Four workshops with Hertfordshire Chorus

When will the workshops be?

All workshops are on Wednesday evenings from 7.30 – 10pm at our regular rehearsal venue, Stanborough School, Lemsford Rd, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6YR

Workshops cost £5 which includes music hire and tea and a chance to sample our excellent cakes!

Tickets are available here

Download a flyer by clicking on the picture below.

23rd October

Elgar – The Music Makers
This beautiful work is based on a poem ‘Ode’ by Arthur O’Shaughnessy and celebrates the importance of art to society.

30th October

Haydn – Harmoniemesse
Haydn’s last major work combines wind instruments with choral voices in this glorious ‘High Mass’. It is a vast work that is a joy to sing.

6th November

Karl Jenkins – The Armed Man
Jenkins composed this work as‘A Mass for Peace’ a commission for the Millennium celebrations and it is dedicated to the victims of the
Kosovo crisis.

13th November

Handel – Samson
Completed in London in 1742 this oratorio is considered one of Handel’s finest dramatic works. The choruses provide much of the rich character of the piece

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Porgy and Bess in Poland

Off to Poland to Sing Porgy and Bess in September!

Wayne Marshall – photograph by Charles Best

The concert

Hertfordshire Chorus has been asked to perform George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in Wroclaw, Poland later this year.  The choir will be joining leading conductor and renowned American specialist Wayne Marshall, the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic and top-quality soloists Indira Mahajan, Angela Renée Simpson, Ronald Samm and Kevin Short in the International FestivalWratislavia Cantans on Sunday 15thSeptember.  The concert forms part of a year-long national project to commemorate the centenary of Poland regaining its independence after the First World War.

 

About Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess was written in 1935, just two years before Gershwin’s untimely death at the age of only 38.  The work was based on the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. It is considered to be among the most important American musical compositions of the 20th century and contains many well-known songs, such as Summertime, It Ain’t Necessarily So and Oh I Can’t Sit Down.

David Temple and Wayne Marshall

 

Courtesy of Debbie Ram photography

David Temple MBE

David Temple MBE, the choir’s musical director, will accompany them in Poland, and has a long association with Wayne Marshall.  He says “I have worked with Wayne Marshall for over 25 years, mainly on ‘Porgy and Bess’, but also with Wayne playing Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’and the organ solo from Janacek’s ‘Glagolitic Mass’.”

 

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One Giant Leap – James McCarthy perspective

Inspiration and the desire to strive for a seemingly impossible goal can come from the most unexpected of places. Could anyone imagine today a President of the United States, or the leader of any country at all for that matter, unifying a nation behind a rallying cry for the spirit of adventure? John F Kennedy did just that in a speech in Houston, Texas, in September of 1962: ’Why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may as well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? We choose to go to the Moon!’ 
We CHOOSE to go to the Moon. It can sometimes feel to us today that we are living in a world governed by the politics of division; of the building of walls to separate families, of dividing the loyalties of a nation simply in order to hold on to power, of leave or remain. 
What is so striking about Kennedy’s speech, more so today than it would have been in 1962, is the pure, unifying, vaulting ambition of it. And why should we go to the Moon? ‘We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.’
Of course, Kennedy’s motivations were not entirely pure. The constant threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union meant that dominion over the skies was politically and psychologically important to America at the time. But the greatest achievements of humanity are rarely completely altruistic, and the kind of money that was needed to develop the Apollo program was never going to be provided by the US government without some significant, non-scientific, politically-motivated factors. 
There is a parallel here with Alan Turing, who was gifted the opportunity and the funds to develop an early form of digital computer, the Bombe, not through the scientific curiosity of the British government but because it would help the British to decipher Enigma-encrypted German communications. Scientific necessity doesn’t tend to motivate politicians into action so much as the threat of losing wars, or votes.
Today, humanity faces perhaps the greatest challenge it has ever faced, that of protecting the Earth and everything that lives on it from irreversible harm by tackling the causes of climate change. If ever there was a time for us to unite behind a cause that is for the benefit of us all, it is now. But what are we doing? We have become consumed with petty political point-scoring, animosity and division. Wasting precious time.
Professor Stephen Hawking (in his last book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions) wrote: ‘I hope that going forward, even when I am no longer here, people with power can show creativity, courage and leadership. Let them rise to the challenge of sustainable development goals, and act not out of self-interest, but out of common interest. I am very aware of the preciousness of time. Seize the moment. Act now.’
The astronaut Edgar D Mitchell (the sixth person to walk on the Moon) put it succinctly when he described how he felt when he looked at the Earth from the Moon: ’You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”’
Kennedy’s speech opens One Giant Leap and sets us on the journey ahead. After Kennedy’s speech (which also incorporates within it the finest poem ever written about the thrill of flying, by pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr, ‘High Flight’) we hear the echoes of our distant ancestors. For as long as we have been able to look up at the sky and wonder, we have praised the Moon and worshipped it. 
I also imagine the relationship between the Earth and the Moon, held forever in each other’s orbit, like lovers, but never quite able to reach out and touch. And here, William Henry Davies’s beautiful poem, ‘The Moon’, explores their romance from the point-of-view of the Earth: ‘Thy beauty haunts me heart and soul / Oh, thou fair Moon, so close and bright / Thy beauty makes me like the child / That cries aloud to own thy light’.
But this highly romantic atmosphere is not all it seems. There is danger too. As Shakespeare warns us in Act 5 of Othello: ‘It is the very error of the moon / She comes more nearer earth than she was wont / And makes men mad.’ 
When I initially started planning and preparing the script of One Giant Leap, I didn’t want to make the piece too specifically about the astronauts. In my previous two choral works, Codebreaker and Malala, the focus had been very much on the inner-life of specific individuals – Alan Turing and Malala Yousafzai. 
But as I read more about Neil Armstrong and watched interviews with him and those who knew him best, I became absolutely entranced by him. And so his personal involvement with the Apollo 11 mission became an increasingly significant part of the overall piece. 
Armstrong was a very private man who never used two words when one would suffice. He was uncomfortable speaking in public and yet he became the most famous man on the planet virtually overnight. His was a mercurial, unknowable, almost mythical character. The greatest pilot of a generation of brave and gifted test pilots who pushed the boundaries of aviation after the Second World War that NASA drew from for their space program. 
We feel the deep concern of Armstrong’s wife, Janet, as she watches the final launch preparations, and we hear Jack King’s famous countdown of the launch of Apollo 11. We also experience the unsettling strangeness of weightless flight on the journey to the Moon.
Perhaps it is because Armstrong never wasted a word in his life that the power of practically everything he said whilst on the Moon was so moving and poetic. When Armstrong says ’It’s very different, but it’s very pretty out here’, it really means something, it is worth a thousand words by any poet.
Sara Teasdale is a writer whose work I have a very close affinity to. I used four of her poems to tell the inner-story of Alan Turing in Codebreaker, and she reappears here at the end of One Giant Leap. This is both a celebration of the Apollo 11 mission and a hymn of praise to the Moon itself. ‘The Moon is a flower without a stem, The sky is luminous; Eternity was made for them, Tonight for us.’
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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 the recording release date was the 6th April 2018. We also made Michael Hurd’s music the centrepiece of our concert on 14th April 2018 joined by our sister choir Crouch End Festival Chorus and the original commissioner of The Phoenix and the Turtle.

Reviews

by Michael Quinn on Music Web International

by Andrew Achenbach in  Gramophone

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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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Hertfordshire Chorus adds to Michael Hurd discography

How this recording came about

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.

Hertfordshire Chorus record Michael Hurd at Art Judes ChurchHertfordshire Chorus record Michael Hurd at St Judes Church

Asked to not only record the five compositions, we were also to project manage the recording! No small task.

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!  We already knew that the recording is to be released on the Lyrita Recorded Edition label, so liaising with them is for later.

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  the choir, orchestra, conductor and recording crew gathered at the church.  A second full recording day was held on the 3rd June 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 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. We plan to do our bit by scheduling a special concert in 2018 which will feature some of the pieces. This will coincide with the launch of the CD. Watch this space for details when we have them.

 

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The Kingdom “First Class” performance

Performers put their heart and souls into the best show they can and reading reviews is always carried out with a little trepidation, so how wonderful it was to read John Manning’s review of our performance of Elgar’s The Kingdom in the Herts Advertiser.  You can read it too here.

David Temple, Music Director, wrote in the programme “I am fortunate enough to conduct many of the greatest choral works ever written. In my partnership with the choir we work so hard to make sure each piece is the best we have ever done. Occasionally a work like Elgar’s The Kingdom comes along which resonates with us so wonderfully – the music itself, the story, the intensity – hopefully to produce a performance out of the ordinary. When we performed this last in 2010, it was one of the most profound experiences of my life and what has encouraged me about our preparations for 2017 is to discover details and nuances in the score which I failed to notice last time””

Read a review of our 2010 concert, written by Martin Bird of The Elgar Society here

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Open Rehearsal Wednesday 8 February 2017

Come and join our first rehearsal of Rachmaninov Vespers and you could be singing with us in St John Smith Square in April, a “must sing” for basses.

Download the full flyer with all details here.

Find out more about what it’s like to sing with us in our recruitment leaflet here.

Alternatively find out more by sending an email to membership@hertfordshirechorus.org.uk or by phoning 01462 491647.

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