Spring Concert review

On the first weekend of May the Chelmsford Singers made a welcome return to St
Luke’s Church in Tiptree for a late Spring concert of sacred choral works by Felix
Mendelssohn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The choir was joined by four superb soloists: Jessica Edom-Carey, Alexander
Pullinger, Tom Stapleton, and Theo Perry, accompanied on St Luke’s fine organ by
Stephen King, organist of Brentwood Cathedral.
The programme included two organ solos by Stephen. In the first half the
Consolation in D flat by Franz Liszt separated the ebullient Regina Coeli K 276 by
Mozart (with its coincidental echoes of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus) and the rarely performed Lauda Sion by Felix Mendelssohn, a tuneful and substantial work that
delighted the audience and showed off both choir and solo quartet to great effect.
The second half began with Bach’s Prelude and Fuge in C major, after which the
choir launched without further introduction into Mozart’s much-loved Solemn
Vespers K 339.
The Vespers contains the famous Laudate Dominum, for solo soprano and choir, one of two solo movements for Jessica Edom-Carey in the concert, and her warm and powerful voice filled the church to stunning effect, especially in the Mozart where she was accompanied gently by the choir.
The choir was on very fine form throughout, employing expressively soft singing and
commanding power with a great variety of colours in between, and the reaction of
the audience paid a fine tribute to the hard work that went into a sparkling concert.

James Whitbourn (1963-2024)

The Chelmsford Singers enjoy opportunities to work with composers on their music, and it was very special to have James Whitbourn with us for our first performance of Annelies – his breadth of musical knowledge and ability to create moods make this a very moving and dramatic work and we enjoyed his presence and encouragement in rehearsal and the pre-concert talk he gave as part of the performance.

His musical influence was huge both in the UK and in the USA and he will be greatly missed – we were pleased to have met him and sung his beautiful music which will live on.

May Concert

Rehearsals are going well in preparation for our next concert on Saturday, May 4th in St Luke’s Church, Tiptree. This term we are focussing on pieces from the Classical and Romantic periods:  Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore and Regina coeli and Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion. Three wonderful, inspirational, radiant pieces that make our voices soar and prove that church music can be joyful. Our secretary Martin has sent internet links to all members of the choir so we can practice at home

Very latest news is that we are very fortunate to have a new accompanist: the brilliant, international pianist Tim Carey who brings his expertise and humour to each rehearsal.

The concert on May 4th will be lively and exciting. Tickets available here. Do come and join us!

Concert Review

Saturday 27th January, Holocaust Memorial Day, we had the great privilege to be part of the audience at Christchurch for the Chelmsford Singers’ concert, commemorating this solemn and important day.

Under the direction of James Davy, the singers gave a powerful rendition of ‘Annelies’ by James Whitbourn. This 75-minute choral work for soprano soloist, choir and four instrumentalists (Elizabeth Drew, Marianne Olyver, David Burrowes and Tim Carey) has a libretto compiled from the Diary of Anne Frank. Soprano soloist, Samantha Hay, beautifully sang the poignant extracts from the diary with the choir bringing dramatic life to the tragic story of this remarkable teenager’s last years hiding in the secret annex. One memorable line, ‘One day this terrible war will be over, and we will be people again, and not just Jews,’ was written only a few months before her capture and murder by the Nazis. The energy, focus and clear articulation of the singers, combined with both dissonant and warm harmonies of the music, made this moment starkly moving and potent. The reaction of the audience at the end of the piece spoke volumes as to the impact of the evening – complete silence followed by rapturous applause.

‘Annelies’ was the culmination of an extraordinary programme, the first half consisting of works created during the Holocaust: three motets by Hugo Distler, who took his own life in 1942 in response to the horrors of the Nazi regime, and four movements from Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time’, which was composed in a Nazi prisoner of war camp in 1941. The Distler was performed by the choir unaccompanied and set the tone of the evening with haunting and beautiful harmonies. The choir’s ability to create such a gentle and mournful sound was mesmerizing, particularly in ‘Selig sind die Toten’ (Blessed are the dead).

The Messiaen, a most unusual and challenging piece, was helpfully introduced by clarinetist Elizabeth Drew, making the following astonishing performance both accessible and captivating. The clarinet solo combined incredible mastery of technique with great sensitivity and power. The control of breath caused the audience to hold theirs in sympathy – it was one of the most remarkable clarinet performances we have ever experienced. The final movement, a violin solo of immense difficulty and intense beauty, was performed with such energy, enthusiasm and feeling by Marianne Olyver, that it made the perfect end to a thrilling first half.

This exceptional evening was introduced and carried so sensitively and appropriately by James Davy, allowing the audience to experience both deep reflection and express strong appreciation for this most fitting memorial. It was notable how much discussion and strength of feeling was expressed by the audience in the wake of the concert – many chose not to rise from their seats for some time and instead either sat in contemplation or talked at length with their partners about what they had just witnessed.

We both feel moved now to go and re-read The Diary of Anne Frank…and practise our instruments!

Charlotte Jones and Eve Starr

Extra -Curricula  Christmas Events for the Singers.

The United Brethren New Writtle Street Chelmsford.

A band of Singers’ Carollers were invited to entertain the Revellers and their families in the  garden of the UB pub in a giant decorated Tepee on the afternoon of Sunday 17th December. We were extremely well received, and the audience’s  participation increased as the afternoon wore on and their partaking of beverages had the usual effect.

Christmas Eve Morning The Sadie Nine Show BBC Radio Essex

At very short notice, a similar small group performed four carols live, broadcasting from the Studios in New London Road. The show was completely unscripted and our host, the ever exuberant Sadie, put everybody at their ease and it was a very enjoyable and exciting experience. James did an excellent job at selling The Singers setting out what we did and  what we could offer.

Vibrant Christmas Concert

The Chelmsford Singers celebrated Christmas at St Michael’s Galleywood with a vibrant feast of carols old and new, including arrangements by MD James Davy and long-time choir favourite Cecilia McDowall, whose A Winter’s Night brings new life to traditional carols in English, French, German, and Latin; the choir switched between languages with aplomb, enjoying the rhythmic intricacies and stylish effects of the work.
There were audience carols in number, with the sizeable crowd adding their voices lustily, especially in ‘While shepherds watched’, to the tune of ‘Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at’. Readings by choir members and organ solos by Chelmsford Cathedral Sub-Organist Sam Bristow gave extra interest, with Sam’s adept accompaniment a particular highlight on his first outing with the Singers.
Our conductor brought his usual repartee to proceedings, as well as some enjoyable arrangements of The First Nowell and O come all ye faithful.
As always there was something for everyone and it was good to see a large audience visibly enjoying the hard work that the choir put in, with a fresh and flexible sound and a real relish for the music.

Summer Concert Review

The Singers joined forces with Michael Horner and his trio for a concert of fresh arrangements of old favourites including The Teddy Bears’ Picnic, I do like to be beside the seaside, My love is like a red, red rose and arrangements of folk songs for choir and jazz trio by Bob Chilcott.

An enthusiastic audience filled St Andrew’s Church in Melbourne for this light summer event and went away full of good tunes, sumptuous singing and pre-concert chat and drinks, as Singers’ concerts are more than just musical occasions!

The choir sounded on top form with bright and fulsome blend, and tackled some challenging repertoire with aplomb; in ending with Bob Chilcott’s Irish Blessing we paid tribute to our departing accompanist, Matthew Kelley, as he completes two years with us and Chelmsford Cathedral.

Summer Concert

Saturday 1st July 2023 St Andrews Church, Melbourne, CM1 2DT

An evening of light music for a Summer’s evening performed by The Chelmsford Singers and the Michael Horner Trio featuring Jazz Folk Songs by Bob Chilcott and a feast of familiar tunes in varied arrangements – it promises to be fun!

Spring Concert Review

The Chelmsford Singers recently took a brief visit to the Bavarian Highlands courtesy of Edward Elgar who set poems by his wife Alice following a holiday in the area: the songs give the choir an excellent opportunity to show their range and skill and the Singers brought them off with style and panache, accompanied very capably by their accompanist Matthew Kelley. 

Attractive partsongs by Gustav Holst, setting largely unfamiliar texts, formed part of the programme along with imaginative folk-song arrangements by John Rutter, giving opportunities for each voice part to have solo lines and the other parts accompanied effectively and sensitively.

Two rarely-heard works by Armstrong Gibbs completed the choral offering: ‘How Happy the Lover’, a setting of words by Dryden in a pastiche contemporary style was followed by the ballad ‘Keith of Ravelston’ a dramatic miniature with demanding parts for the choir despite its brief length. Poems by John Clare and Arthur Shearly Cripps, read by choir members, offered a change of texture and organ solos by Amstrong Gibbs, played by James Davy, rounded out this evening of music for spring, sending the enthusiastic audience away with a light step!

Our next concert will be on Saturday 1 July, featuring music for choir and jazz trio including works by Bob Chilcott, John Rutter, and a feast of favourite songs in arrangements for a light-hearted Summer’s evening. Tickets available soon.

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