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13 June 2024
2023/24 season finishes at Christ Church


28 June 2023
A Rousing end to the 2022/23 Season with Viva Italia!
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Cathedral Visits - Summer 2023
12 May 2023
Simon Toyne appointed as our new Musical Director
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Dame Ethel Smyth Mass in D - A resounding success!
13 February 2023
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I was glad! A feast of Parry

21 October 2018

Last night the choir were joined by members of the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic to perform a concert marking the centenary of the death of the great English composer, Sir C. Hubert H. Parry. Elgar remarked that Parry was the “finest English composer since Purcell” and HRH The Prince of Wales made a BBC television documentary on Parry’s music entitled “The Prince and the Composer”. The combined chorus of over 130 singers led the audience from Parry at his most grand - in the Coronation anthem I was glad and festal setting of Milton, Blest pair of sirens, through his organ and ‘community’ music - organ preludes, fantasias, and the Fantasia and Fugue in G, Dear Lord and Father of mankind and Jerusalem, to Parry at his most intimate and poignant - the Songs of Farewell.

The Sopranos and Altos have their
moment to shine
A little levity always assists with tuning

The first half of the concert includes all the accompanied and organ music, and Musical Director introduced the works from the podium, and we learned of the connection between Jerusalem and World War One, the campaign for Women’s voting rights, and the 2012 London Olympics, that Abide with me was Gandhi’s favourite hymn, and that Dear Lord and Father of mankind traces its heritage back to the Vedic religion, and its practice of imbibing the hallucinogenic substance Soma. The audience sang most lustily in the four hymns - Dear Lord and Father of mankind and Jerusalem by Parry, and two hymns not by Parry (Abide with me and O God, our help in ages past) which were immediately followed by organ works by Parry founded upon those melodies. The idea that music is for everyone, regardless of wealth or class, was perfectly illustrated in this concert, and we honoured Parry’s statement:

The mission of democracy is to convert the false estimate of art as an appanage of luxury.

One interesting feature of the first half was the adjustment of the Vivats in I was glad. In this coronation anthem, Parry incorporated what had been two separate features of coronations before the twentieth-century. The singing of entrance music at the arrival of the new monarch, and the shouting of acclamation from the galleries - Vivat Rex Eduardus in 1902. In the most recent coronation this had evolved into something much closer to singing, and the phrase Vivat Regina, Vivat Regina Elizabetha. Following the lead of John Rutter in his most recent edition of I was glad, the tradition of not singing this acclamation outside the context of the coronation was held, but the music continued, but with a substitute Latin text - Laudate Dominum, Laudate Dominum omnes gentes - O praise God all his peoples. This text perfectly suits the mood of the music at this point, and requires only one tiny rhythmic change to accommodate the proper accentuation of the words.

The climax of the Songs of Farewell
Not Vivat Regina but Laudate Dominum

The performance of Songs of Farewell (1913-15) in the second half of the concert was both the highlight and the lowlight of the concert. The choir performed magnificently in the increasingly complex unaccompanied textures of the work, but as night fell, it became clear that one section of the choir lighting had not been switched on! So as the music went from four to five to six to seven and, finally, to eight parts, the darkness descended on the back two rows of altos. They heroically sang on, and the music continued without any difficulty whatsoever - well done! This was a performance of enormous extremes - from the most hushed sound up to the deafening legions of angels evoked in At the round earth’s imagined corners. This work is the summation of Parry’s lifetime of experience as a choral composer, and his reaction not only to the closing years of his own life, but of the futility of the deaths of many of his students, who perished at the trenches whilst he was composing the work.

Listening to some Instructions from
And did those feet in ancient time

A number of members of the Bach Choir are looking forward to singing the programme again with the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic Choir, who give their performance of the same programme this coming weekend. It is splendid to be able to share common ground in this way, and it gives us an opportunity to sing things more than once! Indeed, we will also be keeping Blest pair of sirens alive in a Choral Evensong for the Lord Lieutenant later this week, and a number of the Parry works will feature in our Tour to Bruges and Amsterdam in Spring 2019.

Blest Pair of Sirens
Last minute markings in Songs of Farewell