Advent Concert 2017

We received the following appreciation of our recent Advent Convert from one audience member:

I have been to a number of concerts given by your excellent group and I find that once again my worst fears were confounded. Every time I’m impressed with the difference of your programme selection. For example, the Bonocini ‘Stabat Mater’ and the wildly different Zelenka ‘Miserere’ were two concerts I enjoyed enormously.  As someone who regularly attends choral concerts I have a sense of relief when I don’t have to listen to yet another mass or requiem by Bach, Mozart, Faure or Handel (great composers as they are and mainstays of the choral repertoire.)

To come to a programme of Saint Saens and Benjamin Britten therefore is both enjoyable and unusual. The inclusion of the harp and violin ‘Fantasie’ balanced the evening beautifully and created a welcome opportunity to reflect on the sheer diversity of Saint Saens’ music. What a find this young and talented violinist Elizabeth Nurse is!

The opening two unaccompanied pieces were well rehearsed and whilst ‘Ave Verum’ is sung frequently the adjoining selection of Rameau’s hymn of lament was an unusual and inspired choice. The choir gave both of these pieces a sense of timing and delivery which started the evening well.

The ‘Christmas Oratorio’ was delightful, the soloists here were well balanced and sung beautifully, with the choir once again well-rehearsed and singing with a sensitivity, especially in the ‘Gloria Patri’, that I found quite moving. The work was new to me, and many in the audience also, and one I should like to hear again.

Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ I have heard many times before and usually with just treble voices, so it was a great pleasure and surprise to hear the lower registers join in with this arrangement. No doubt there has been much discussion on how to pronounce middle English but my view is that if one sings loudly and enthusiastically enough then nothing is lost in the interpretation, and I did indeed feel “Wolcum.” The icy coldness of the interlude had the audience spellbound and surprisingly breathless with concentration (well done Anneke Hodnett whose playing throughout the evening was to a very high standard) and the whole work was delivered by choir and two soloists to my complete enjoyment.

Thank you, All Saints’ Singers for the concert, the mulled wine and the minced pie.   I shall come again!

And Patrick Salisbury wrote:

Dear David,

This was certainly a most successful concert. It was ingenious to devise such a varied programme with accompaniment by an orchestra comprising only strings and continuo but with the addition of a superb harpist. In the event, many of us were introduced to a peaceful Rameau Hymn and a fine Christmas Oratorio by Saint-Saens. In the latter, the chorus really came into their own with outstanding contributions by the five excellent soloists

To begin the second half of the programme, it was a bonus to have our new orchestral leader Elizabeth Nurse joining the harpist Anneke Hodnett in a wonderful performance of Saint-Saen’s beautiful “Fantaisie”. Inevitably, Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols” provided the climax to the concert; here the choir sang with accuracy and understanding, employing subtly contrasted dynamics. Again, the presence of a dedicated harpist must have given them that extra incentive to excel. Although one might say that, in this concert, the choir did not have as major a role as might normally be the case, their contribution was always well prepared and carefully presented.

Altogether a most enjoyable occasion, a view obviously shared by the larger than ever audience. I do hope Sebastian Thomson will stay with us!

With very best wishes – Patrick

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.

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.