Choir Retrospect July 2001 to June 2002

All choirs agree that touring is good both for artistic reasons (giving the chance to rehearse and perform without the term-time demands of lectures and supervisions) and for the opportunities it affords for social interaction. King’s is fortunate among the collegiate and cathedral choirs in being a regular visitor to Australia, and our tour in 2001 marked the 21st anniversary of the first visit down-under by the Choir. Highlights of the social calendar included a visit to Ramsey Street, Melbourne, scene of a popular television programme, and a lunch party at the British High Commission in Canberra, hosted by the High Commissioner, Sir Alastair Goodlad (KC 1962). One of our programmes featured Christmas music. This felt strange in the summer, but the response of the capacity audiences in all the major cities to hearing music so strongly associated with the Choir was voluble and moving.

The beginning of the academic year 2001-2002 saw no fewer than nine new choral scholars, but an experienced set of boys enabled them all to find their bearings quite quickly. By Christmas the back row had achieved a particularly satisfying blend and integration.

This year saw the second ‘London’ season at St John’s, Smith Square, with concerts in October, December and March. This annual series gives us a chance to present substantial repertoire of our own choosing in an important London venue, and is already a regular feature of the Choir’s concert activity.

December included the annual Christmas concert with the Philharmonia at the Royal Albert Hall, and a highly successful fund-raising concert with His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornetts in Chapel for the King’s College Chapel Foundation. John Woolrich wrote a new carol for Christmas Eve. In most years the composer of our commissioned carol is present at the service, and this year we were also delighted to welcome Simon Preston (49-52C, 58-61OS), attending for the first time since he last played for the service as organ scholar. The Choir is currently recording all the carols commissioned since 1983 for eventual release by EMI.

January took the Choir to the magnificent Bridgewater Hall in Manchester for Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and the Fauré Requiem with the BBC Philharmonic. Further concerts included a Holy Week recital at the Temple Church, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, the St John Passion in Chapel on Holy Saturday, and appearances at the Bruges Festival in July.

On the recording front, a DVD of popular anthems was made in December, which was released in May, together with a documentary on the life of the choristers which was also shown regionally and nationally by BBC TV. EMI were here again in July to record an album of music by Domenico Scarlatti, including the ten-part Stabat mater.

Two ‘one-off ’ appearances in London in the spring were particularly interesting and enjoyable. The Choir joined with those of Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, Windsor, to sing Fauré’s Requiem at Princess Margaret’s memorial service in the Abbey. Princess Margaret had been a regular visitor to the College and Chapel, and had particularly requested that King’s College Choir be included in the service.

Simon Preston, as Artistic Director of the Calgary International Organ Festival & Competition devised a programme in St John’s, Smith Square, for the choirs of King’s, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. I was delighted to direct all the singers in Tallis’s forty-part motet Spem in alium, thus renewing a connection with the two London choirs I had worked with prior to coming to King’s.

A brief summer tour took place, taking us to the Bruges Festival, exactly 40 years, we were told, after the Choir’s first visit with David Willcocks. To celebrate this we again performed Handel’s Coronation Anthems, as David had done before us.

It was with great pleasure that we welcomed Martin Shaw as temporary Dean in January, and with as much sadness that we said goodbye to him in July. There is no more staunch and enthusiastic supporter of the Choir than he, and his presence was an inspiration.

Stephen Cleobury

KCCA Events in 2015

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