Update on 8th October 2020:
Alas, we’ve had to cancel the December 2020 concert too, so there will be no rehearsals this year.
Fingers crossed for next year!
Update on 16th March 2020:
Please note that, due to the coronavirus situation, we must very sadly cancel our concert which was planned for 2nd May 2020.
We look forward to seeing everyone at our December concert instead!
WELCOME TO RICHARD JENKINSON,
CONDUCTING STOUR SINGERS FOR THE SPRING SEASON 2020
Stour Singers welcome Richard Jenkinson as our conductor for the spring, whilst Richard Emms recovers from his heart operation. Richard (J) is based in Worcester, and is a very experienced conductor and cellist. He is musical director of the British Police Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. John, Bromsgrove, and the Worcestershire Youth Orchestra!
After winning a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he studied cello with Raphael Wallfisch and William Pleech, and conducting with Alan Hazeldine. After graduating with distinction in 1994, he quickly secured a role as principal cellist with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and then spent 18 years as principal cello with the CBSO.
As a cellist, Richard is a member of the Dante String Quartet, and has performed with them nationally and internationally, also playing for BBC broadcasts, and CD recordings with Naxos and Somm. His recent PhD on the music of Zoltan Kodaly takes him on tour to Hungary this year with recital lectures.
Richard has also conducted massed choirs, and is excited to work with Stour Singers to conduct Mendelssohn’s Elijah.
2019/20 HONORARY FELLOW: Cathy Bell
Stour Singers are delighted to welcome Cathy Bell as the latest of their Honorary Fellows. She thrilled them, and the audience, with her beautiful voice in their May 2019 performance of Handel’s Foundling Hospital Anthem and Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus.
Cathy studied English and Medieval Literature at Cambridge, and undertook postgraduate vocal studies at Birmingham Conservatoire. Since moving to London in 2009 she has established a varied career in opera, ensemble and particularly oratorio work, coming to notice for the innate musicality and sensitivity to text that she brings to every performance. Recent highlights include the role of Venus in Pepusch Venus and Adonis for the Valletta International Baroque Festival, and Second Witch in the Academy of Ancient Music’s highly acclaimed Dido and Aeneas at the Barbican, a role she reprised at the Nordland Music Festival with Barokksolistene Norway in August 2019.
Cathy is an experienced and accomplished soloist on the oratorio platform. She has performed much of the standard concert repertoire for the alto voice, at venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall, Southwell Minster, Wells Cathedral, Bath Abbey, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Nottingham Albert Hall, and St Magnus Cathedral Orkney. Recent highlights include the Rachmaninoff Vespers with groups including Britten Sinfonia, Sonoro and the Oxford Bach Choir; Bach Mass in B minor with Nottingham Harmonic Choir and Cantemus; Mendelssohn Elijah with the Bach Choir; and Bach St John Passion with Leicester Bach Choir and at the Leith Hill Musical Festival. As a low mezzo Cathy enjoys singing Handel’s ever-popular Messiah in venues across the UK, but she also loves exploring more esoteric repertoire, and has made a particular specialism of neglected works from the Italian baroque such as Alessandro Scarlatti’s Salve Regina and Vivaldi’s Introduzione e Gloria RV 588, Magnificat and Dixit Dominus.
In 2014 Cathy was the first singer to be awarded a place on the Handel House Talent Scheme. While a member of the scheme she gave recitals at venues including the Handel House, St George’s Hanover Square and the Wallace Collection; developed and performed a lecture recital on Handel’s London years; sang in masterclasses with Mark Padmore and Laurence Cummings; and was the singing leader for several workshops and education projects.
Cathy is as comfortable on the operatic stage as the concert platform. Notable highlights include the title role in Carmen for Barefoot Opera; Arsamenes (Handel Xerxes) for Hampstead Garden Opera; Russian Nanny (Britten Death in Venice) for Garsington Opera; and Third Lady/Third Boy (Mozart Die Zauberflöte) for Diva Opera and the Palestine Mozart Festival. Cathy has a strong commitment to contemporary music and has taken principal roles in new operas at the Tête à Tête and Grimeborn festivals, recorded a new work by Will Todd for an education project at Opera North, and worked on the development of a new piece for WNO MAX.
Cathy also works regularly in ensembles such as the BBC Singers, the Academy of Ancient Music, Philharmonia Voices, Sonoro, the Dunedin Consort, the Clerks’ Group and EXAUDI, and sings for film sessions with groups including London Voices, the Pinewood Singers, Synergy Vocals, Apollo Voices and RSVP Voices.
Cathy lives in London with her husband Jon Stainsby, also a singer, and their energetic daughter Rosie, born in 2016.
2018/19 HONORARY FELLOW: Robyn Allegra Parton
Robyn, who has sung Mozart’s exquisite Exsultate Jubilate, and in Brahms’ Requiem and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio for us, has agreed very kindly to be our 2018/19 Honorary Fellow. Robyn is a lyric-coloratura soprano, whose major roles this year have included the title role of Coraline at Covent Garden, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at Longborough, and Konstanze in Mozart’s Il Seraglio in Germany. She is singing at Burford on the evening of 25th November in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, and will be singing in Handel’s Messiah on 19th January 2019 in Worcester College, Oxford. Robyn will be releasing a solo CD of English Songs by Haydn and his contemporaries in 2019, accompanied by Manon Fischer-Dieskau on the Fra Bernardo label.
REVIEW OF DARREN JEFFERY’S RECITAL on 30 September 2018, by Kate McLuskie
The event was extremely successful in financial, artistic, and social ways. 123 tickets were sold, producing a surplus of more than £1,000 after expenses, and the cake-makers surpassed themselves. Most importantly, Darren Jeffery and his accompanist Anthony Seddon gave a superb performance that was richly enjoyed by the Townsend Hall audience.
The programme included the catalogue song from Don Giovanni (whose amorous adventures apparently ventured as far as Shipston), John Ireland’s evocative setting of John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’, and the much loved ‘home maintenance’ song from Flanders and Swann: ‘Twas on a Monday morning the gasman came to call’. The musicians communicated very warmly with their audience, encouraging Gilbert and Sullivan fans to join in with celebrating ‘the very model of a modern major general’, as well as being moved by ‘Old Man River’, and delighted by the beautiful morning in Oklahoma. Darren’s and Anthony’s extraordinary generosity in providing a free fund-raising event for the choir was matched by their evident enjoyment of the event and the number of encores they provided.
RECITAL BY BASS BARITONE DARREN JEFFERY
Sunday 30 September 2018 at 3pm in the Townsend Hall, Shipston-on-Stour
Stour Singers were delighted when Darren Jeffery accepted an invitation to be their 2017/18 Honorary Fellow, having excelled in the title role of their production of Handel’s Saul in May 2017.
Darren has a wonderful bass baritone voice and is completely at home on both the operatic stage and the concert platform. Starting his musical training at the Royal Northern College of Music, Darren was one of the very first singers to join the Royal Opera Young Artists Programme (even singing there with Luciano Pavarotti!).
He has built an extensive career, singing a diversity of roles from Handel to Wagner, from Britten to Stravinsky, in some of the great opera houses of the world from our own Royal Opera House and English National Opera to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. He has just completed an extensive tour of the Netherlands in the title role of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman and this July he is singing at Longborough Festival Opera as the ‘Music Teacher’ in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.
Stour Singers are, therefore, delighted that Darren is offering a unique chance to hear his expressive and versatile voice, accompanied by his pianist Anthony Seddon, in a recital at the Townsend Hall in Shipston upon Stour on Sunday 30 September at 3 pm.
Tickets are £12.50 (free for accompanied children), and are available from choir members, from R. Clarke, 27 High Street, Shipston-on-Stour, or at the door. Tea, coffee and home-made cakes will be available in the interval.
This will be an unforgettable journey through Opera, Song, and Musical Hits, from Handel to Wagner, from Lieder to Les Miserables and a treat not to be missed.
REVIEW OF OUR MAY 2018 CONCERT
MUSIC … THE FOOD OF LOVE INDEED!
The Shipston Stour Singers under their creative musical director, Richard Emms, gave us a night out to remember at St. Edmund’s Church, Shipston on Stour on the 12th May. They were beautifully accompanied by the talented Queen’s Park Sinfonia chamber orchestra of young graduate musicians who, with professional skill, put their heart and soul into the performance. The choir’s own musically sensitive Rachel Bird was on keyboard.
Richard had chosen a challenging and exciting programme, in terms of contrast for both choir and audience, with the Rutter Magnificat followed by the Fauré Requiem: a vividly joyous and celebratory work by Rutter and the all-time favourite Fauré with its core serenity and sublime tenderness. Both these works required a great deal from the interwoven voices of the choir in terms of dynamic control and timing. In my view and according to audience response they succeeded magnificently with a full bodied performance of the Magnificat, which one person described to me as the popping of champagne corks, bubbling with vivacity. To follow this with the quietly controlled and sustained vocal demands of the Requiem was difficult but this generally mature choir managed to achieve that intrinsic sweetness and clarity of young voices the work really needs.
But neither work could have succeeded so well without the lovely professional voices of the soloists, Soprano, Ruth Holton and last minute replacement baritone, Andrew Mayor. Ruth, in a varied career has developed a huge repertoire ranging from music of the Middle Ages to the Contemporary. Her voice has a ringing, bell-like clarity, a really pure sound with which she brought a gentle flow to Rutter’s Et misericordia and in the Requiem’s Pie Jesu a spiritual purity which brought a lump to the throat. And from my point of view I found the Italianesque operatic approach of Andrew Mayor to the Fauré distinctly appropriate and very moving. He also brought a strength and richness to the Requiem’s Libera Me, in its supplication to the Lord to be delivered from everlasting death.
The two profoundly religious works are to my mind about love and one would assume it was an over-riding love of God in the world and for life which inspired both Rutter and Fauré and even perhaps, under the mystical power of music for one evening, the capacity audience at St. Edmund’s.
CITY OF BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA’S COME-AND-SING EVENT ON 4th MARCH 2018
Several members of the choir went to Birmingham Symphony Hall recently to sing Brahms’ German Requiem. Here is a write-up of the event from George Jackson:
Well, it was a truly enjoyable day – well organised at the CBSO end and ours! Transport arrangements worked to perfection for the 11 singers (plus one guest) who, under the leadership of Jane Riley, joined a choir of some 800 -850 in Symphony Hall to sing Brahms’ German Requiem –in full and in German. Sing it we did – three times! First, starting at 1.30 pm with piano accompaniment and pronunciation guidance; second, with the orchestra and two splendid soloists, James Claverton, bass, and Nika Govic, soprano. Third time was the concert itself, ending promptly at 8.15 pm. We were provided with scores already marked up with rehearsal notes. In between we had a short and long break to eat, meet, chat and catch our breath!
This year a number of the CBSO Chorus were seeded amongst us both to help keep us together and to give Simon Halsey easier control. It worked well and Simon Halsey took us through with style, immense competence and great humour. It was a thrill for us all to sing in the world class Symphony Hall, with a world class orchestra like the CBSO and to feel part of a fellowship of singers from all over the country.
The rehearsal pace was fast but insightful and I cannot be alone in coming away with an improved understanding of the music and a feeling that I have grown a little more as a choir member. At one point during the performance I realised that and gave a silent thanks to our own Richard Emms, without whose knowledge, skill, and dedication to our choir, I would not have been able to participate as fully.
The Singalong was real value for money. It was my second but not I hope my last!
Any tips? As always, enjoyment is increased by a little preparation before hand!
Stour Singers are delighted that Darren Jeffery – who excelled in the title role in Handel’s Saul for us in May this year – has accepted our invitation to be the 2017/18 Honorary Fellow. Darren’s expressive bass baritone voice is very versatile, and he is completely at home on both the operatic stage and the concert platform. Starting his musical training at the Royal Northern College of Music, Darren was one of the very first singers to join the Royal Opera Young Artists Programme (even singing there with Luciano Pavarotti!).
Darren has built an extensive career, singing a diversity of roles from Handel to Wagner, from Britten to Stravinsky, in some of the great opera houses of the world from our own Royal Opera House and English National Opera to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. He has also sung at Glyndebourne, Garsington, and the Proms. Based with his family in Cornwall, he can often be seen restoring Land Rovers and tinkering with tractors as well as encouraging young local singers!
Darren’s programme from now until summer next year includes a premiere at English National Opera, oratorio in Bude, Dartington, and Liverpool, singing ‘Monterone’ in Verdi’s Rigoletto at Covent Garden, Britten in Moscow, and an extensive tour of the Netherlands in the title role of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. Closer to us, Darren is singing at Longborough Festival Opera in July next year as the ‘Music Teacher’ in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. What a full programme!
When invited to be our Honorary Fellow, Darren said he would love to accept, and was thrilled to be asked. The thrill is ours!