Our Stories


Being a member of Reading Phoenix Choir is so much more than just rehearsing, singing and performing brilliant music.

One of the key attractions of being a member of Phoenix is that we are a very social choir.  It's impossible not to make new friends and to enjoy the social life that comes from being in a group of like-minded people. 

In normal times, the choir would be planning get-togethers such as restaurant night outs or Friday pub nights,  Concert days usually finish off with a visit to a local hostelry for a  drink and chat with friends and family -  or to regale the highlights of the concert.

Covid-19 has obviously had a huge impact on the choir and our social activities -  but it has not stopped us from being creative in keeping the music alive and keeping in touch.

As well as creating Virtual Concerts from past performances, back in June we started the online concept of Quarantunes – a collection of memorable pieces from the choir’s repertoire chosen and introduced by current and former members of the choir.

  • 12 - QuaranTune from Douai Abbey
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    12 - QuaranTune from Douai Abbey

    Our latest QuaranTune is Evening Hymn by Henry Balfour Gardiner. It was chosen by Howard who sings tenor in choir.

    Evening Hymn is a classic of English choral music. Written in 1908, it is Balfour Gardiner’s most well known piece in which he sets the hymn Te Lucis Ante Terminum for choir and organ.

    This recording was made by an audience member at a performance by the choir at Douai Abbey in 2013 and gives the viewer the impression they are attending the concert live.

    YouTube Video URL:
  • 11 - A winning but sleepy QuaranTune
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    11 - A winning but sleepy QuaranTune
    Our 11th QuaranTune is Sleep by American composer Eric Whitacre. This was chosen by soprano Gill, who recalls choir winning the British Heart Foundation’s Scratch Choral Challenge and performing it at the Royal Albert Hall.

    The lyrics are by the poet Charles Anthony Silvestri.

    The evening hangs beneath the moon
    A silver thread on darkened dune
    With closing eyes and resting head
    I know that sleep is coming soon

    Upon my pillow safe in bed
    A thousand pictures fill my head
    I cannot sleep, my mind’s a-flight
    And yet my limbs seem made of lead

    If there are noises in the night
    A frightening shadow, flickering light
    As I surrender unto sleep
    Where clouds of dream give second sight

    What dreams may come both dark and deep
    On flying wings and soaring leap
    As I surrender unto sleep (Dark and Deep)
    Sleep (Sleep)

    This recording comes from the choir’s 40th anniversary CD

    YouTube Video URL:
  • 10 - A Truly Golden QuaranTune
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    10 - A Truly Golden QuaranTune

    This QuaranTune was been chosen by regular audience member, Emily. Her pick is Golden Day by Gerson Batista.

    Golden Day was the winner of our inaugural Walter Hussey Composition Competition and was premiered during our 50th season at a concert in Reading Concert Hall, with Portuguese composer Batista in attendance.

    That performance also won the Performance of the Year at Reading Cultural Awards 2019.

    This version was recorded back in February and is available to stream or buy from all the usual channels (iTunesSpotify).

    YouTube Video URL:
  • 9 - A QuaranTune that builds to a thrilling climax
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    9 - A QuaranTune that builds to a thrilling climax
    Second soprano Fiona introduces this QuaranTune – Song for Athene by John Tavener.

    Originally commissioned by the BBC in 1993 this piece was written by John Tavener as a tribute to a friend killed in a cycling accident. It is perhaps more famously known for being performed by Westminster Abbey Choir for Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.

    The words are drawn from a combination of the Orthodox funeral service and Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

    This version was recorded by Reading Phoenix Choir at a concert in Wells-next-the-Sea in June 2011.
    YouTube Video URL:
  • 8 - A QuaranTune recorded for our Golden Phoenix album
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    8 - A QuaranTune recorded for our Golden Phoenix album
    In this QuaranTune, soprano Jenny introduces a piece from Howells’ Requiem that became a feature of the choir’s repertoire thanks to Musical Director Christopher Hann’s keen interest in Howell’s music – Requiem Aeternam (1).

    Herbert Howells was an English composer, organist, and teacher, most famous for his large output of Anglican church music. Despite writing this Requiem in 1932/3 it was not published until the 1980s. It is written for an unaccompanied double choir and is said to be inspired by the light shining through the East window of Gloucester Cathedral which is particularly relevant to the Requiem Aeternam.

    The words are as follows:
    Requiem aeternam dona eis. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
    Rest eternal grant unto them. And may light perpetual shine upon them. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord.
    This recording was made for our Golden Phoenix album as part of our 50th season celebrations. It can purchased via Amazon or iTunes, and streamed on Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, Pandora, Shazam and many others.
    YouTube Video URL:
  • 7 - A QuaranTune that keeps returning to choir’s repertoire
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    7 - A QuaranTune that keeps returning to choir’s repertoire
    This QuaranTune was chosen by long-standing soprano and choir chair Rosie. She has picked Sergei Rachmaninov’s Bororoditse Devo, which has made many appearances in concerts over the years.

    This glorious piece forms part of Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil. It premiered on 23 March 1915 in Moscow and consists of settings of texts taken from the Russian Orthodox all-night vigil ceremony. It has been praised as Rachmaninov’s finest achievement. It was one of Rachmaninov’s two favorite compositions along with The Bells, and the composer requested that its fifth movement (Nunc Dimittis) be sung at his funeral.

    The text can be translated as follows:
    Bogoróditse Dyévo, ráduisya, Blagodátnaya Maríye, Gospód s tobóyu.
    Blagoslovyéna ty v zhenákh, i blagoslovyén plod chryéva tvoyevó, yáko Spása rodilá yesí dush náshikh.

    Rejoice, virgin mother of God, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
    Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, for you have borne the Savior of our souls.

    This performance was recorded at the Iglesia de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora, Melgar de Fernamental, Spain in April 2018.
    YouTube Video URL:
  • 6 - Another QuaranTune with a romantic connection
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    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.

    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.

    YouTube Video URL:
  • 5 - A QuaranTune that evokes memories of York Minster
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    5 -  A QuaranTune that evokes memories of York Minster
    Our fifth QuaranTune was 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.

    YouTube Video URL:
  • 4 - A QuaranTune with a German Connection
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    4 - 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.
    YouTube Video URL:
  • 3 - A surprising QuaranTune choice
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    3 - A surprising QuaranTune choice
    This third QuaranTune was 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.
    YouTube Video URL:
  • 2 - A popular QuaranTune choir choice
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    2 - A popular QuaranTune choir choice
    This QuranTune choice 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.
    YouTube Video URL:
  • 1 - A Spanish Renaissance QuaranTune
  •  Date Posted: Sun, 24 Jan 2021
    1 - A Spanish Renaissance QuaranTune
    Our first QuranTune introduced by Lorna is 'O Magnum Mysterium' by Spanish Renaissance composer Cristobal de Morales.

    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.
    YouTube Video URL: