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.
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.
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.
War Horse – BBC Radio 2
Hertfordshire Chorus was very pleased to have been asked to sing in a special performance of War Horse – The Story In Concert for BBC Radio 2 in the special venue of Coventry Cathedral on Friday 18th May 2018. The concert was part of Coventry’s Big Weekend Fringe Festival and was recorded for later broadcast. It also featured acclaimed actors Juliet Stevenson and 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
This concert was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 Friday November 2nd at 7.30.
Listen to Devonshire Carol, recorded live at Coventry Cathedral
Our 2018 season
The choir has an exciting series of concerts, one highlight of which will be another partnership with the BBC Concert Orchestra 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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
by Michael Quinn on Music Web International
by Andrew Achenbach in Gramophone
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.
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.
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.
In June 2016 we recorded two of our recent commissions, Codebreaker by James McCarthy and Ode to a Nightingale by Will Todd, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, produced by Nigel Short and published by Signum Records. We’ll be launching the CD at our concert on the 7th October and are inviting experienced singers to join us on 13th September for the second rehearsal of these two fabulous and accessible pieces.
Commissioning music is always a risk. We are fortunate that our Musical Director David Temple is passionate about supporting young composers and bringing new large-scale choral music to the choral community. Sometimes the music is never performed again and sometimes it goes on to be a great success. We have also been fortunate to have had two successful commissions, picked up and performed by others choirs.
Imagine our delight to hear that our latest commission Codebreaker, by James McCarthy, was performed on the 2nd April in Charlotte, North Carolina and will be performed again on the 22nd and 23rd April in Nashville Tennesse. Codebreaker forms the central piece in a collaboration between Nashville in Harmony Nashville in Harmony and One Voice Chorus , called Mapping Stars.
Codebreaker is an oratorio for choir and orchestra about the life and loves of Alan Turing, often regarded as the father of computer science and credited with shortening the Second World War by two years through breaking the German Enigma code. Alan Turing was convicted of Gross Indecency in 1951 and sentenced to chemical castration. He committed suicide in 1953. The oratorio was inspired by the public apology on 10th September 2009 delivered by Gordon Brown on behalf of the government. Codebreaker’s premiere was on 26th April 2014 in The Barbican with Benedict Cumberbatch, who was about to appear as Alan Turing in the film Codebreaker, in the audience.
See this film of Nashville in Harmony and One Voice Chorus with Intersection Orchestra at their performance in Charlotte.
On Sunday 19th February we were back in the recording studio, very excited to be involved in an unusual project. Neverlight, a gothic experimental band from Colorado, approached us to sing backing vocals for a few of the tracks on their forthcoming album. All we needed to do was to find a recording studio and gather 40 singers. We had a great time and were delighted to hear how pleased the band were. Here’s a quote, ” The Hertfordshire Chorus was amazing to work with, and the final result is breathtaking!”
Time-zone differences meant that the band could not join us as we sang but they were able to join us via Skype before the end.
Check out the band’s website
The album is due to be released in June 2017.