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!
Autumn Newsletter 2018
|News from The Sinfonia Chorale|
Autumn loveliness is upon us and a fresh new singing term has begun! We are working towards our Concert for Peace, with the wonderfully talented Helix Ensemble, which will take place on Saturday 10th November at 7.30pm at St Giles’ Church, West Bridgford, NG2 6AY. This will be an evening of British and European music, celebrating the end of WW1. As part of this concert, we will also be lucky enough to enjoy the dulcet tones of Mike Dewis, baritone, and the excellent harp playing of Heloise Davies.
Gerald Finzi’s Requiem da Camera (1924) will be one of the main pieces of the evening. Using texts by Masefield, Hardy and Gibson, this emotive work reflects on a past English bucolic idyll, which so sharply contrasts with the sadness of war and the loss of all the men who had worked those fields.
Finzi’s elegiac style portrays the transient nature of life, through evocative melodies, clashing choral moments, and sudden rhythmic and pitch shifts for emotional impact. Having lost his father, his teacher (Ernest Farrar) and his three brothers during his youth, perhaps it comes as no surprise that Finzi’s music can be so heartfelt in its exploration of difficult themes.
We will also be performing Reconciliation from Ralph Vaughan Williams cantata Dona Nobis Pacem, part of which was written in 1911 and the remainder in 1936. This movement sets to music the poetry of Walt Whitman. The Choir, at points, echoes a baritone soloist, whilst the melodic, sweeping strings add to the emotional texture. This plea for peace leaves us with a striking image of bending over an open coffin to kiss the white face of the ‘enemy’, who, according to the narrator, is ‘a man divine as myself’.
Vaughan Williams and Finzi were friends, and another connection in our programme is that between Finzi and Ivor Gurney, whose piece Since I Believe in God the Father Almighty (1925) we will be performing.
Finzi and his wife, Joyce Black, did not meet Gurney but catalogued and edited all of his works. He studied under Stanford (who also taught Vaughan Williams) but suffered from mental health problems (bipolar disorder) and was also gassed during the war. He spent the last fifteen years of his life in psychiatric hospitals but, despite all of his struggles, he produced hundreds of poems, over three hundred songs and some instrumental music. The image of the ‘tortured artist’ seems particularly relevant here.
The motet which we will perform is for unaccompanied double choir, with words by Robert Bridges. An ambivalent relationship with God is explored - the writer believes in God but questions how anyone can know, or understand, Him. This possibly touched Gurney very deeply, as he struggled in his ‘hours of anguish and darkness’, wrestling with ideas of God, beauty and freedom. The image of the ‘tortured artist’ seems particularly relevant here as the music definitely seems to reflect inner struggles, with its haunting melodies, clashing chords and tonal jumps.
Another treat for tenor, choir and orchestra is the Vieille prière bouddhique, a work by Lili Boulanger (who died in 1918 at the age of twenty-four), composed between 1914 and 1917. The text, a ‘prayer for the whole universe’, is an excerpt from the Buddhist Visuddhimagga, translated into French by Suzanne Karpelès, and takes the form of an Eastern incantation, utilising solemn chanting and humming, flute and tenor solos and ending with a grand, almost operatic flourish. Boulanger weaves voices and orchestra together, using some clever counterpoint, and she creates mysterious, hypnotic effects, with harmonic changes producing exotic tones.
Songs published in 1911 by George Butterworth, setting some texts from A. E. Housman’s collection of poems, A Shropshire Lad (1887), completes our varied programme. Butterworth, who was also good friends with Vaughan Williams, was shot by a sniper in 1916 and this fact enhances the poignancy and tragically prophetic nature of some of the pieces.
These lyrical and emotive songs are not to be missed. The evening is sure to be a moving and memorable one, and it would be lovely to see you all there.
Tickets are available from:
We appreciate your support and wish you a happy Autumn!
Summer Newsletter 2018
|News from The Sinfonia Chorale|
Warm greetings to you all!
Spring is finally here and, with renewed vigour, the Choir is busy practising some beautiful pieces for the June concerts. What a contrast this is to the extremely cold and snowy evening in March when our last concert took place in St Barnabas Cathedral!
The programme was made up of three devotional pieces of a very contrasting nature. The first item was the performance of four motets by Anton Bruckner, full of rich, sonorous harmonies. This was followed by the wonderful Festival Anthem by Gerald Finzi, Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice, which portrays the liturgical drama of the Eucharist.
The Choir gave a particularly moving performance of this piece, as did the three soloists taken from the Choir, Sue Jolly, Matt Burton and Theo Drabble. Finally, the Choir performed the wonderful Requiem by Maurice Duruflé. Based on the Gregorian Chant themes of the Mass of the Dead, this is Duruflé’s most famous composition and sets a mood of rest and tranquility with its lovely ethereal sonorities.
The Choir was ably accompanied by Michael Overbury on the organ. He also played a magnificent French piece by Messiaen - Apparition de l’Eglise Eternelle. We are very grateful to those of you who braved the elements to attend and we hope to see you at the Summer Concerts. (Thank you to Angela for the concert review)
Returning to Spring warmth and joining us in June, we have two very talented soloists - both finalists in the 2017 Nottingham Young Musician of the Year.
On Saturday 23rd June, our guest soloist will be Reuben Tendler (French Horn) playing, amongst other pieces, Alan Abbott’s Alla Caccia and Melodie no.1 by Rubinstein.
On Saturday 30th June, we will be welcoming the harpist, Bethany Caswell, who will be playing several delightful pieces, including Harpicide at Midnight by Pearl Chertok and Guridi’s Viejo Zortzico. We are all looking forward to hearing these two amazing young performers - book your tickets soon!
The Choir will also be singing some exciting songs - we have a Stanford selection, including the beautiful Blue Bird but we will also be dipping a toe into the worlds of French Renaissance drinking songs and Swedish folksongs…
Another highlight, especially if you enjoy Eric Whitacre’s compositions, is his work Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, with a libretto bréve by Charles Anthony Silvestri and Italian fragments taken from the notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci himself. This challenging, but very rewarding, piece paints a colourful, dynamic picture of Leonardo’s journey towards conquering gravity, whilst ‘tormented by visions of flight and falling’. Numerous voice parts interweave, creating a rich, colourful texture which reaches a dramatic climax in the middle of the piece as Leonardo ‘takes one last breath, and leaps’!
Tickets for both concerts are priced at £8.00 (£5.00 for full-time students under 21) and are available from Sandra Wakefield on 0115 9606236, or from the Sinfonia Chorale website.
We hope to see you in June and thank you so much for your continued support!
Here’s to a music and sun-filled summer!
Winter Newsletter 2017
Autumn Newsletter 2017