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Robyn Allegra Parton

British lyric-coloratura soprano Robyn Allegra Parton is a versatile musician and performer described by Opera magazine as ‘stylish’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘irresistible’, and as a ‘standout’ by The Observer.

Robyn Allegra Parton

Roles in 2018 include Zerbinetta (Longborough Festival Opera), and the title role in Coraline by Mark-Anthony Turnage (Royal Opera House, Barbican Theatre).

In 2015, Robyn performed Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.  Robyn has created the roles of Agnes in Nothing by David Bruce (Glyndebourne Festival Opera), Peg in Virtues of Things by Matt Rogers (Royal Opera Linbury), and the Narrator in the Sea-Crossed Fisherman by Michael Ellison (Istanbul Music Festival).  Other roles include: Mercedes (Grand Theatre de Luxembourg), Morgana in Alcina by Handel (Ryedale Festival Opera), excerpts of Mozart heroines in Amadeus for the National Theatre, and Clelia in Octavia by Reinhard Keiser (Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik) for which she was praised by German press Online Musik Magazin for her ‘clear high tones and clean, flowing coloratura’.

As a concert artist Robyn has performed with ensembles including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Gustav Mahler Chamber Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, English Baroque Soloists, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Oxford Philharmonic, Luxembourg Philharmonie, and the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra.

Robyn has recorded the title role in Charpentier’s Caecilia Virgo et Martyr for Novum, and songs for soprano, oboe and piano by Stephen Dodgson for Toccata Classics.

Robyn read music at Worcester College, Oxford University, and studied singing at the Royal College of Music and English National Opera’s Opera Works.

Cantamus October 2017 concert

Another date for your diary!  Saturday, 14th October at 7.30 pm in St Edmund’s Church, Shipston-on-Stour.

One autumn evening twenty years ago, a dozen or so singers were to be found cosily ranged around Richard and Dorle Emms’ sitting room in Shipston, about to learn a 16th century Mass by William Byrd.  On most Tuesday evenings now, double that number gather in the Catholic Parish Hall to sing a wide repertoire of music across five centuries.  Having been asked to sing the Mass at St. Edmund’s Church, Richard brought together a small unaccompanied group which has now grown to an adventurous chamber choir.  They will be celebrating those 20 years with a special concert in October this year, entitled “Encore!”.

The singers have indulged themselves in choosing 20 favourite pieces to sing, together with some of Three’s Company’s most delicious readings.  There are treats in store for all – sacred and secular, moving and amusing, joyous and deep-feeling, with music across the centuries and styles, including part of the original Byrd Mass.

Do come and share the joy that Cantamus has in performing music encompassing spirituals, folk songs, anthems, and madrigals from Bach to modern composer Lauridsen, via Purcell, Rachmaninoff and Cole Porter.  Richard, the choir’s director, never fails to delight and stimulate both his choir and audience.

Tickets cost £10, and are available from Clarke’s Electricals in Shipston, and on the door.  Students and accompanied children are welcome to attend at no cost.  If you have any queries, please use the ‘Contact Us’ page on this website to get in touch.

Yvonne Ridley

Choir Workshop 2017

Barbara Divers will be holding a workshop for choir members on Saturday, 23rd September 2017.  This will run from 10.00 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Catholic Parish Centre in Darlingscote Road, Shipston-on-Stour.  As in Barbara’s workshop last year, this will offer excellent opportunities to understand more about reading and interpreting music.  The workshop is very informal, and you’re encouraged to ask questions about anything that’s puzzling you.  This will be really helpful, practical preparation for the new season, especially for our performance of Bach’s Cantata no. 191 – ‘Gloria’, one of the focusses of Barbara’s workshop.

The workshop is free, and tea and biscuits will be provided.

Please let Yvonne know if you would like to come along, and let her know what you would like covered at the workshop.

 

Bach Cantata No.191 Gloria

Much of Bach’s prodigious output consists of re-workings of previous compositions.

This is true of Cantata 191. It is described by Bach as a Christmas Cantata, and it is entirely a reworking of parts of the Gloria from his Mass in B minor. For the first movement he has used the chorus Gloria in excelsis – et in terra pax from the Mass unchanged, and the following duet is the Domine Deus from the Mass sung to the words ‘Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui sancto’. The cantata concludes with the chorus Sicut erat in principio.The music for this is the chorus Cum sancto spiritu which concludes the Gloria in the Mass. The words Sicut erat don’t fit the original, so he has modified the beginning so that they do.

So we get a small insight into the way Bach worked. There are many more examples of reworkings to hand, since all the Mass in B minor apart from the Kyrie and the Gloria consists of reworkings of previous cantatas.

St.Thomas’s new Kantor

When Kuhnau died in June 1722 the Leipzig authorities needed to find a new Kantor for the Thomaschule. This was a prestigious post and there were six applicants. The obvious front-runner was Georg Philip Telemann,

G. F. Telemann

who was very highly regarded and already had connections with St. Thomas’s. He showed definite signs of accepting the post, but the Hamburg Senate tried to block his acceptance. Telemann argued that if they wanted him to remain in Hamburg they should raise his salary. This they duly did, and he duly stayed.

J.C.Graupner

So Leipzig looked to their
2nd choice, Christoph Graupner, who was Kappelmeister in Darmstadt and one of Kuhnau’s distinguished pupils. Graupner was keen to accept, until Darmstadt offered to increase his salary and improve his status – an offer he could not refuse.

This left them with the 3rd choice.

Councillor Platz observed, ‘As the best man cannot be got, we must make do with the mediocre’ – namely one J.S.Bach!

One of the duties of the position was that they should teach the boys Latin. All of the applicants refused to accept this, but the upshot was that Bach, as successful applicant, had to employ a Latin teacher and pay him out of his own salary.

Click here to go back to Johann Kuhnau.

Johann Kuhnau (1660 – 1722)

Johann Kuhnau (1660 – 1722) was Bach’s predecessor as Kantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, something of a renaissance man, and at the time considered to be the equal of Handel and Telemann, – certainly superior to J.S.Bach. He published an important body of keyboard music (including the first keyboard sonata published by a German composer); but his cantatas were not published and are mostly lost – just a few have been found amongst Bach’s huge collection of cantatas. Uns ist ein Kind geboren is one such. It was indeed assumed in the 19th century to be by Bach himself – Cantata 142, but Bach scholars have long been questioning this.

He was born Johann Kuhn in 1660. His parents were Czech, but being protestants, they had fled to the mountains on the border of Germany to avoid the scourge of the Counter-Reformation.

At the age of 10 Johann went to Dresden to be educated, since he was an exceptionally clever child; he also had a fine voice. Dresden was the home of the court of the Elector of Saxony, Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. In 1667, the Duke was offered the presidency of the Fruitbearing Society, which he accepted. With this presidency came the responsibility for fostering the work of artists and scientists. His activities as a patron left considerable debts for his descendants to deal with, but it was an environment greatly conducive to the education of young Johann Kuhn. In Dresden he received an education that included French and Italian, the languages of the court; and he sang, learned the organ and composed music much appreciated by the court Kantor, Vincenzo Albrici.

But in 1680 plague came to Dresden. Johann went home, but was soon back at school, this time in Zittau. He was head chorister in the choir of the Johanniskirche. Shortly after this, both the organist and Kantor of the church died, so at the age of 20 Johann Kuhn was asked to act in their stead for a year as organist, choir director and composer.

Two years later Johann became a Law student at Leipzig University. But he impressed the City Council with his musical talent and he became very active as a performer (presumably as a singer and organist?) and as a composer. Rather fashionably, he had at this time italianised his name to Cuno, but it was not long before that turned back into the German-sounding Kuhnau. At the age of 24 he was appointed organist at the Thomaskirche.

Alongside his musical employment, he studied law. By the time he was 29 he had married, was practising law, and was still organist at the Thomaskirche. During the next 10 years over and above his fame as an organist, he became proficient in Maths, Greek and Hebrew, translated French and Italian books into German, wrote a satiric novel, published his substantial and significant body of keyboard music and composed music for the church. In addition he had 8 children and a thriving legal practise.

When he was 41 he was unanimously appointed Kantor at the Thomaskirche, but that was when things started to go downhill. One Georg Telemann enroled at the university, also to study Law, but he, like Kuhnau before him, became very active musically. He established a collegium musicum which was a rival to Kuhnau’s establishment and attracted Kuhnau’s musicians and some of his pupils. He even approached the mayor for permission to compose music for the Thomaskirche, utterly undermining Kuhnau. To rub in salt yet further, in 1703, when Kuhnau was suffering one of several periods of illness, the council asked Telemann to succeed him, should he die.

Kuhnau, in fact, lived for a further 21 years, and although he became very dissatisfied with conditions at the Thomaskirche, he attracted many students who would become distinguished musicians themselves, such was the esteem he was held in by his fellow musicians. He was the last of the Thomaskantors who had something of the ‘renaissance man’ about him. It is easy to see that, at the time, Bach was seen as a less distinguished man – indeed he was in broader terms – he just happened to be one of the greatest musicians ever.

Kuhnau died in June 1722.

Click here to find out about the next Kantor at the Thomaskirche.

Review of Handel’s Saul, May 2017

A Resounding Musical Success!

On May 13th in St. Edmund’s Church, Shipston-on-Stour, under the thorough baton of dedicated musical director Richard Emms, his Shipston choir, the Stour Singers, and the well-established, youthful chamber orchestra, Midlands-based Queen’s Park Sinfonia, performed Handel’s Oratorio Saul to the delight of all who came.  Music comes in all shapes and sizes from Pop and Rock to high Baroque, something to suit all tastes.  It can thrill, chill, move and elate us.  This programme was elating.

And the choir and audience were blessed with five extraordinary and highly professional vocal soloists!  Handel wanted to tell a famous dramatic story and it could surely not have been better told than by these five singers.  Australian soprano, Anita Watson, winner of so many international competitions, sang Saul’s daughter and lover of David, Michal, in her rich and beautiful voice, which rang out with warmth and distinction.  Tim Morgan, a young countertenor, was technically excellent and sang David with an astonishing range and richness, simply a lovely voice.  Ben Thapa, tenor, sang Jonathan and his dramatically expressive singing was equally exemplified in the other roles he took.  Baritone, Alistair Donaghue, fulfilled the voice of prophesy and other parts with clarity and with a warm and liquid tone that charmed the ear.  The commanding and explicit voice of bass baritone, Darren Jeffery, sang the tormented King Saul and filled it with strength and emotional depth and with great clarity.  What a tremendous and hugely experienced quintet of soloists to put over so much drama with such conviction!

And the choir?  It was outstanding on this occasion, both in its balanced vocal strength and interpretation.  Quick and clear on their entries, the choristers put everything they had at their vocal disposal into this moving feast, from feisty to moments of pure sorrow as in ‘Mourn Israel…‘.  They sounded very confident and appeared to be enjoying singing.

Providing the continuous musical accompaniment to all the vocal performers in Handel’s emotionally wide-ranging score was the Queen’s Park Sinfonia with its lively and dynamically expressive playing, with special praise for the woodwind… and to Rachel Bird, the choir’s accompanist, on keyboard.

This was an evening-out to remember: amazing composer, live musicians, live audience, live music on our rural doorstep.  We live in troubled times, but in such music, telling a tale going back more than three thousand years, we are reminded across centuries of our humanity and that while there’s life, there’s love and hope.  And music surely plays a deep and central role in our lives!

Ina M. Evans

Review by Richard Emms

Saul’s soloists

I would like to thank Vic Twyman for bringing together such an excellent group of soloists for the recent performance of Handel’s Saul. Apart from singing so beautifully, through their sensitive characterisation they made the piece work as a most moving piece of drama.

Congratulations to the choir, too, for their musical commitment; and also, in their role as the People of Israel, capturing convincingly the wildly fluctuating moods of the people.

 

Richard Emms
(Musical Director)

 

Christmas Concert

 

The Spirit of Christmas

10th December 2016
St. Edmund’s Church, Shipston-on-Stour

with:

Robert Rice, baritone
and Queen’s Park Sinfonia

Vaughan WilliamsFive mystical songs

TelemannAllein Gott in die Höh sei Ehre

excerpts from Handel’s Messiah

carols, some for the choir, some for the audience

Continue reading “Christmas Concert”