Come and Sing 2018

Come and Sing Rutter’s Gift of Life

You are invited to join the Southport Bach Choir in a day’s workshop on John Rutter’s recent work, The Gift of Life on Saturday, 3 February 2018First performed in New York in February 2017, the work was given its first UK performance by the SBC in June this year (2017). It is a six-movement choral celebration of the living earth, of creation, and of life itself, offering a kaleidoscope of moods from contemplative and prayerful to majestic and inspirational. The music ranges from relatively simple to complex, from lyrical to dynamic, and is very rewarding to sing.

Under the guidance of Marc Murray, the SBC’s Director of Music, and with the assistance of Robert Woods on the organ, this is sure to be an inspiring and satisfying day of music-making. There will of course be the usual splendid sandwich lunch available for those want it, and the usual magnificent array of cakes!

Emmanuel Church on Cambridge Road, Southport, has proved to be a super venue for a ‘come and sing’, with the church hall available for lunch and tea. We have learned from the experience of last year that we need to provide coffee/tea before the day gets under way, as people are likely to have travelled some distance, and this is reflected in the timings below.

10.00 to 10.45 – Arrival and Registration in the Church Hall (coffee and biscuits available).

10.45 to 12.15 – Rehearsal in the Church

12.15 to 1.15  –   Lunch in the Church Hall

1.15 to 2.30 –    Rehearsal in the Church

2.30 to 3.00 –   Tea and biscuits in the Church Hall

3.00 to 4.00 –   Final rehearsal

4.15 to 5.00 –    Performance

If you would like to attend this event, please complete the Booking form and return it with the full amount payable by 23rd January 2018 to SBC Come and Sing 2018, 29 Clovelly Drive, Southport PR8 3AJ.

We look forward to seeing and making music with you.

Christmas Concert

Xmas flyer

Our Christmas concert on Saturday 9 December 2017 will be a feast of carols old and new. There will be well-known carols that the audience can join in, new settings of traditional words and of course carols by a favourite composer who always features in our Christmas concerts – John Rutter.

This year, for the first time, we are delighted to welcome the choir of Merchant Taylors’ Primary School (which used to be known as Stanfield School) who will perform in both halves of the concert.

As well as conducting the concert, Marc Murray, our Director of Music. will play a solo organ piece. Marc, who is also Director of Music at St Mary the Virgin, Bury Parish Church, is a first-class organist, who has played in cathedrals throughout the country.

The choir will be accompanied on the organ by Robert Woods, our valued rehearsal accompanist.

The concert is at Holy Trinity Church, Southport PT9 0PR. It starts at 7.30 and there will be the usual mince pies in the interval!

Tickets £8 at the door, or in advance: 01704 540097 or 01704 535208.

Alexander’s Feast

Alexander’s Feast will be performed by the Southport Bach Choir on Saturday, 24 June 2017, with chamber orchestra and soloists:

Hayley Swanton (Soprano)

Andrew Masterson (Tenor)

Ed Robinson (Bass)

The work is a setting of Dryden’s poem of the same name, a poem that had been written explicitly for musical performance and that functions as a celebration of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music, whose nameday falls on 22 November.

428px-Meister_des_Bartholomäus_1501SteCecile

St Cecilia playing the portative organ by the Meister des Bartholomäus, 1501.

 

Her story – which may, or may not be true – is that she was a Roman woman forced to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian, despite her vow of chastity. During the wedding, it is said, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and this led to her later being declared the patron saint of musicians. The story goes that Valerian saw her guardian angel crowning Cecilia with a chaplet of roses and converted to Christianity. Cecilia’s martyrdom followed that of both Valerian and his brother Tiburtius. She is supposed to have lived on for 3 days after having been struck on the neck by a sword.

 

 

411px-CeciliaValerianTiburtius

Sts Cecilia, Valerian and Tiburtius by Bononcini, 1495.

It’s not surprising, I suppose, to find that composers are attracted to the idea of writing music in honour of St Cecilia, and the Southport Bach Choir has performed quite a few of these works over the years, most frequently Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia. This is a setting of a poem by W.H.Auden, written between 1940 and 1942. Auden’s words celebrate the power of music and pray for its ability to bring peace to mankind. On two occasions the choir’s programme also included Haydn’s St Cecilia Mass. We have also performed Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass and Herbert Howell’s Hymn for St Cecilia.

 

 

 

Handel in fact wrote two pieces in St Cecilia’s honour, and his Ode to St Cecilia was included in the   choir’s 1983/4 season. There are still other pieces which the SBC hasn’t ever performed: a Purcell Ode to St Cecilia, oratorios by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a setting by Gerald Finzi of a poem by Edmund Blunden,  and an Ode on St Cecilia’s Day by Hubert Parry.

The concert on 24 June will take place at Holy Trinity Church, Southport, 7.30pm.

Tickets: £12, at the door or in advance from 01704 535208/564205.

 

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life is the title of John Rutter’s new choral work which the choir will be performing as part of their concert on 1 April, 2017. This will be the first performance in the North of England.

Rutter’s work comprises 6 ‘Canticles of Creation’ with words from a variety of sources. The first canticle is a Benedicite, the second has words by the American Joshua Smith (‘The tree of life’). The third and most ambitious canticle for double choir is a ‘Hymn to the Creator of Light’ with words by Lancelot Andrewes and J. Franck. This piece was originally written in 1992 in memory of Herbert Howells and performed at the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival as an unaccompanied motet. Taking words from Psalm 104, the fourth canticle praises the Lord and extols the gifts of creation – ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works’. Rutter himself has written the words for the final two canticles: ‘The gift of each day’ and ‘Believe in life’.

The choir will be performing the work with the accompaniment of an instrumental ensemble: piano, organ, harp, timpani and percussion.

If this work anticipates the joy of Easter Day, the first half of the programme consists of more solemn music, suitable for the Lenten season. Schubert’s Stabat Mater, written in 1815 when the composer was only 18, despite the solemnity of the words, is lighter, more dancelike than many other settings. He uses only 4 of the 20 stanzas of the poem, and the work is thought to have been originally performed in church rather than a concert hall. The following year he made another setting of all 20 stanzas, a much bigger work that would have had a secular performance.

The concert will also include Bruckner‘s well-known (and glorious) unaccompanied motet, ‘Christus factus est’, and a piece by Liszt that is not well-known, and which in fact the choir has never sung before. This is ‘Via crucis’. In the last 20 years of his life, Liszt’s style changed from one of exuberance, virtuosity and abundance, to one of stark simplicity. After an introductory movement this piece is divided into 14 short sections, 3 of which are for organ solo, representing the 14 Stages of the Cross. The music uses traditional chants and hymns, and words from the Stabat Mater, but Liszt creates a unique work inspired by fervent religious devotion.

The concert will be conducted by the choir’s Director of Music, Marc Murray.

1 April, 2007 at 7.30 pm.

Holy Trinity Church, Hoghton Street, Southport PR9 0PR.

Tickets: £10 (01704 535208 or 01704 564205)

 

 

 

Come and Sing Rutter

Come and sing John Rutter’s Requiem with the Southport Bach Choir and our new Director of Music, Marc Murray.

Emmanuel Church, Southport, Saturday, 4 February 2017, 10.00 – 5.00.

The Requiem is one of Rutter’s most popular works and has a lyrical quality that appeals to both singers and audiences. The SBC has enjoyed singing several of his carols this Christmas and in Christmases past, but it is many years since we last sang the Requiem. We are looking forward to renewing our acquaintance with this work, before we start rehearsing for his latest big choral piece, The Gift of Life, which we shall be performing in our concert at Holy Trinity, Southport on Saturday, 1 April 2017.

You don’t have to be a marvellous sight-reader to come and sing with us on 4 February, but it would probably add to your enjoyment of the day if you can read music. A sandwich lunch will be provided for those who would like it, and we have a reputation for offering a good selection of cakes!

If you would like to join us please let us know by 1 February at the latest. For further details and application form click here: Come & Sing.

 

Music for Christmas

christmas-flyerOn 10 December, 7.30 pm at Holy Trinity, Southport, we shall be giving our first concert under our new Director of Music, Marc Murray. As is usual for our December concert, the music has been chosen with Christmas – in all its different aspects – in mind.

The most substantial work on the programme is a Magnificat, Mary’s words of exaltation after the Annunciation, which are regularly performed as part of Evensong, but are particularly relevant at this time of the year. The setting we shall be singing is by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), a Baroque composer who was very influential on J.S.Bach.

Shorter pieces range from William Byrd’s lovely lullaby, ‘Lullaby my sweet little Baby’, to new carols by composers of the 21st century (including, of course, the ever-popular John Rutter), as well as new settings of more familiar words.

One piece which the choir has, perhaps rather surprisingly, never performed before, is Holst’s ‘fantasy on old carols’, which he calls Christmas Day. We have sung Vaughan Williams’s Fantasy on Christmas Carols (1971, 1987, 2008, 2012), and Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit (1970, 2009, 2015), which is composed around French carols, but this will be our first performance of the Holst.

There will be opportunities for the audience to join in and the accompaniment will be provided by Robert Woods on the organ.

Tickets: £10 at the door, or 01704 535208.

And the interval refreshments will include mince pies!

Concert with Southport Orchestra

 

Saturday 3rd December 2016 at 7:30pm

We are delighted to have been invited to join the  Southport Orchestra  to perform music for the festive season. The programme will consist of a selection of both secular and sacred pieces and there will be an opportunity for audience participation. and the concert will be given a youthful lift by the children of the Woodlands Junior Choir from Formby.

The Southport Bach Choir will be singing Christmas pieces by John Rutter and others, and there will also be several audience carols with thrilling descants by Sir David Willcocks, led by the choir.

Orchestral pieces will include:
Sleigh Ride by Frederick Delius
A selection from the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky
A Christmas Overture by Nigel Hess
Troika by Prokofiev
White Christmas by Irvine Berlin
– and a piece that is familiar to nightbirds and insomniacs:  Ronald Binge’s Sailing By, Radio 4’s introduction to the shipping forecast.

The concert takes place at Emmanuel Parish Church, Cambridge Road, Southport PR9 9PR.

For further information see the Southport Orchestra‘s website.

New Director of Music: Marc Murray

Our new Director of Music is Marc Murray.

MARC was born and educated in Cape Town South Africa and moved to the United Kingdom in May 2010 to take up the post of Director of Music at St. Botolph’s Church (The Stump), Boston and was subsequently appointed Director of Music of Peterborough Opera and has conducted both Peterborough Symphony Orchestra and Peterborough Gilbert and Sullivan Society. He has worked several Choral societies, namely Boston Choral Society, Sleaford Choral Society and South Holland Singers and Boston Music Theatre group, winning several NODA awards. He has also accompanied  Lesley Garrett and Aled Jones at Boston Stump.

Marc studied piano and organ at the University of Cape Town’s College of Music and was a winner of the Leslie Arnold Award and the Metropolitan Methodist Church Organ Prize.  He holds several teaching and performing qualifications the University of South Africa, Trinity College of Music, London and the Royal College of Organists. Marc holds both the Associate and Choral Directing Diplomas of the RCO.

Besides having held major church positions throughout his adult life, he has spent close to ten years working on the South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod, which is one of the school enrichment programmes co-ordinated by the Department of Education to promote choral singing as a national identity. This programme is regarded as a means for social transformation and cohesion among school-going youth. Part of this period he was Assistant and Acting Chorus Master of Cape Town Opera (CTO).  Previously he taught in its Choral Training Programme, established for talented but disadvantaged young singers in the nearby townships. Even though he was on the staff of CTO for a brief while, he was often invited back to work with the chorus and act as répétiteur and accompanist, including their 2006 best-selling CD of Opera Choruses and their concert tours of Sweden and Central Africa.

Marc presently continues to occasionally engage with Professor Alison Pearce (previously head of singing at The Royal Academy of Music), in the delivery of singing master classes. Previous masterclasses have been in Cascio, Italy, Stapleford Granary, Cambridge Summer School, Grimsby and annual classes in Boston and is now preparing for a similar weeklong Course at Jesus College Cambridge in 2017.

In 2001, he formed the Magnificats Chamber Choir in Cape Town and performed to great acclaim in the city and future afield. Besides their busy concert schedule, they often sang at services (mostly Viennese Masses) at St George’s (Anglican) Cathedral and St Mary’s Cathedrals in the city. This choir was formed to explore the vast repertoire of unaccompanied choral music from the fifteen century to the present day.

He has collaborated with several groups and people on various projects using the resources of various choirs and musicians including preparing St Botolphs’ Singers in a programme of music by Patrick Hawes and conducted by the composer. The choirs of Boston Stump have recorded several Christmas Day Carol Services of BBC Radio Lincolnshire under Marc’s direction.

As an organist, he has given recitals and played in concerts throughout South Africa, Germany, Sweden, and the UK. Forthcoming recitals includes Chester and Liverpool Cathedrals.

Marc is Director of Music and Master of the Choir School of St Mary the Virgin, Bury Parish Church, Director of Music of Southport Bach Choir and accompanist to Chester St Cecilia Singers and will be continuing with postgraduate studies in Performance Practice.

Shakespeare and Music

Music in Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s plays are full of music. Lorenzo in the Merchant of Venice calls for music as he and Jessica sit outside: ‘soft stillness and the night Become the touches of sweet harmony’. Jessica’s reaction is, perhaps, unexpected: ‘I am never merry when I hear sweet music’.  And, indeed, music is not necessarily associated with merriment in Shakespeare. The song that Duke Orsino (Twelfth Night) calls for to soothe his disturbed heart deals with the melancholy of unrequited love: ‘Come away, come away death’.  Desdemona sings the mournful ‘Willow’ song just before she is murdered by Othello. Iago’s drinking song has a glee and energy about it that seems devilish because we know it is part of his plan to bring about Cassio’s downfall. Paulina, about to bring the statue of the apparently dead Hermione to life, cries ‘Music, awake her; strike!’ (The Winter’s Tale’).

The Tempest is arguably the most musical of the plays. Caliban, the ‘salvage and deformed slave’, is lulled and enchanted by the isle by the ‘Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not’. But he only sings himself to join in the drinking songs of his companions from the shipwreck, Trinculo and Stephano. Ariel has mischievous and taunting songs as he goes about his puckish business, as well as the well-known ‘Where the bee sucks, there suck I’. And the masque that Prospero organises in Act IV has its own music.

[All quotations are from Arden editions of the plays.]

Shakespeare in Music

Some of the original settings of Shakespeare’s songs have been preserved; for instance, Richard Johnson’s settings of ‘Where the bee sucks’ and ‘Full fadom five’ from The Tempest. But in any case Shakespeare’s lyrics and indeed his plays have provided – and still provide – endless inspiration for composers. Apart from countless settings of the songs, there is incidental music (Arthur Sullivan’s music for The Tempest has a wonderfully graphic overture); music for films of the plays (William Walton’s score for Henry V, for instance); orchestral pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet, Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, Elgar’s symphonic study Falstaff, Liszt’s symphonic poem Hamlet and Berlioz’s unconventional symphony with voices, Romeo and Juliet; modern musicals such as Kiss me Kate and West Side Story – and of course the operas. Verdi’s wonderful Otello and Falstaff come to mind immediately, but a personal favourite is Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict.

At their concert on Saturday, 11 July 2016, the Southport Bach Choir will be marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by singing several settings of his words. Vaughan Williams’s Serenade, his setting of the words from The Merchant of Venice (referred to above) is probably his best-known Shakespearian piece, but we shall be performing his lesser known Three Shakespeare Songs. Only one of these, ‘Full fathom five’, is actually marked as a song in Shakespeare. The words of the second piece, ‘The cloud-capp’d towers’, are taken from Prospero’s famous speech as he dismisses the spirits of the masque; ‘Our revels now are ended’. The third song sets words spoken by a stray fairy in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: ‘Over hill, over dale’.

Last year the choir included in its 50th anniversary concert a specially commissioned piece by Will Todd, ‘It was a lover and his lass’. We are glad to have another opportunity of singing such a delightful piece again this summer, and will be pairing and contrasting it with Thomas Morley’s setting (1600) of the same words. Rather more unusually, the Swedish composer, Nils Lindberg, has set a Shakespeare sonnet, ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ as part of his Garland of Elisabethan Poetry – an appropriate song to include in the choir’s summer concert. Finally, turning to one of the modern re-workings of Shakespeare, the concert will include one of the movements from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story choral suite.

 

Singing Mahler with CSO

Members of Southport Bach Choir will be singing in Mahler’s Symphony No.2 with Crosby Symphony Orchestra at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool on Sunday, 8 May at 2.30 pm.

Two years ago members of the choir formed the nucleus of the Crosby Symphony Chorus to sing with the orchestra in Liverpool’s beautiful but acoustically-challenging Metropolitan Cathedral. On that occasion Bruckner’s Te Deum and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony were performed.

This year, Mahler’s work, usually known as his ‘Resurrection’ symphony, will be preceded by Mozart’s joyful Exsultate Jubilate, which was originally written for the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, but is usually sung today by a soprano.  The chorus, composed of singers from Southport, Liverpool and Chester, will not be needed until (as in the Beethoven symphony) the fifth and final movement of the Mahler. Beethoven asks for 4 soloists (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), but Mahler confines himself to alto (who sings in the fourth movement) and soprano, who joins the alto and chorus in the fifth movement.

The soloists will be Barbara Ruzsics (soprano) and Stephanie Guidera (alto). The concert will be conducted by SBC’s Director of Music, Ian Crawford.

Tickets for this concert can be obtained by following links on the orchestra’s website.