The choir sang for the service of ‘Sunday Worship’ which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 from Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday 12 May. The music included pieces by Handel, Tippett, Vaughan Williams, and Bach. The Christian themes of innocence, temptation and the reward of virtue in Grimm’s Fairy Tales were explored, during this year of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of their publication.
If you missed the broadcast, you can hear the service on iPlayer. Available for four more days only!
So after a fair bit of to and fro-ing, we’ve had the dustpan and brush out, and tidied up a bit! Apart from the updated look, the most important parts to note are that the tour blogs are now properly integrated into the site, and we can now sell CDs via the Discography section via PayPal.
The discography (which is fairly extensive) will be fleshed out even more in the coming weeks: lots of reviews and tracklistings to add – we’ve got audio clips coming for some of the older CDs too, so you’ll be able to hear the choir as it was in the 80/90/00s. You can subscribe to the blog updates (which is essentially everything) on the front page, and also subscribe to the newsletter (which is only the really big announcements) too. Lots of other little tweaks too – please let us know if something doesn’t work, either via Facebook or directly via the contact form on the site.
The choir’s newest CD, Choirs of Angels – Music from the Eton Choirbook Vol. 2, has received the following review in the Sunday Times:
We hear relatively rarely the great and challenging repertoire of the 16th-century Eton Choirbook, sung by choirs of men and boys. This second volume of what one hopes will be a long series brings to five antiphons, each by a different composer, an abundant grace, sumptuousness and sense of space, with not a hint of frailty in the upper lines. The eight voice parts of John Browne’s ‘O Maria salvatoris mater’ are trumped by the nine of Robert Wylkynson’s ‘Salve regina’. Richard Davy, William Cornysh and Walter Lambe complete a highly desirable recital.
At the beginning of August the choir gave the opening concert of the International Choral Festival in the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing (known as ‘The Egg’ ) as well as concerts in the main concert halls in Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
The tour featured in the British Council’s UK Now 2012 festival of British Arts in China. We received standing ovations at the concerts but perhaps of even more significance, the Beijing concert was streamed live on the internet and there was a six-minute piece on CCTV which was broadcast throughout the country. It can be seen on HTTP://ENGLISH.CNTV.CN running from 4.28-10.40 T.
We understand that we reached several million people through the internet and TV, and there was also a video featuring us on all the central Metro stations.
In addition, Stephen Darlington spoke at two receptions. The first, in Beijing was hosted by the Beijing-based China-Oxford Centre for International Health Research and co-ordinated by Dr. Xuyu Jin, the Oxford based surgeon.
Representatives from the British Embassy and British Council were also in attendance. Attendees included Minister Rui-Chung DUAN the former Minister of Science and Technology who was the Chinese Chief Negotiator for entering the WTO treaty, Minister Jianguo ZHANG, currently Deputy Minister for Human Resources and Social Security and the Director of State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs and Ms Yueling QIU, the Director General of Beijing Customs. The second reception was organised by the Oxford alumni office in Hong Kong, and features in the latest ‘China Thinking’ bulletin.
The Choir flies to Beijing on 31 July for its first tour to China. The concerts are in three of the most prestigious new concert halls in the country starting with the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing. The concert programme will take audiences from the 14th to the 21st century, including works by Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Brahms, Gershwin, McCartney and Lennon.
Acis (Tenor) – Ben Hulett
Galatea (Soprano) – Jeni Bern
Polyphemus (Bass) – Brindley Sherratt
Damon (Tenor) – Nathan Vale
Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
Stephen Darlington, conductor
A few years ago I was made aware of the fact that the Bodeian Library holds an original manuscript of Mendelssohn’s arrangement of Handel’s masque Acis and Galatea. I thought it would be interesting to produce an edition of this manuscript for performance in 2009, the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death and the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn’s birth. The bulk of the work on the edition was undertaken by William Dawes (then a Lay Clerk in the Cathedral Choir), and this edition was first performed with the Oxford Philomusica Orchestra (Oxford University’s professional Orchestra in Residence), in the Sheldonian Theatre in June 2009. It was always my intention that we should produce a recording of the work and I am happy to say that the choir soloists and orchestra and I spent several days last February doing just that.
Mendelssohn is well-know for his revival of J S Bach’s St Matthew Passion, but he was equally acquainted with the music of Handel and, on the instruction of his teacher Carl Zelter, Mendelssohn orchestrated a number of Handel’s works including Acis and Galatea. There are those who have regarded these arrangements, much as Mozart’s, as academic exercises in becoming acquainted with the earlier composer’s style. However, Mendelssohn’s version has an integrity of its own which translates Handel’s original into a different aesthetic world. There are few alterations to the musical substance, but significant alterations to the orchestration and the response to the drama of the narrative. The result is a lively and imaginative version of Handel’s masterpiece which provides a fascinating insight into Mendelssohn’s imagination as a composer.
Stephen Darlington, Clive Driskill-Smith and the Choristers feature with Gyles Brandreth in BBC TV’s The One Show on Monday 4 June at 7.00pm. The film is about William Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’ march and his life as a chorister at Christ Church.