Choir Retrospect July 1997 to June 1998

Two important ‘signings’ have taken place this year: the College has entered into an agreement with Intermusica Artists’ Management who will plan and develop the Choir’s extra-curricular activities, and, as a result of this new partnership, has agreed an exclusive contract with EMI Records. These new arrangements were celebrated at a press launch in the Saltmarsh Rooms on 25 June immediately following the completion of the Choir’s recording of Rakhmaninov’s Vespers, this being the first project under the new contract.

Once again, a highlight of the summer was the tour. Beginning in Barbados, we moved on to some ten venues in Canada and the USA, singing to enthusiastic capacity audiences. Last year’s Choir made its final public appearance at a concert at the end of the non-residents’ weekend. This was in Loughborough Parish Church, where Stephen Cherry, formerly Chaplain, is incumbent. The Michaelmas Term saw a Schubert Festival in Cambridge, and the choirs of King’s and St John’s joined for the opening concert in Chapel, singing the composer’s Mass in E flat. This performance was recorded by the BBC and broadcast during the summer. Early in November there was a memorial service for Dr Norman Pittenger, for many years a regular attender in Chapel and strong supporter of the Choir. Two former Deans, David Edwards and Michael Till, took part in the service.

The Founder’s Day Concert in December featured the first three parts of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. As usual, a good number of former choral scholars, and this year, for the first time, some former choristers, returned, and among the soloists were Simon Gay (74-77 CS), Andrew King (75-76 CV) and Richard Jackson (68-71 CS). A day or two earlier the Choir had sung at a special Honorary Degree Congregation for the President of Brazil, having spent some time learning the text of the Brazilian national anthem, which is set to a tune which might have come from a nineteenth-century Italian opera!

Christmas concerts were given in the Royal Albert Hall, St John’s Smith Square and in Edinburgh. This year’s widely admired commission for the Christmas Eve service was The Fayrfax Carol by Thomas Adès (KC 1989).

In the Lent Term there were concerts in Eton, Paris and Brussels, and the now almost annual Holy Week performance of Bach’s St John Passion was broadcast on Good Friday by Classic FM. The Choir also appeared live on the Sunday morning music programme presented by Brian Kay (63-66 CS) from the Senate House in early March.

The Easter Term saw a broadcast Evensong for the BBC featuring music by Kenneth Leighton, and the May Week concert. There were concerts at the Cheltenham Festival and in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, during the ‘Long Vac’, before a concert tour of Hong Kong and Australia, about which I shall write next time.

Chapel services, notwithstanding the foregoing, remain central to the life of the Choir, and it is good to be able to involve instrumentalists from the College in liturgical performances of masses with orchestra: settings by Fauré, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Stravinsky have been included during the year.

The return to King’s of John Butt (79-82 OS) has led to the establishment of a mixed-voice choir, King’s Voices. Since Christmas the new group has sung Evensong on Mondays, happily filling the gap left for almost forty years by the Chapel Choir’s ‘day off’. The choirs sang together on Founder’s Day, and at the May Week concert.

Stephen Cleobury

KCCA Events in 2015

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