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.

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.

 

Spring concert 2016

Our Spring Concert at 7.30 on Saturday, 19 March 2016 has the evocative title ‘From Darkness to Light’. As the dark of the winter evenings gradually gives way to the bright light of springlike days (and after such a doleful winter some sunshine has been truly welcome recently), the Southport Bach Choir have been rehearsing for a concert to include music by Duruflé, Lauridsen and Britten.

Duruflé’s Requiem has become popular with British choirs, often being paired with the earlier Requiem by Fauré. Although Duruflé was composing his work during the Second World War, he does not include a Dies irae, as one might expect, so that the requiem lacks the ferocity of Verdi’s, for instance. The gloom of the early movements is lifted with the serenity of the chant-like Lux aeterna and the final In Paradisum.

‘Lux aeterna’ is the title of the work we shall be singing by the popular American composer, Morten Lauridsen, written in 1997. It is a cycle of 5 pieces, all of which contain references to light, taken from various Latin texts. The first and last movements come from the requiem mass: Requiem aeternam and Agnus Dei – Lux aeterna. The second movement is part of the Te Deum (In te, Domine, speravi), the third is an unaccompanied motet, O nata lux and it is followed by the jubilant canticle, Veni Sancte Spiritus.

The third piece in the concert, Rejoice in the Lamb, is Benjamin Britten’s setting of words by the eccentric 18th century writer, Christopher Smart. Written while he was an inmate in an asylum, the poem takes joy in the way different creatures, in their individual ways, worship the Lord. Britten does, by way of contrast, include a section of the poem in which Smart reflects on his own hardships, but he foresees deliverance, and the work ends by glorying in the way various instruments praise God before gathering into a final Hallelujah.

The SBC, conducted by our Director of Music, Ian Crawford, will be joined by soloists: Stephanie Guidera (mezzo-soprano) and Stuart O’Hara (baritone) and will be accompanied by Stephen Hargreaves on the organ.

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

Tickets £10 from members of the choir or ring 01704 540097.

Come and Sing!

On Saturday 30th January 2016, we will be holding another of our popular  Come and Sing days, directed, as usual by the choir’s MD, Ian Crawford. Having held these events in Crosby during the past few years, we have decided this time to use Emmanuel Church, Southport.  If you have come to one of these events in the past you will know that they are rewarding and fun, providing an opportunity to sing some great music in an informal setting.

The music we will be singing this time will be Vivaldi’s Magnificat and Jonathan Dove’s Missa Brevis. Less familiar than the Gloria, Vivaldi’s Magnificat is another wonderfully tuneful and relatively straightforward piece, which can be enjoyed by less experienced choral singers. Dove’s Missa Brevis is perhaps more challenging, notable for its lively syncopation and dancing rhythms. But Dove is experienced in writing for musical theatre and his music is very appealing at the same time as being very up-to-date. He aims to make both performing and listening to his music an enjoyable experience. The Southport Bach Choir performed the Missa Brevis in the 2013-14 season and enjoyed it so much that they are delighted to have the opportunity of sharing this work with other singers.

Here is a recording of a recent liturgical performance of the Gloria by the choir of Bath Abbey which gives you some idea of this attractive work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Bek2DOviXE.

Tickets for singers are £15. And of course there will be cakes – something that has become a feature of our Come and Sings!

If you have any questions ring Suzanne on 017704 553903. For further details and application form click here: Come and Sing 2015 flyer.

Christmas Concert 2015

Our Christmas concert this year will include Charpentier’s atmospheric mass based on French carol tunes: Messe de minuit. Although these tunes are not particularly familiar to an English audience, they lend the solemn words of the mass a lightness and joyfulness appropriate to the magical moment of Christ’s birth. Our performance on Saturday 12 December will be accompanied by Robert Woods on the piano and organ, and instrumentalists from Liverpool Concert Orchestra.

The rest of the programme will consist of carols old and new. This year, as a small tribute to Sir David Willcocks, who died earlier this year, we are performing his setting of ‘Tomorrow shall be my dancing day’. We shall also sing ‘Wassail’ by his son Jonathan Willcocks.  Bob Chilcott has become something of a favourite with the choir, and we shall be singing several settings and arrangements by him.

In our summer concert we were delighted to sing a piece by our own Director of Music, Ian Crawford. He set the words of Christina Rossetti’s charming poem, ‘A Birthday’, in honour of the choir’s 50th anniversary. For this December concert, celebrating Christ’s (rather more significant) birthday, he has set the traditional words of ‘The Boar’s Head Carol’, and keeps the choir on its toes with syncopated rhythms and the need for clean, clear articulation! We hope to do the carol justice on Saturday.

Christmas at Melling Tithebarn

The Choir will be celebrating Christmas at Melling Tithebarn with a concert of carols and other music suited to the time of year on Friday, 18 December 2015, starting at 8.00pm.

Last year we greatly enjoyed singing there amid the beautiful Christmas decorations – and the smell of mulled wine and mince pies! And we were delighted to be asked back to perform in a place that is as different as could be from Holy Trinity, Southport, where we usually sing.

Tickets cost £8.00 and are available from 0151 526 7238, or (text only) 07818404808.

Jonathan Antoine concert

We are delighted to have been asked to sing with the young tenor, Jonathan Antoine, who will be singing in concert at The Atkinson, Southport, on Sunday 22 November, at 7.30pm.

Jonathan made his name by appearing in the sixth series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 as one half of the duo, Jonathan and Charlotte. This is his first tour in which he is performing in concerts from Gateshead to Eastbourne, London to Manchester –  Southport, and many cities in between.

Tickets are available from The Atkinson.