Choir Retrospect 2006-2007

Travelling abroad with the Choir, while far from being a leisure activity, does provide some respite from the rigours of school and university term-time and weeks which often seem to comprise seven or eight days. My last report was composed by the harbour in Göteburg. This year we are in Bonn at the Beethovenfest and, having just visited the Beethovenhaus, I have walked to the St Remigiuskirche where there is some time to write before the Choir arrives to rehearse for a Purcell concert. Here one can see the font at which Beethoven was baptised, and I reflect that many of his early musical experiences may not have been unlike those of our own choristers.

Chapel services, in the hands of Ian Thompson and Richard Lloyd Morgan, retain a traditional dignity within a context of liberal and humane preaching and a keen and vital appreciation of the value of music in the liturgy, which is very good for the Choir. But the musical life of the Chapel is not standing still, widening of the repertoire in general, and commissioning in particular, being important strands in it. There have been four premières this year: Donald Stewart (KC1941) initiated what I hope will become a regular practice of commissioning for the Advent Procession, John Tavener responding with And a little child shall lead them, a striking setting of words from Isaiah involving a semi-chorus in the organ loft, and powerful interventions from the organ, as well as intricate canonic writing for the main choir in the stalls. Mark Anthony Turnage set Miser’ nobis, a beautifully crafted miniature, for Christmas Eve, and a new organ voluntary for the Carol Service was composed by Lionel Steuart Fothringham to follow Bach’s In dulci jubilo. The now annual Easter at King’s festival included a new work by Michael Zev Gordon (KC1982): This Night, for choir and solo cello (Anton Lukoszevieze, the College’s musician-inresidence), was broadcast on Good Friday as a prelude to a performance of Arvo Pärt St John Passion in which the Choir supported the Hilliard Ensemble. The organ was played by former chorister, Christopher Bowers-Broadbent.

Arvo Pärt was present at a concert in Tallin, Estonia, during our summer tour, when his setting of The Beatitudes was in the programme. It was very timely to have this opportunity of introducing him to current members of the Choir, none of whom, of course, had taken part in our recording of Pärt’s works in 1994, but who were full of recent memories of the shattering effect that his Passion had had on us all in Holy Week. This tour began in Helsinki, and continued in Estonia, Latvia (where the Museum of Occupation in Riga made a powerful and moving impression, as did the singing of Inessa Galante, who joined the Choir for three items in a concert at the great cathedral in that city) and Lithuania (where the nonchalance of the flowerarrangers of Kaunas pursuing their work during the concert was wonderful to behold).

It has been a busy year for tours: December saw the Choir in South Korea (Seoul) and Singapore. Pre-tour talks by two fellows, Professor John Dunn, on the Koreas, and Dr Charlie Loke, on the Far East, greatly increased the educational value to us all of these trips. Gillian Perkins, mother of two former choristers, and administrator of Easter at King’s, was able to share her knowledge of Istanbul prior to our concert at the festival there, where we were joined in (an extremely hot) performance of Brahms Requiem by the baritone Michael George, another former chorister. The weather was more comfortable at the Ambronay Festival where we made our first collaboration with Florilegium.

It is increasingly important now to link concerts and tours with recording projects, so the performances at the Lufthansa Festival in St John’s Smith Square, and at the Newbury Festival featured music by Gibbons (KC Chorister 1596), Tomkins and Weelkes, which, in a disc we made with Fretwork, will be released by EMI in the autumn of 2007. Work was also begun on a disc of Eton Choirbook repertory, which featured in a concert for the York Early Music Festival in the Minster. The choral scholars, Collegium Regale, following the great success of their Lassus recording for Signum, recorded motets by Giaches de Wert in an edition specially prepared by one of their number, Peter Lindsay (KC2004), who wrote a dissertation on this composer under the guidance of Professor Iain Fenlon.

‘Coll. Reg.’ continued to perform regularly in Cambridge and beyond. As usual they embarked on their annual tour of the north and south of England at Easter. This involved performances in Peterborough and Ripon Cathedrals, as well as in parish churches across the country, from Dorset to Cumbria. In addition to this, the group performed in St Andrew’s Church, Bedford, Brocket Hall, and in Fotheringhay as part of the Oundle Music Festival. In Cambridge, they gave their own concert in the Cambridge Summer Music Festival and entertained crowds at Emmanuel, Magdalene and Trinity Balls.

It is important to me that we continue to enhance the benefits which membership of the Choir brings, and the arrival of funds from two sources during the year has been especially welcome in this connection. The Choir Association, which generously marked my 25 years with the presentation of a beautifully engraved silver propelling pencil, has made grants to provide a hi-fi system in the chorister’s rehearsal room, and an adjustable organ stool for the Mander organ on which the increasing number of aspiring chorister organists practise at school. Also, a kind donor has most generously given money for the provision of master-classes for the choral scholars. Among those who have worked with them this year have been James Bowman, Bob Chilcott (KC1973), Geoffrey Mitchell, Stephen Varcoe (KC1967) and the Hilliard Ensemble. The daily contributions on matters of voice from Richard Lloyd Morgan are also greatly appreciated.

Stephen Cleobury

KCCA Events in 2015

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