm at St Jude’s Church, Mapperley, NG3 5EJ! The wonderfully talented pianist, Konya Kanneh-Mason, will be our guest soloist and we are very excited about this! She holds the Gilling Family Scholarship at The Royal Academy of Music, studying piano with Tessa Nicholson. In 2017 she won Nottingham Young Musician and was joint winner of the Carlton MVC Music Makers Award in 2018. She plays solo recitals and also with her siblings (you may have heard of some of them!) and is also a member of the Chineke! Orchestra. On the 6th July, Konya will be delighting us all with pieces (although these may be subject to change…) such as the challenging and lively Waltz in A-flat major, Op. 42 by Chopin, as well as his Nocturne in B major, Op. 32, No. 1. There might also be some movements from Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata… you will definitely have to come along to find out!
The choir will also be performing a varied programme of music, from The Making of the Drum by Bob Chilcott to Thomas Tomkins’ lively madrigal, See, See the Shepherds’ Queen. There will also be some English romantic partsongs, such as Come Live with Me by William Sterndale Bennett and a delicious Whitacre piece called A Boy and a Girl, which is a setting of a translation of a poem by Octavio Paz.
Chilcott set the evocative, striking poems of Edward Kamau Braithwaite for his colourful creation, celebrating the way in which the spirit of the drum is brought to life, from sacrificing the goat, to cutting the tree and sounding the drum. Complex rhythms, vocal effects and the actual use of percussion instruments are effectively combined to make an exciting, unusual piece.
Tickets are £10 (£5 for students under 21) and are available from Sandra Wakefield 0115 9606236 or from the Sinfonia Chorale website.
It promises to be a lovely evening and we look forward to seeing you!
Thank you so much for your continued support,
Spring Newsletter 2019
It’s hard to believe that our first concert of 2019 is nearly here - and what a lovely event it promises to be!
We are very lucky to be performing with Nicolette Moonen and her talented Baroque Ensemble, which will include trumpets, as well as woodwind and strings.
Nicolette is a renowned Baroque violinist and the artistic director of The Bach Players. She teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London and has performed with most of the country’s leading period instrument ensembles. Our March concert will be a wonderful opportunity to hear and experience the rich music of J.S. Bach and Jan Dismas Zelenka expertly played on period instruments. The combined expertise and sensitivity of Richard Roddis and Nicolette Moonen brings the music to life, adding nuance, emotion and depth - all of which promises to make a memorable concert!
Our two main pieces are Bach’s Ascension Oratorio and Zelenka’s Missa Gratias agimus tibi. Zelenka and Bach did meet and held each other in high esteem. Born in 1679, Zelenka (referred to as Bach’s Catholic counterpart) was a Czech Baroque composer whose instrument was the bass viol (violone). In 1709 he served Baron von Johann Hubert von Hartig and had access to his extensive music library. He then became a player in the royal orchestra at Dresden in 1710 and remained here until his death in 1745. He was a very highly paid, and respected, musician who created beautiful sacred music for the Catholic court church. He occupied the position of Kapellmeister for several years (in an unofficial capacity) following the death of Johann David Heinichen. This position was subsequently given to the composer Johann Adolf Hasse in 1731. Zelenka held the official position of church composer from 1734, a position that J.S. Bach also held from 1736 after composing a mass for the Dresden court which eventually persuaded Augustus III to give him this title. Leipzig and Dresden were both in the Electorate of Saxony at this time.
As far as is known, Zelenka composed 249 works, including over 20 masses, oratorios, requiems, litanies and some purely instrumental pieces. He was very aware of different types of music from around Europe and could effectively compose using many musical styles, such as fugues, operatic arias, dances and folk music. The Missa Gratias agimus tibi (1730) is very enjoyable to perform, full of contrapuntal elaborateness, harmonic surprises and long phrases reflecting a variety of musical and emotional ideas. There is rich variety throughout the piece, ranging from florid, exciting passages to more intense, slower, atmospheric parts.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) is now considered to be one of the greatest and most prolific composers ever, in addition to being a virtuoso organist, keyboard player and talented violinist. In 1723 he became the Thomaskantor at the St Thomas Church (Lutheran) in Leipzig - a position he held until his death. The beautiful Ascension Oratorio (also known as Lobet Gott in Seinen Reichen BMV 11, or Himmelfahrts-Oratorium was probably composed (and definitely performed) in 1735 for the service for Ascension. Chorales, biblical sources and free poetry are used for the text and the structure comprises 11 movements in 2 parts, showing symmetry around a central chorale (written by Johann Rist). It is richly scored for 4 voice parts, trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings, continuo and flauti traversi. Some sections were newly composed and some based on earlier compositions. A festive, joyous and reflective piece, full of musical variety and intensity, it opens with a dancelike chorus and finishes with an impressive chorale fantasia, expressing the longing for the day of union with Jesus in Heaven.
If you would like to hear these lovely works, please join us on Saturday 16th March at Beeston Parish Church, Nottingham, NG9 1GA, at 7.30pm. Ticket details are on our website or please ring Sandra Wakefield on 0115 9606236.
We look forward to seeing you!