Another QuaranTune with a romantic connection

This week, 2nd soprano Heidi introduces Nunc Dimittis by Gustav Holst.

This is one of her favourite pieces in our current repertoire and she has fond memories of singing it with current and former members at a very special occasion.

Nunc Dimittis was written for Westminster Cathedral Choir and was first performed by them in 1915.

The words can be translated as follows:

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace.
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum. Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum.
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat, nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorem.
Amen.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen: thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

A virtual concert to round off our 51st season

On Saturday 11 July, we should have been celebrating the end of our 51st season by performing a joint concert in Swindon with Aldbourne Band.

Instead, we have pulled together a selection of pieces, recorded by ourselves and others. These include some choir favourites, along with new items that you can look forward to hearing next season.

Following this you can hear a taste of what Aldbourne Band had in store for you with a set of six of their favourite pieces. We finish with the joint finale that we had hoped to perform alongside Aldbourne Band.

You can view this virtual concert below, or on YouTube.

The programme is as follows:

Reading Phoenix Choir

  • Loquebantur Variis, Thomas Tallis
  • Requiem Aeternam, Herbert Howells
  • Behold O God our Defender, John Scott
  • Hymn to the Creator of Light, John Rutter
  • Lux Aurumque, Eric Whitacre
  • Flame, Ben Parry
  • Three Shakespeare Songs: No. 2, The Cloud-Capp’d Towers, Vaughan Williams
  • Danny Boy, trad arr. Rathbone
  • The Battle of Jericho, trad arr. Hogan
  • Chili Con Carne, Anders Endenroth

Aldbourne Band

  • Pavane (Ravel)
  • Montagues and Capulets (Prokofiev)
  • Lark in the Clear Air
  • West Country Fantasy
  • The Lost Chord
  • The Dirty Duck

Joint Finale

  • Gloria: I. Allegro vivace, John Rutter

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A QuaranTune that evokes memories of York Minster

Our fifth QuaranTune has been selected by former member Dan. He has chosen Os Justi by Anton Bruckner, a favourite of many members of the choir.

For Dan, it brings back special memories of both his wedding and of singing in York Minster.

Os Justi is a sacred motet that was composed in 1879. The words and translation are as follows:

Os justi meditabitur sapientiam: et lingua ejus loquetur judicium.
Lex Dei ejus in corde ipsius: et non supplantabuntur gressus ejus. Alleluia.
Inveni David servum meum, oleo sancto meo unxi eum. Alleluia.

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.
The law of his God is in his heart: and his feet do not falter. Alleluia.
I have found David, my servant; I have anointed him with my holy oil. Alleluia.

A QuaranTune with a German Connection

Second alto, Edna, introduces our fourth QuaranTune, AbenLied by Josef Rheinberger. Did hearing us sing in her native German encourage her to join us?

Abendlied (Evening song), is a sacred motet for a six-part mixed choir (SSATTB). It is regarded as Rheinberger’s best-known sacred composition, with the first version written in 1855 when he was just 15.

The original text and a translation are as follows:

Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, und der Tag hat sich geneiget.

Bide with us, for evening shadows darken, and the day will soon be over.

This live recording was made at Reading Town Hall in May 2015.

A surprising QuaranTune choice

This third QuaranTune has been picked by Alice, one of our first sopranos. She has chosen If Ye Love Me by English composer Thomas Tallis, despite it being a piece that only features our tenors and basses!

If Ye Love Me is a four-part setting of a passage from the Gospel of John. It was first published in 1565 during the reign of Elizabeth I. The lyrics are as follows:

If ye love me
Keep my commandments
And I will pray the Father
And he shall give you another comforter
That he may ‘bide with you forever
E’en the spirit of truth

This gorgeous recording was made live at our concert at St Clement Danes, London in January 2014.

Our second QuaranTune is a popular choice

Our second QuranTune is Soneto de la Noche by Morten Lauridsen.

Pablo Neruda’s stunning love poem provides the inspiration for this passionate second movement of Lauridsen’s song cycle, Nocturnes.

It was a popular choice, suggested by both bass Phil and soprano Helen. The video starts with them sharing their written introductions and memories of performing this beautiful piece and is followed by a translation of the Spanish words.

This recording was filmed at Santuario de la Peregrina, Sahagún during our tour to Spain in April 2018.

Welcome to our first Virtual Concert

On Saturday 13 June, we were due to be performing a Joint concert in Twyford with Jewel Tones.

Instead, we invite you to join us for a programme of recordings (by a wide range of choirs) of the pieces that would have been performed by the two choirs at this concert.

You can view this below, or on YouTube.

The programme is as follows:

RPC

  • Libera Nos – Sheppard
  • Alleluia Ascendit Deus – Byrd
  • God be in My Head – Rutter
  • Coelos Ascendit Hodie – Stanford
  • Nunc Dimittis – Holst
  • O Oriens – McDowall
  • The Music of Stillness – Hagenberg
  • Wide Open Spaces – Quartel
  • The Bare Necessities – Gilkyson, arr Hare

Jewel Tones

  • Hallelujah, Get happy – arr Gilpin
  • Astonishing from Little Women – arr Brymer
  • The wayfaring stranger – arr Gilpin
  • Flying free – Don Besig

Joint Piece

  • Sing – Pentatonix, arr. Brymer

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Current Chair Lorna shares her QuaranTune

Our first QuranTune is O Magnum Mysterium by Spanish Renaissance composer Cristobal de Morales. It is introduced by Lorna, the current Chair of the choir.

A translation of the lyrics is as follows:

O great mystery and wonderful sacrament
that even the animals saw
the new-born Lord lying in a manger.
Blessed Virgin, whose womb was worthy to bear our Lord Christ.
Lord, I heard your speech and was afraid:
I considered your works, and became frightened
as if I am between two beasts.

This recording was filmed at Santuario de la Peregrina, Sahagún during our tour to Spain in April 2018.

Celebrating 50 Golden Years

On 17th September 2018 Reading Phoenix Choir launch their 50th season and embark on a year full of musical events and activities.

To kick start celebrations for their 50th year and release the first track of the new CD Golden Phoenix, the choir invites past members to join them at this rehearsal on 17th September. This rehearsal will be a preview of the 50th season finale, the Gala concert in July 2019, when members and ex-members from the choir’s 50 year history will join together again. This Gala concert at the Great Hall, University of Reading, will include performances by present Phoenicians, former members and guest conductors to perform the top rated songs from the repertoire of the last 50 years.

Chris Hann, Musical Director says:

‘I am hugely excited about our 50th season. Not only does it give us the opportunity to reflect upon the many wonderful achievements of the choir over the past 50 years and re-connect with ex members, but also to look forward to what promises to be a very bright and exciting future.’

Over the course of the year the choir will also be celebrating its history of charitable giving, community involvement and first class music making by partnering with a number of different charities, creating a collaborative artwork with audience members, hosting a Come and Sing of Handel’s Messiah, and performing the winning piece from the inaugural Walter Hussey Composition Competition. This will take place at the Annual Concert in March 2019, at which Head Judge Kerry Andrew and her alt-folk group You Are Wolf will perform. Additionally further CD tracks will be released throughout the year.

The choir invites the people of Reading to join in our celebrations and help us gather as much Reading Phoenix Choir memorabilia, photographs, news stories and personal memories as possible to celebrate this milestone. This will be collated on our 50th anniversary website www.rpc50.com, live from 17th September.

For more information on the programme of events and activities for the 50th season join our mailing list at www.rpc50.com/email or for concert details visit www.readingphoenixchoir.com/concerts.

For interviews and more information contact Alice Watson on publicity@readingphoenixchoir.com.

Time for a ‘Right Royal’ Come and Sing!

Join Reading Phoenix Choir at our 6th annual Come and Sing to perform a selection of music that draws upon 230 years of choral music devoted to the Royal Family.

On Saturday 14th July 2018, Reading Phoenix Choir will take over Reading Minster to host a workshop and concert to celebrate the addition of two new members of the Royal Family. Participants will learn a range of pieces composed for royal occasions, from the well-known Zadok the Priest, commissioned to mark the coronation of George II in 1727, to the more recent Behold O God Our Defender, written to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.

Reading Phoenix Choir Musical Director Chris Hann says

‘Our Come and Sing is one of the highlights of our singing season and this year’s Royal theme will make it extra special following the recent birth of Prince Louis and the Royal Wedding in May. We invite all singers to join us and take the opportunity to sing some of the most iconic choral pieces in the history of the English monarchy.’

An earlybird price of £20 is available for the Come and Sing workshop (including scores) until 31st May, after which they revert to full price at £25. Concert tickets are £5 on the door, unless purchased alongside a Come and Sing workshop ticket where a £2 discount will be applied when using the discount code ROYALC&S at checkout. The workshop runs from 1pm with the performance starting at 6.30pm.

All singers are welcome.

More details can be found here and tickets can be purchased here.

The full programme includes:

  • Zadok the Priest | Handel
  • I Was Glad | Parry
  • Blest Pair of Sirens | Parry
  • Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace | Wesley
  • Behold O God Our Defender | Scott

 

Annual Concert leads the way to a Golden year

On Saturday 3rd March 2018, Reading Phoenix Choir will host their 49th Annual Concert, the highlight of their concert season and a precursor to celebrations for their 50th year.

This year’s Annual Concert ‘Gloria!’ will take place in the heart of Reading at the Concert Hall and will contain a varied choral programme representative of the choir’s recognisable style. The choir will perform Rutter’s Gloria with the Phoenix Brass Ensemble as well as highlights from Rachmaninov’s Vespers and Howells’ Requiem. This will be followed by a selection of lighter pieces from their repertoire including Whitacre’s Lux Arumque, and arrangements of Freddie Mercury’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and David Bowie’s Life on Mars.

Chris Hann, Musical Director of Reading Phoenix Choir, says:

‘The Annual Concert is a fantastic opportunity for supporters of the choir, both old and new, to experience the very best of Reading Phoenix Choir. It is the highlight of the season and offers a show reel of what we do best. If you go to any concert in Reading this year, this has to be it!’

Not only will this concert be a jam packed evening of fantastic music making but it will also provide the perfect opportunity for any budding choral composers, interested in entering our recently launched choral composition competition, to experience the choir in its full glory. The concert will enable potential competition entrants to realise what the choir, recognised as one of the best amateur choirs in the country, is truly capable of.

The Walter Hussey Composition Competition, launched in January 2018 and boasting a £750 prize and a line-up of top judges, is proving to be an exciting subject of discussion among the composing world. The momentum is building for the new competition with over 100 up and coming composers having registered interest in submitting an entry.

The theme of the inaugural competition is ‘Gold’ to coincide with the choir’s upcoming 50th season. Reading Phoenix Choir will perform the world premiere of the winning entry at their 50th year Annual Concert on 9th March 2019 at Reading Concert Hall.

‘Gloria’ is at 7.30pm on Saturday 3rd March at the Concert Hall, Blagrave Street, Reading, RG1 1QH. Tickets (full price: £20, £17, under 16s: £7.50) are available from the Reading Arts Box Office website or on 0118 960 6060.

Reading Phoenix Choir Launches Choral Composition Competition

On Tuesday 9th January 2018, Reading Phoenix Choir launches an exciting new international choral composition competition.

The Walter Hussey Composition Competition, with a £750 prize and a line-up of top judges, promises to become one of the leading choral composition competitions of our time.

The adjudication panel for the inaugural year will comprise of four time winner of the British Composer Awards Kerry Andrew, internationally acclaimed film composer Andrew McKenna, and award winning conductor and vocal coach Anthony Jenner, alongside representatives from Reading Phoenix Choir.

Kerry Andrew says

I am really excited to be judging Reading Phoenix Choir’s first composition competition! I’m looking forward to seeing some new choral music that both works for voices and feels exciting and new.’ 

The competition is named in honour of Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral from 1955 to 1977, who commissioned many choral works throughout his lifetime. It was at Chichester that choir member Howard Jenner, and his brother and competition judge Anthony Jenner, were choristers under the guidance of Hussey. Inspired by the commitment of Walter Hussey to support the work of composers, musicians and artists, financially as well as intellectually, the idea for a composition competition evolved.

Howard Jenner says

‘Since the initial discussions about where the choir could get their next piece of new music, the team have put together and executed a launch plan about which I am very proud and excited. A potential commission turned into an idea for a competition and I cannot wait to hear the completely new sounds that the composers will be creating.’

The theme of the inaugural competition is ‘Gold’ to coincide with the choir’s upcoming 50th season. Reading Phoenix Choir will perform the world premiere of the winning entry at their 50th year Annual Concert on 9th March 2019 at Reading Concert Hall.

During its history Reading Phoenix Choir have given first performances of more than 25 pieces written and arranged by composers from all over the world, including well-known names such as Bob Chilcott, Andrew Carter and Donald Swann. Most recently, in 2016, the choir were involved in the premiere of ‘The Voyage’, a joint project between Bob Chilcott and Age UK Oxfordshire.

Chris Hann, Musical Director of Reading Phoenix Choir, says

Reading Phoenix Choir has a long standing tradition of commissioning new music. What better way to build on this and discover new music than by holding our own composition competition. New music is the life blood of the music business so I am hugely excited about this competition and the new works we will discover.

The closing date for competition entries is 1st July 2018. Entrants must be aged 16 or over. The winner of the competition will be announced in March 2019.

For more information about the competition visit www.walterhussey.com.

Reading Phoenix Choir offers sanctuary at Reading Minster this Christmas time

Come in out of the cold to experience and enjoy the sanctuary of Reading Minster at Reading Phoenix Choir’s annual Carol Concert this Saturday!

On 16th December 2017, Reading Phoenix Choir will host a magical evening filled with Christmas music in aid of local cause Reading Minster Sanctuary. Every Saturday night the Sanctuary provides a place of refuge, recovery and refreshment for those in need – which everyone hopes to have at this time of year. Money raised from ticket sales will help to keep this service running.

The concert programme will be full of Christmas favourites – some sung by the choir, others for the audience to join in with – as well as a selection of readings. There will certainly be something for everyone, including some seasonal foody treats.

Over its 49-year history, Reading Phoenix Choir, which is one of the UK’s finest amateur choirs, has raised over £300,000 for a range of local and national charities. This charitable activity is close to the hearts of its members and is a core function of the organisation.

Reading Phoenix Choir Chair, Chris Riley, says:

‘We are delighted to return to Reading Minster for our annual Carol Concert. This concert is one of the highlights of our singing season and we are proud that every year we are able to use the proceeds to help fund services for the local community. This year we look forward to partnering with Reading Minster Sanctuary and to support their provision for vulnerable people in Reading.’

Reading Phoenix Choir’s Carol Concert is at Reading Minster, St Mary Butts, Reading RG1 2XH and starts at 5pm.

Tickets are available via www.readingphoenixchoir.org.uk/tickets, the Cards for Good Causes stand in Reading Minster, or on the door.

What’s it like to sing and listen at Douai Abbey?

Having had a week to recover from our recent concert at Douai Abbey, we thought we’d ask a couple of people what it was like, both singing and listening.

First up, Lorna on her First Night Nerves…

The concert at Douai Abbey was my first opportunity to perform with Reading Phoenix Choir. I had been to eight weeks of rehearsals and had (just about) learnt six pieces. Because the choir sings most pieces entirely from memory, new members are invited to sing in the parts of the concert where they know the pieces and to listen to the rest. So, this was my first time hearing the choir as well as being part of it.

I was nervous and glad to have the support of my very knowledgeable and experienced choir buddy, who knew the choir’s system and the venue very well.

After two hours rehearsing, we went for an early dinner at a nearby pub where I had the chance to meet and chat to other members of the choir. They are a friendly, welcoming crowd, all were very keen to encourage me before my first performance.

Having changed into my black ‘uniform’, wearing my new patent leather shoes (all part of the Phoenix Choir dress code), I anxiously read and reread the music that I had learnt, trying to convince myself that I knew exactly where all the alto entries were. Douai Abbey has wonderful acoustics, but that does mean that a lone voice in the wrong place would be heard throughout the building.

The time came, and we walked to our places while singing Jerusalem. I had learnt earlier in the day that the choir always starts a concert singing while walking into position. I ducked behind a pillar and listened to the choir singing the pieces I haven’t yet learnt, and they sounded wonderful – rich, full and resonant. No pressure! I stepped into position for the last three pieces of the first half and managed to sing most of the right notes in the right order. Phew!

After the interval, during which lots of people asked how I was faring (well) and offered advice and support (very much appreciated), we were back on for the second half. Once again, I was grateful to be guided by my buddy who made sure I was in the right place at the right time. After singing another six pieces, with more confidence than in the first half, I moved to sit in the audience to enjoy the rest of the concert.

So, I have reached and passed this big milestone – my first concert. It is a long time since I have been part of a choir so this feels like a rite of passage. There is, however, no time for complacency as there is much festive music to learn before the Carol Concert on 16th December!

And here’s what Phil had to say about coming to see his new choir in action…

Douai Abbey must be almost the perfect venue for choral singing. It has amazing acoustics but also its shape and size offer wonderful opportunities for dramatic impact. The start of Saturday’s concert at Douai was spine-tingling as we heard the melody of Parry’s Jerusalem hummed softly by the choir from behind us. Then as the choir processed up the side aisles, singing the familiar words, we became surrounded by gorgeous harmonies – a totally involving audience experience.

I really enjoyed the concert. I have seen Phoenix many times over the years but this felt different as I Iistened not just as a concert-goer but also as a choir member, mentally following the bass line in the pieces that I am familiar with. There was so much to enjoy at this concert but I particularly liked the two Stephen Paulus pieces, the Victoria and the atmospheric Tebye Poyem at the conclusion of the concert.

During the interval (as well as before and after) I was manning the RPC display table. I am pleased to report that I was kept busy with CD sales and that there was a lot of interest generally in the choir. One lady couldn’t make up her mind which CD to buy so purchased all three!

I do of course look forward to performing with the choir in due course and I am hopeful of singing at the Carol Concert in Reading Minster. I have to say that I am still a little disbelieving that I am rehearsing with the choir that I have admired so much in the past. Singing choral pieces (as opposed to merely listening to them) is relatively new to me but I am enjoying the experience and loving the music. Did I read somewhere that the choir is bringing back Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque? Wow! Can’t wait!!

Joining a new choir can be a daunting experience but I only have praise for the welcome I have received and for the impressive organisation to kit me out with song lists, music, members access and much else. Thank you.

Armistice Day concert to raise money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity

On Saturday 11th November, Reading Phoenix Choir will join together with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity to raise money for The National Charity of the British Army, who provide lifelong support to soldiers and veterans, as well as their immediate families, when they are in need.

Musical Director Christopher Hann says,

‘I am delighted that Reading Phoenix Choir is returning to Douai Abbey and we look forward to putting on a concert to commemorate Armistice Day. We are also immensely proud to be raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity to support the vital work that they undertake to provide assistance to soldiers and veterans.’

Chairman of Berkshire ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Brigadier (Retired) Peter Walker says,

‘We are delighted that the Phoenix Choir is going to perform at the Abbey to support the Charity for what will be a superb evening of music. We also wish to thank the Abbey for allowing this concert to take place in such a wonderful setting.’

The concert will take place at 7.30pm at the beautiful Douai Abbey in Upper Woolhampton. Performing the best examples of the choir’s extensive repertoire, the varied programme will include the hauntingly beautiful Howells’ Requiem, alongside Lotti’s Crucifixus and works by Tallis, Victoria, Brahms and Rachmaninov.

If you’ve never heard the choir before, then be prepared to be blown away by their quality and love of music-making. The choir demonstrates its excellence by singing predominantly unaccompanied and performs everything entirely from memory, allowing a real connection with the audience.

Tickets are £12 (£10 for concessions, £5 for under 16s) and are available to purchase from Newbury Corn Exchange (https://cornexchangenew.com/event/an-armistice-day-concert-in-support-of-abf-the-soldiers-charity)