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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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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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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