From our Musical Director, Jonathan Willcocks
It always happens! I find myself at the height of (a very hot) summer contemplating concerts that will for the most part come to fruition in various stages of depth of winter. And yet again I find myself sensing in advance the warmth that will emanate from The Chichester Singers when performing four exciting and contrasting programmes in the coming season.
November 2018 will be a moment for sombre reflection on the Centenary of the Armistice that brought to an end four years of bitter conflict which took the lives of so many in the Great War.
To mark this moment of national remembrance, we will perform two highly appropriate and deeply moving works. Ron Corp is one of the UK’s leading contemporary choral composers (and conductors) and his work And all the trumpets sounded combines the words of the Latin Requiem Mass with those of poets such as Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen, whose work was so affected by their wartime experiences. Ron will be coming to one of our Wednesday rehearsals to talk about his music and help us with its preparation.
Partnered with this evocative new work will be Brahms–Requiem, truly one of the great masterpieces of the choral repertoire. And, for our soloists, we will enjoy again the exceptional work of soprano Claire Seaton and baritone Gareth Brynmor John.
In the approach to Christmas, we will revisit a work which always stirs the festive spirit – Handel– Messiah. Our rehearsal run towards this performance will be short and sharp (only five Wednesdays). Beware that the familiarity and initial confidence that very many singers have for this work is often matched by a belated realisation of how difficult it actually is to sing well.
In March 2019 we will perform another of the great pillars of the repertoire – J S Bach–St. Matthew Passion. This provides the challenges of much double-chorus work and some wonderfully vivid sections where the choir take on the mantle of a vengeful mob, contrasting with the dignified chorale settings and reflective solo arias. And we will again have the terrific dramatic tenor James Oxley as our solo Evangelist – I am sure that very many of you will remember his marvellous performance (from memory) of the same role in the St John Passion a few years ago.
As a contrast to three concerts in which we will perform large-scale major works, our June 2019 concert will be a French/English programme of shorter lesser-known pieces.
We will be joined for this concert by a small number of singers from Chartres, to mark the 60th anniversary of the formal twinning of Chichester and Chartres. From across the Channel we will explore Vierne–Messe Solennelle, alongside two more familiar little gems – Fauré–Cantique de Jean Racine and Franck–Panis angelicus, while from closer to home we will give the first UK performance of Chichester University Professor of Composition Jonathan Little’s
Crucifixus, John Rutter–Gloria and my own work for baritone solo, chorus, brass, percussion and organ, From darkness to light.
I am very touched that The Chichester Singers will be performing one of my own works exactly 40 years on from my very first concert with the choir in 1979.