The audience enjoyed a full-blown baroque treat from the Stour Singers at their concert on 11th May with Handel’s The Trumpet Shall Sound (Messiah) and Foundling Hospital Anthem, Monteverdi’s popular Beatus Vir from his late liturgical works, and a Vivaldi favourite, the Dixit Dominus. It was an inspired programme choice of three baroque composers at their best.
Under the lively baton of Music Director, Richard Emms, and with the enthusiastic support of the youthful Queen’s Park Sinfonia who contributed a spring-like freshness to the scores, this concert with fully committed choir and soloists was a joy. The choir’s accomplished accompanist Rachel Bird was busy on keyboard throughout the programme.
These works demand a lot of concentration and accurate timing from any choir, being considerably energetic pieces that also need a subtlety of expression and the Stour Singers rose to the occasion to give the audience a very strong performance.
The vivid opening piece The Trumpet Shall Sound was brightly exemplified by one of the Sinfonia’s excellent trumpeters and bass baritone Julian Debreuil. The choral works were enriched with the professional interpretation of all the soloists. Both Susanna Fairbairn, soprano, and Cathy Bell, mezzo soprano, sang with a lyrical and moving expressiveness and with voices beautifully tuned in those duo passages echoing each other or in the exciting runs in the Dixit Dominus. The same must be said for Tom Raskin’s bright tenor sound and the vocal colour of Julian Debreuil’s bass baritone, who also shared some exciting duo passages. As a quartet the soloists performed well.
The whole programme resounded with an intuitive sense of balance and shared feeling between choir, orchestra and soloists to produce one of the best concerts of so many. Though musical content was sacred, this exhilarating performance with its considerable bounce simply made you smile.
Don’t miss this choir’s only other major public performance of the year at Christmas.
Thank you, Richard and all involved with the Stour Singers, for putting on such a fabulous concert last Saturday. What a wonderful performance. It makes us all realise how fortunate we are to have such talent both locally and accessible to the Town. We are truly privileged.
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.
Stour Singers are delighted that Darren Jeffery – who excelled in the title role in Handel’s Saul for us in May 2017 – 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!
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.
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.