For us all there are familiar landmarks that herald the passing seasons (tinsel appearing in shops as Christmas approaches, supermarkets desperately flogging off over-stocked chocolate eggs when Easter has just gone by etc etc) and for me I always know that it is early August when Jill starts pestering me for an article about the coming season for the choir.
But any slothfulness that I may feel is quickly dissipated when I remind myself of what there is in store. For the 2016-17 season we have a great series of concerts to prepare for, with repertoire ranging from the 18th to the 21st centuries and the additional dimension of the tour to Spain as well. Every one of the great choral masterpieces of the past began as an unknown piece receiving its first performances, often made possible as commissioned music. Who knows which pieces of our own time will eventually be considered as true lasting masterpieces, but we all have a responsibility to continue the great tradition by encouraging contemporary composers and giving life to their work.
It is marvellous that The Chichester Singers have again felt able to fund the commissioning of a new work – this time Te Deum by Peter White. As always, there will be some who initially may have difficulty in finding their way confidently into a new piece but – having seen the completed score – I know that by our November première performance we will all feel that it is a worthy partner to the terrific Vaughan Williams work Hodie which will form the heart of the concert. We are very pleased that the Cathedral choristers, directed by Charles Harrison, will again be performing with us and the programme also includes two of Vaughan Williams’s most popular orchestral works The Lark Ascending and The Wasps Overture.
We have twice in recent years successfully exchanged a Christmas concert for the chance to perform a major work in early January, and we very much hope that we can again attract a really strong audience for Haydn–The Creation. This is a favourite work for many choral singers, and with its strong message of renewal is entirely appropriate as the New Year dawns. This will be followed (hopefully not adversely jinxed by the 1st April concert date) by a programme which contrasts the sensuous unaccompanied music of Rachmaninov-Vespers with the more buoyant tunefulness of the Mass by Joseph Jongen – a work which some of you will remember very much enjoying when we performed it twenty years ago. The scoring for chorus with organ and brass will sound splendid in the Cathedral acoustic.
In the April concert, we will also include some shorter pieces that will form the core of the repertoire for two concerts that we will perform during our Spanish tour. Past overseas adventures have always been hugely enjoyable and allow the choir to develop a cohesive social unity which is difficult to achieve simply on Wednesday evenings, and I am hugely looking forward to another heady combination of music, copious local food and drink and the letting down of much hair (as if I have much to let down – – – – !).
Either side of the late May continental adventure we will be preparing very different repertoire with the jazz idiom to the fore in Bob Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass and John Rutter’s Feel the Spirit. As a prelude to these high-octane pieces, we will explore the work of another leading contemporary composer, Eric Whitacre, through a set of his Motets which have found extraordinary levels of listener appeal through the championship of Classic FM.
So, another big season of musical challenges and opportunities fulfilling (more than once) my ongoing ambition (even after 37 seasons as Musical Director of the choir) of always including music that I have never conducted before!