Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival

Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem – Hertfordshire Chorus to sing in Hatfield House, for Festival Finale

The Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival is now into its 7th year. The 2018 Festival celebrates ‘Brahms and Friends’ and will feature music by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann. The singers of Hertfordshire Chorus are delighted to have been asked to return again to sing Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem in the Finale concert on Sunday 23rd September 2018 at 8pm.

Performers

The Chorus will take to the stage with a marvellous line up of internationally acclaimed performers –Ailish Tynan, Soprano,Ben McAteer, Baritone, the Faust Chamber Orchestra and conductor Mark Austin. 

Historic Location

The concert will take place in the Banqueting Hall of the Old Palace.  John Morton the Bishop of Ely built The Old Palace around 1485. The remaining wing contains the Banqueting Hall, which has most of its original roof timbers. Interestingly, many of them are peppered with gunshot. This is because when the building was later used as a stables trespassing sparrows were shot at as a discouragement.

Henry VIII bought the Palace in 1538 and his three children enjoyed a happy childhood there. Later Queen Mary kept her sister, Elizabeth I under house arrest at Hatfield.

Hertfordshire Chorus has been privileged to sing at Hatfield House on many occasions over the years. History right on our doorstep!

You can read more about this concert and buy tickets here.

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Forty Years On – David Temple MBE

Forty years on… 

Courtesy of Debbie Ram photographyDavid Temple MBE has been Musical Director for Crouch End Festival Chorus since 1984 and for Hertfordshire Chorus since 2000. But his musical life started long before that.

‘My conducting adventure all began 40 years ago on July 1st 1978.  I had been with the London Philharmonic Choir for 5 years and wanted to have a go at waving the baton.’

David was a teacher at Goldbeaters Primary School and had identified a need for investment in musical instruments. He decided to put on a concert to raise money towards this cause. He chose the date, booked a slot at St Alphage’s Church in Burnt Oak and set about finding performers.

‘I had already used my long-suffering school pupils as guinea pigs and, having provoked some sort of response from them, I collared some London Philharmonic Choir singers in the pub and asked if they would sing for me.  To my joy and surprise they said that they would!’

The concert was for choir and organ. David decided to include the school’s Recorder Consort, who were called upon to play some Byrd and Bach.

As concert day approached David started to experience his first case of ‘Conductor’s Anxiety’.

‘Because of nerves, I was unbearable to live with for many days either side of the concert.’

Concert Day

The organ in the church was a little rickety and it was only when the 50 strong choir burst in with Handel’s Zadok the Priest that the audience knew this might be worth listening to.  The programme included  Vivaldi’s Gloria as the main work and a performance of Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus. 

The children performed brilliantly and David was very proud.

‘Those children will now be around 50 years old and I do wonder how their lives panned out and if they remember the event.

David recently realised that the anniversary of his first foray into the world of conducting coincides with an upcoming concert. Crouch End Festival Chorus, the choir that David helped to found in 1984, will perform Stravinsky Les Noces and Orff’s Carmina Burana at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at 3pm on July 1st 2018.

The Chorus will be joined by primary school children which seems fitting.

A Fitting Tribute

‘In general, I am someone who rarely looks back but on this occasion, I am proud to celebrate this anniversary and feel so blessed that I am loving my music-making more than ever!  I would like to dedicate the concert to all who have performed with me over these past 40 years’

Details for the concert are here:

https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/122062-stravinsky-les-noces-english-and-orff-carmina-burana-2018

 

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War Horse Coventry Cathedral

Hertfordshire Chorus and BBC Concert Orchestra record Codebreaker

War Horse – BBC Radio 2

 

Hertfordshire Chorus is very pleased to have been asked to sing in a special performance of War Horse – The Story In Concert  for BBC Radio 2 taking place in Coventry Cathedral on Friday 18th May 2018.  The concert is part of Coventry’s Big Weekend Fringe Festival and is being recorded for later broadcast. It also features acclaimed actor Simon Callow and the wonderful BBC Concert Orchestra under the direction of conductor David Charles Abell.

The story of the book and the play

War Horse has been a huge success in recent years. The story is by now well-known – at the outbreak of World War One, Joey, Albert’s horse, is sold to the army and sent to France, where he experiences the conflict in the trenches, is bought and sold many times before ending up in No Man’s Land. Albert never forgot his beloved horse and enlists to follow him to France, with both of them returning at the end of the War.

The book was written by Michael Morpurgo in 1982 but it was not until it was adapted for the National Theatre in 2007 that it really made an impact. It reached an even wider audience through the 2011 film directed by Steven Spielberg. 

The concert version

The concert version, for choir, orchestra, soloist and narrators was written by Adrian Sutton and was performed in 2016 at the Royal Albert Hall. 

To be broadcast on Radio 2

Watch this space to discover the date for the radio broadcast as soon as we know it.

Our 2018 season

The choir has an exciting series of concerts, one highlight of which will be partnering with the BBC Concert Orchestra in October to remember WW1 with Britten’s Ballad of Heroes, Bliss’s Morning Heroes and Ivor Gurney’s A Gloucestershire Rhapsody. See our concert calendar here.

 

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Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival

Hertfordshire Chorus at Hatfield House

A little taste of Brahms in the Marble Hall

 

About our engagement

Hertfordshire Chorus has been asked to sing in the final concert of this year’s Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival in September – the third time we have been invited in the seven years of the Festival. 

The choir at the festival in 2017 singing Haydn’s Creation

The Festival was launched in a special concert in the Marble Hall at Hatfield House recently and a small group of singers sang an extract from Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem as a taster for the performance of the full work in the Festival itself.  The concert also featured fabulous performances by some of the people who will be appearing in the Festival, including cellist and Artistic Director of the Festival Guy Johnston, acclaimed tenor James Gilchrist and amazing pianists Anna Tilbrook, Tom Poster and Melvyn Tan. 

Accompanying the post-concert reception

The choir then entertained all the guests with some unaccompanied singing at a reception held in the Long Gallery – “.. beautiful contributions to the evening ..” was just one of the plaudits we received and we now look forward to September and the main event in what is a very high quality four-day Festival.

The Festival

The theme for 2018 is Brahms and Friends. This year the festival will run from 20th September with the finale on the 23rd. The reputation of the festival has grown significantly in the seven years since it began. Music is high quality and played in atmospheric surroundings.

Hertfordshire Chorus 2018 concert calendar

We have some fantastic concerts in 2018 including a reflection on WW1 at Watford Colosseum with BBC Concert Orchestra, Sam West as narrator, to be broadcast on BBC radio 2. Read about our other 2018 concerts here.

 

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History of a new commission – Michael Hurd ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’

Michael Hurd Choral Music Recording

The Phoenix and the Turtle

A commission takes shape

The Canterbury Singers performed Michael Hurd‘s Music’s Praise for their annual concert in the Chapter House in Canterbury Cathedral in 1973. Chris Godfrey is a bass who has been singing in the choir for 50 years. When the Musical Director, Anthony Stutchbury, chose the piece for a concert, Chris wrote to the composer to ask him if he would like to attend. As Michael Hurd lived in Liss, a two hour drive from Canterbury, Chris’s wife, Janet, offered to provide him with a meal and a bed for the night.

On the day of the performance a green MG sports car drew up and a youngish chap dressed in smart casuals, got out. Chris was surprised. ‘I wasn’t sure what a composer would look like but I wasn’t expecting someone who looked like an ex-RAF pilot’. Michael Hurd periodically taught composition at the Royal Marine’s School in Deal so perhaps he had absorbed some of the atmosphere.

The birth of an idea

After the performance Chris, Janet and Michael got chatting over a beer at home. The conversation flowed easily. Chris was curious about the commissioning process and asked how the choir could set about it. ‘Just ask me!’ was the reply.

Chris asked how much a piece like Music’s Praise might cost.  Michael Hurd mentioned a figure, which Chris and Janet can’t remember, but it seemed affordable. Sadly the Canterbury Singers had no funds. The composer felt that if the choir could raise half the cost, the Canterbury Arts Council would probably match it. Janet suggested holding a jumble sale which was a tried and tested method for raising money at the time. Michael was amused and said it was the first time he’d had a commission funded this way.   Chris proposed that, if the committee agreed, they would like a piece to suit soprano soloist plus SATB voices. They would aim a concert the next year if the piece was finished in good time for rehearsals.

Michael Hurd had an idea for a piece of music already in his head which he agreed to develop for the Singers. The Phoenix and the Turtle  is an allegorical poem by Shakespeare that tells of the tragically frustrated love of two birds. Scholars have spent many years speculating on the meaning of the poem. One theory is that it refers to the love between Queen Elizabeth 1st and one of her courtiers. There are many layers and this makes it a perfect playground for musical imaginations.

 

*Canterbury Cathedral

In-house soloist

The choir was lucky to have an experienced soprano soloist in their ranks – Elizabeth Stutchbury, the wife of the Musical Director. Elizabeth was a little sniffy that her performance was supported by the selling of old clothes but it got the fundraising off to a great start. ‘The beauty of the soloist being a member of the choir was that she was in every rehearsal from the beginning. It was so much easier to learn the piece when we could hear the joins.’

The Canterbury Singers performed the premiere of The Phoenix and the Turtle with a piano accompaniment. The string and timpani score was written before publication by Novello in 1977.

New recording

Performances have been rare and the piece was recorded only once before the British Music Society selected it for a new CD of Michael Hurd’s works launched on the Lyrita label in April 2018. This fine recording features Hertfordshire Chorus, the London Orchestra da Camera and mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons. Chris Godfrey is looking forward to hearing the dramatic opening timpani, and the mysterious ending. ‘It was the most challenging part to sing.’

Chris Godfrey is delighted that the music he proposed 45 years ago has been revived for a new audience.  He did not meet Michael Hurd again after the premiere. ‘I wish I had kept in touch with him. He was a fascinating man who could turn his musical talents to all sorts of things.’

The Canterbury Singers have a full calendar of their own concerts and as a stand-in choir at Canterbury Cathedral when the Cathedral choir is away. Their current Musical Director is Adrian Bawtree, an assistant organist at the Cathedral. The Singers regularly use their best voices as soloists.  For example in their recent performance of parts of Rachmanov’s challenging All Night Vigil the contralto & tenor soloists were choir members. For more information about the choir follow the link.

 

* Reproduced with kind permission of Canterbury Cathedral Archives

 

 

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Michael Hurd recording launches

At-St-Judes's-Church

Launch

How do you launch a recording of lovely music written by a little-known composer like Michael Hurd? By singing it in a concert of course! So we’re really pleased to launch this recording on the label Lyrita Recorded Edition at a concert in St John’s Smith Square on the 14th April 2018.

Hertfordshire Chorus record Michael Hurd at St Judes Church

Hertfordshire Chorus record Michael Hurd at Art Judes Church

How this recording came about

This was another new experience for Hertfordshire Chorus. The British Music Society approached us about recording five works by British composer Michael Hurd.  Michael Hurd died in 2006, aged 77 after 50 years composing a wide variety of music.  The BMS established a charitable trust to administer a legacy from his estate, with the aim of fostering and encouraging recordings and performances of his music. He is perhaps best known for his Jonah-Man Jazz, sung by countless schoolchildren over the years.

Our task was not only to record the five compositions but also to project manage the recording! No small undertaking!

Organising the project

Music Director David Temple and Operations Director Robin Seaman set about organising the long list of things that had to be done.  St Jude’s Church in Hampstead is well known for its acoustic and is often used as a recording venue. We approached the London Orchestra da Camera, a regular concert partner. Place and orchestra sorted. Next task was to find a soloist for one of the pieces and we were very pleased to discover mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons.  All coming together – now we had to find a producer and recording engineer and turned to Gareth Williams, with whom we have worked a number of times. Finding the people and venue was only half the task, since we also had to find dates when all were available. No easy task when everybody’s diaries were so full. And don’t forget our own singers and their availability!  

David Temple conducting and Gareth Williams producing recording Michael Hurd's music06-06-17 Marta Fontanals-Simmons and Gareth Williams

A complex thing to organise and the recording dates seemed to be upon us very quickly.  So on a rainy morning on the 20th May 2017  the choir, orchestra, conductor and recording crew gathered at the church.  A second full recording day was held on the 3rd June 2017  when our soloist joined us.  The church needed to be set-up early in the morning on each day and then, recording finished, everything had to be cleared away, equipment packed in the van and the church returned to its primary function as a place of worship ready for the services the next day.

 

So what of Michael Hurd’s music did we record?

 

  • A Choral Cantata – words from Psalm 150 and from Richard Edwards and Tate & Brady, written in 1991 commissioned by the Southport Bach Society (now Choir) and first performed on 22 June 1991.
  • Music’s Praise – setting words from Alexander Pope, William Strode, William Shakespeare and Robert Herrick, commissioned by the Stroud Festival and first performed by the Festival Choir with Orchestra da Camera on 30 October 1968.
  • The Phoenix and the Turtle – setting words by William Shakespeare, commissioned by the Canterbury Singers and first performed on 6 June 1974 in the Chapter House Canterbury Cathedral.
  • A Song for St Cecilia – setting words by John Dryden, written for performance at the Havant and District Schools’ Music Festival in 1967.
  • This Day to Man – six hymns for the Nativity, commissioned by the Chichester Singers and first performed on 14 December 1974.

 

They were two long and tiring days of recording. Occasional interruptions included emergency vehicle’s sirens and  aeroplanes passing overhead.  A couple of the minor inconveniences of non-studio recording, especially in London!  But the experience was utterly rewarding.  We discovered some gems, really lovely music that was a joy to sing.

03-06-17 HC Folder and Vocal Score

Recording over, we go back to our other work, sad to leave this music behind for the time being. We do hope that Michael Hurd’s choral music will be rediscovered through this and other recordings. 

 

So to conclude this blog, we are thrilled to be able to announce the recording release date – 6th April 2018. We are also thrilled to make Michael Hurd’s music the centrepiece of our concert on 14th April 2018 joined by our sister choir Crouch End Festival Chorus.

We are also thrilled to have received an excellent review by Michael Quinn on Music Web International

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A Choir Unwrapped – From the Tenor section

Hertfordshire Chorus Neverlight Recording

A Choir Unwrapped – from the tenor section

 

Good choral tenors are worth their weight in gold. They are a rare breed and often sing with several choirs who need their talents.

Hertfordshire Chorus has been lucky enough to attract some of the best amateur tenors available, both male and female. They come to us for a number of reasons – quality of the singing, variety of concert programmes, great venues and a regular rehearsal schedule.

Quality of the singing experience

Hertfordshire Chorus Tenor Simon Stock explains in this film

 

The audition process really helps maintain quality and the singers appreciate the benefits this brings. Hertfordshire Chorus is also fortunate to have Charles Andrews as their regular accompanist. It is important to have someone who understands what a choir needs during rehearsal. His skill allows the choir to learn fast and reach new levels of performance.

Variety of repertoire and great venues

Hertfordshire_Chorus_Tenor_Phil_Evans

Hertfordshire Chorus Tenor Phil Evans explains in this film

 

Hertfordshire Chorus sings a very wide range of music in a great selection of venues. In the last five years the Chorus has performed at The Sage in Gateshead, The Albert Hall, King’s Place, St John’s Smith Square and The Barbican. We are regulars at St Alban’s Cathedral.

Tenors are an important part of the fabric of any piece. The Hertfordshire Chorus team loves the challenges the music throws them. The tenor line often carries the melody and it is important to have a solid team who are up to the mark. The classical and modern works Hertfordshire Chorus performs are wide-ranging – the tenors get a good work out.

Hertfordshire Chorus singers get around! This includes recordings of commissions, providing backing for world-renowned artists like Ray Davies and Noel Gallagher. We also perform regularly at the Rochester Castle Proms and have provided ethereal sounds for rock and thrash metal bands. The choir has a regular wedding choir that contributes to choir funds as well as providing a view of the latest in matrimonial fashions.  Courtesy of Debbie Ram photography

The musical philosophy

Hertfordshire Chorus has a world class Musical Director in David Temple MBE. The seasonal programmes he creates are designed to be exciting for singers as well as for the audience. He has commissioned major new works such as Codebreaker by James McCarthy and Ode to a Nightingale by Will Todd. This enthusiasm for new challenges ensures that Hertfordshire Chorus stays at the top of the choral tree.

David has a special connection to the tenors. ‘Singing in a top class choir is an amazing experience – but singing tenor is even more special.  I am biased as I am one!

Come and join us!

If you have a good tenor voice, have reasonable sight reading skills and want to be part of an exciting and dynamic choir then come and try us out. Main rehearsals are on Wednesday evenings between 7:30pm and 10:00pm. There are additional all day workshops and rehearsals depending on the current programme. Follow the link to find out how easy it is to become a member of our team.

 

 

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David Temple awarded MBE

David Temple Awarded MBE

David Temple, Music Director of Hertfordshire Chorus, has been awarded an MBE for services to music in the New Year’s Honours list. On hearing of the award David said “I am both proud and thrilled to receive this award – and I would like to dedicate it to all who have supported me throughout my career both on the concert platform and behind the scenes.”

David Temple is one of the country’s foremost choral conductors, who founded and continues to direct Crouch End Festival Chorus. Musical Director of Hertfordshire Chorus since 2000, he has been instrumental in developing the choir to a consistently high standard of performance. His enthusiasm for commissioning new choral music and supporting young composers has resulted in some of the best new choral music of recent years. Two notable composers include Will Todd and James McCarthy. David and Hertfordshire Chorus commissioned Will Todd’s Mass in Blue, one of the most successful new large choral works in recent history, performed more than 300 times. Recent commissions with the chorus are James McCarthy’s Codebreaker and Will Todd’s Ode to a Nightingale, released on Signum Classics label in October and launched at St Albans Cathedral, to wide critical acclaim. Will Todd recently wrote “I am truly grateful for David Temple’s part in developing my expressive language”

David is also passionate about bringing the joy of choral singing and the excitement of performing in large venues to the community. The choir performs regularly in major venues like the Barbican and if possible David is passionate about introducing young voices to choral singing and so he has encouraged composers to include parts for them in new works.  Bishop’s Hatfield School joined the chorus at the Barbican in November as part of the London Jazz Festival, singing the most recent commission, Rio Amazonas, by Roland Perrin. Presdales School premiered the piece at Saffron Hall. St Albans School, mid-Herts Youth Choir and Cantate Youth Choir have also sung with Hertfordshire Chorus.

In a recent enthusiastic review by Malcolm Riley in Gramophone Magazine David Temple was described as ‘indefatigable’.  David Temple truly deserves this honour.

Janet Cameron, Chair of Hertfordshire Chorus said “We congratulate David on receiving the MBE. It is well deserved and a tribute to his considerable contribution to the success of the chorus as well as to the wider community. We are extremely proud to have him as our Musical Director and look forward to an exciting 2018 and beyond.

David next conducts Hertfordshire Chorus on Saturday February 17th at St Albans Cathedral. If you can’t wait that long, he will be taking an open rehearsal on Saturday 13th January at Onslow St Audrey School, Hatfield. 

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A Choir Unwrapped – From the Bass Section

A Choir Unwrapped – From the Bass Section

To sing bass with a top ranking choir requires a good voice, a loyal heart and a sense of humour.

The Hertfordshire Chorus bass section has a deep, rich sound and an enthusiasm for the wide-ranging and challenging repertoire the choir is called on to perform. Team work is paramount and this section sticks together even when the going is tough.

Hertfordshire Chorus singing at the BBC Proms

Basses In the Royal Albert Hall

David Temple MBE, the Chorus’s musical director, has a keen ear and a passion for excellence. This inspires all voice sections to ensure they are constantly improving. There are no passengers here.

Rehearsals are fun but no easy ride. David is meticulous and demands the best from all. At the beginning of the evening, after a full day’s work, most singers feel a little sluggish. They are fired up and exhilarated, however, by the end of the rehearsal – the perfect state of mind for a debrief in the pub.

Choral Quality

Entry to the Chorus is by individual audition, and everyone is re-auditioned every three years. It may feel intimidating but auditions are handled supportively and sensitively and all Chorus members are agreed that maintaining quality is vital.

That quality has enabled the Chorus to perform at the best venues, such as The BarbicanThe Royal Festival HallSt Albans Abbey and St John’s Smith Square. We continue to work with world-class orchestras and soloists and commission new music from talented modern composers such as Will Todd, James McCarthy and Roland Perrin.

Colin Blankfield, a bass who has sung with the choir for over 30 years, is very clear on the benefits.

‘I also sing with a chamber choir which is great but love singing the really big works too. Hertfordshire Chorus gives me the chance to perform these to a very high standard.’

Outreach

We have recorded several of our commissions and more traditional repertoire. These releases have attracted high praise from renowned critics and organisations.

Singing with the Chorus is a great way to support your community. We often work with local schools, from primary age to teenagers. This gives the students an opportunity to participate in a large-scale concert and get a taste for performing to a high standard.

The Chorus supports many charitable events – putting on concerts and raising funds.  We sing for The Willow Foundation every Christmas which is very popular.

Hertfordshire-Chorus-Willow-10k-October-2017

Singers running for Willow

Fitting Singing In

Singing with the Chorus is a commitment but there are so many benefits for health and well-being. Bass Julian Edwards, says ‘My wife tells me I’m a lot happier since I joined Hertfordshire Chorus’

Dr Paul Baker,  juggles work, family and playing cello with a local orchestra but knows the Chorus is worth the effort.  ‘We are a very good section and fortunate to have the opportunity to sing with such a wonderful choir without having to travel into London. Hertfordshire Chorus is really on a par with the best in the country.’

Social Life

In addition the social life is great. Chorus members are welcoming and supportive and lifetime friendships are common.

Steve Williams joined in 2003 to sing Mahler 8. ‘I enjoyed it so much I’m still here. After 45 years of choral singing I can honestly say that Hertfordshire Chorus is the best’

The Chorus is always looking for talent and encourages singers to try us out. If you sing with a chamber choir, another large chorus or have not sung for a while please get in touch. Main rehearsals are on Wednesday evenings between 7:30pm and 10:00pm. There are additional all day workshops and rehearsals depending on the current programme. Follow the link to find out how easy it is to try us out.

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Codebreaker and Ode to a Nightingale CD launch October 6th

Hertfordshire-Chorus-Codebreaker-and-Ode-to-a-Nightingale-CD-cover

Critical Success for our CD

We were absolutely delighted that our CD reached number 7 in the Specialist Classical Charts in the first week of sales and equally delighted with this fantastic review in Gramophone “This important release should be in every keen choral singer’s Christmas stocking.” Read the whole review . Gramophone Review. In addition to Gramophone, we had a wonderful review by Rob Cowan in Classical Ear. Read it here Classical Ear

The story

In 2009 we commissioned Will Todd, who wrote the highly successful Mass in Blue for us, to write a setting for Ode to a Nightingale for one of our Patrons, Rod Jones. We launched it in the Barbican in 2011 and sang it again a few years later because we loved the luscious writing. In 2011 we commissioned James McCarthy, who David Temple and Crouch End Festival Chorus had commissioned the powerful oratorio 17 Days, to write about the life of Alan Turing.  We launched the resulting piece  Codebreaker in 2012 and sang it again in 2015, both times in the Barbican.

We felt both pieces deserved to be better known and several of our members raised the funds to make a high quality recording. Moving on, in June 2016 we gathered at the Watford Colosseum with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Producer Nigel Short, Conductor of Tenebrae, and of course our Music Director David Temple to make the recordings. We were delighted to have the support of Signum Records who agreed to publish the music in 2017.

Roll forward to the launch in October 2017. To celebrate, we sang both pieces at St Albans Cathedral on the 7th October to a standing ovation. To add to the celebration we shared the stage with American choirs, Nashville in Harmony and One Voice Chorus of Charlotte and St Albans School Chamber Choir. Nashville in Harmony and One Voice discovered Codebreaker and were so moved by it that they performed it several times earlier this year.

You can buy it from Presto ClassicalHyperion Records, Amazon and Apple Music or stream on Spotify

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