From our Musical Director, Jonathan Willcocks

It is sunny and warm, England’s cricketers are playing Australia for the Ashes and so it must be time to think ahead to the depths of winter, when we will be at the heart of The Chichester Singers” 2019-2020 season.

But you won’t have to wait that long to enjoy great choral music as, from September when we begin rehearsals, we will immediately be in at the deep end with a terrific programme of English music. A Child of our Time by Michael Tippett is recognised as being one of the truly great choral works of the 20th century – inspired by the persecution of the Jewish population by Nazi Germany, it is a moving lament for oppressed people generally with a strong pacifist message of ultimate understanding and reconciliation. This powerful work is partnered by Vaughan Williams’s uplifting choral piece Toward the Unknown Region, and Southern Pro Musica will complete the programme with the very popular Elgar–Enigma Variations.

We have in recent seasons successfully presented concerts in mid-January, rather than jostle for audiences in the busy pre-Christmas period, and Saturday 18th January will see us in the Cathedral with another classical/20th century programme.

Two tuneful Haydn choral works (the ‘Little Organ’ Mass and Insanae et Vanae Curae) and a Mozart orchestral Divertimento form the first half of the concert, followed by Britten–St. Nicolas (the 4th century St Nicolas of Myra, being the original Santa Claus, is an appropriate subject given the close proximity of this concert to the festive season).

We continue the theme of pairing works by great Masters of the past with contemporary composers for our March 2020 Cathedral concert. From the baroque period we will have the much-loved Vivaldi–Gloria, together with J.S.Bach–Suite no. 1, and then we will revisit Elis Pehkonen–Russian Requiem, which the choir very much enjoyed performing back in 1992. This powerful work combines English and Latin texts, but the choir will also have the challenge of mastering some Russian words too! Despite his Finnish ancestry, Elis Pehkonen is actually English and lives in Gloucestershire, and we very much hope that he will be able to attend our performance.

Every three years, the Chichester Singers embark on an overseas tour, and there is already much excitement about our planned trip to Portugal in May 2020, when we will give two concerts and – if past tours are anything to go by – enjoy much social eating, drinking and general merry-making. The repertoire for this tour will be drawn principally from our March and June 2020 Cathedral concerts as, a few short weeks after we return, we have our final Cathedral concert of the season.

This will be focused firmly on the 19th century Romantic repertoire, with Bruckner-Mass in E minor as the major choral work. Unusually, the orchestral accompaniment for this piece is just wind and brass, and so an ideal partner piece for SPM will be the beautiful Dvorak– Serenade in D minor which, in the first half of the concert, will be partnered by the opportunity for the choir to sing some unaccompanied part-songs and motets.

What a varied and exciting feast of music we have in store in the coming season.

Jonathan