Saturday April 22nd: “Vamp til Ready”

This was another great entertaining and fund-raising event.

Vamp til Ready is a tremendously funny and mightily accomplished song-and-dance act that had many of us in stitches earlier this year. Our own Martin Elliff is one of its stars.

Reactions to the event.

Janet Knowles said:

Last night was a triumph. Thank you so much. Our friends loved it, and as my David pointed out, I enjoyed it even more than a folk concert at the Albert Hall on Easter day! Vamp were terrific – what talent.  The supper was very good, and clever of you to do it for the ticket price. Several on our table commented on that – they were expecting a mere nibble.

Susan King wrote:

What a brilliant result! It was a very happy event which we enjoyed greatly. Thank you so much to you and all the committee for working so hard to give us such a wonderful evening.

Launch of the Matrix Consort

The indulgent among us ate chocolate eggs, some sat down to enjoy a good lunch with wine, followed by feet up on the sofa, a good book, a spot of television perhaps or even Verdi’s Aida live from The Met.?

Instead, a small but enthusiastic group of 15 singers chose to gather in The Matrix to sing madrigals and part songs.

The first rehearsal given by Sebastian in his new “relaxed” style was great fun.  His carefully chosen range of music from the 16th century gave every voice a chance to shine and an opportunity to listen to each other only possible in a small group. (When we got the notes right, that is!) Tony’s particular favourite; with its repeated Fa la la chorus and suggestions of merry lads and dainty nymphs, is truly the “month of Maying”

Much more to come from this group.

Final practice for 2017 Passiontide Concert

Presentation to Pamela

We made a presentation to Pamela who recently decided that it was the right time to leave the choir of which she was a founder member. David, our current chairman, paid tribute to Pamela who had been chair previously and her enormous contributions to the choir. A letter from April Cantelo (who had previously acted as voice coach to the choir) described her as a wonderful lady. Another letter from Margaret, one of the Friends of the choir and a former member, also reminded us of what Pamela had done for us. She had led us through good times and bad.

The money collected was sufficient to be able to arrange a day out to include a Garsington Opera with dinner and champagne showing the esteem in which she is held.

Passiontide Concert 2017

Performed on the 2nd April 2017

    • Purcell: O sing unto the Lord, Z44
    • Purcell: Rejoice in the Lord alway, Z49
    • Purcell: Thou knowest, Lord, Z58
    • Bach: Brandenburg Concerto, No. 3
    • Vivaldi: Nulla in Mundo, RV 630
    • Antonio Bononcini: Stabat Mater
    • Josef Rheinberger: Abendlied

Comments on the performance

Patrick Salisbury wrote:

Sebastian has certainly made his mark as last night’s concert clearly showed and amply demonstrated his ability to inspire a high level of musicianship in singers and players alike.. The opening Purcell work quickly revealed what a fine orchestra we now have and the soloists were entirely at one with the authentic style they established in the opening prelude. The choir’s confidence and quality was particularly evident when singing the beautiful but challenging unaccompanied six-part motet by Rheinberger.

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3 was a brilliant and stylish performance that I found positively stunning! The verse anthem that completed the first part of the programme again demonstrated an inspired appreciation of Purcell’s wonderful music.

Penelope Appleyard’s beautiful singing of Vivaldi’s “Nulla in pax sincera” provided a perfect introduction to the “Stabat Mater” which made a great impression upon me. Great pains had been taken to express the utter devastation experienced by the Virgin Mary and the gradual transition to the inner feelings of the present day participant. Suitable restraint was shown where appropriate but, as in the “Virgo virginium”, the chorus were able to provide some sparkle as necessary. The soloists’ contributions were sensitively offered and well performed. Despite the very solemn nature of the work the performance offered ideal preparation for approaching Passiontide.

John Lofthouse, our Bass soloist, wrote:

to say thank you for last week’s concert. It was lovely to be back with you all again in Sutton Courtenay and to sing such an interesting array of music. The choir and orchestra were fantastic – so please pass on my thanks and admiration.

Another audience member wrote:

I was very kindly given a ticket to your most recent concert and to which I reluctantly went, but felt a duty to attend and support the singer who insisted I came.

“Bononcini” I said, “Never heard of him and oh dear amateur choirs; no thank you.”

How wrong can I be? The delightful setting of All Saints Church created just the right atmosphere, for both the choir and audience. The first Purcell work began in a joyful and energetic way as to easily portray the name “Bell Anthem”. What a great start; but to listen spellbound to the choir unaccompanied singing for the next two works, “Thou knowest Lord “and “Abendlied” was pure joy. Of course after such mesmerising singing it was impossible to applaud but boy, did I want to!

As if this wasn’t enough the orchestra playing Brandenburg 3 was pure delight. The very accomplished leader Elizabeth Nurse is a real find for you and she led the ensemble with authority and stylish virtuosity. I also enjoyed the somewhat operatic “O sing unto the Lord” to end the first half.

The wonderful setting of “Nulla in Mundo Pax”, was so deeply moving, sung brilliantly by Penelope Appleyard, and sensitively accompanied by the strings. Where do you find these wonderful musicians? The translation is “there is no peace in the world” How wrong can you be after hearing this?

Well, the “Stabat Mater” took me completely by surprise. I enjoyed every moment, the choir giving their all and singing with great sensitivity and direction. All four of your soloists were easy to listen to, nothing forced and a delight to watch. The singing of Clemmie Franks, in two beautiful arias had me spellbound. What a voice!

Many congratulations on a really fine performance and lovely evening. You have removed any doubts I might have had over your amateur status and I await your next performance with great pleasure.”

Appointment of new orchestral leader

elizabethnurse
Elizabeth Nurse

Elizabeth Nurse is an accomplished and versatile violinist, experienced in leading chamber groups and orchestras as well as playing as a soloist. She studies with Paul Barritt. Elizabeth is the leader the Oxford University Orchestra and in November 2015 was awarded an Orchestral Apprenticeship with the professional Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra. In September 2016, she was appointed Konzertmeister for the critically acclaimed Szene12 production of ‘La Bohème’ in Dresden. Elizabeth is a second year Music undergraduate and Choral Scholar at The Queen’s College, Oxford.

Sebastian Thomson

sebastian_thomsonSebastian was a chorister at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (alongside Gulliver Ralston, one of our previous Directors of Music) before moving to HarrowSchool with the top music scholarship. He was then awarded the Bristol University Organ Scholarship. After this, he moved to Chichester Cathedral as Organ Scholar. In 2005, Sebastian was appointed Director of Music at St Matthew’s Church, Northampton, a post held alongside teaching piano, organ, and theory at Eton College.

Sebastian is an accomplished choral director and teacher with a growing reputation. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and a prize-winner in the Choral Training Diploma examination from the College. He was recently Head of Academic Music and Assistant Director of Music at Bloxham School.

Whilst at Bristol University, Sebastian founded The Howells Voices, a mixed voiced choir inspired by the music of Herbert Howells. The choir recommenced in 2012, and they take occupancy 3 times a year in Britain’s Cathedrals. Recent venues include, Salisbury, Westminster Abbey and York Minster.

Based in Oxford, he is now pursuing a freelance career as a choral conductor and organist. His recent solo engagements include recitals at Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, King’s College Cambridge, and St Paul’s Cathedral. Sebastian has also made appearances as a performer and speaker on local and national television and radio.

Sebastian is gaining a reputation for commissioning new works for choir and organ. The Angels of Creation Commissions are a collection of organ works composed for and premiered by Sebastian. A recording made on the organ of Keble College, Oxford is out later this year and a recital at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris is booked for the summer of 2017.