NEWS & RECENT EVENTS
Come & Sing 'Choral Classics'- a great fun singing day
Around 130 singers squashed into the lovely St Cuthbert's Church in Edinburgh for a fun day learning all the choral pieces you've always wanted to sing. I always enjoy working with the wide-range of abilities within the massed voices, and they did a great job in a programme ranging from Zadok the Priest through Puccini's Humming Chorus to Bach's Ascension Oratorio opening chorus- only a little too ambitious perhaps! It was also great to sing Parry's ever-popular coronation anthem I was glad complete with the up-to-date 'Vivat's!
"The Chorus was immense..." Verdi Requiem
A monumental finale to close my first season as Chorus Director of the RSNO Chorus. Verdi's Requiem needs a mighty choral force to adequately reflect its drama and so I invited the Garleton Singers to join the RSNO, making up a choir of some 190 voices! What a triumph, with 5 star reviews commending the performances in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
'In praise of singing and the organ'
Edinburgh Bach Choir undertook a rare activity- a tour all the way from Edinburgh to Linlithgow! Not very much of a journey, to be fair, but so good to get the chance to perform Kodaly's monumental Missa Brevis and Laudes Organi twice.
RSNO Chorus a capella
While the RSNO Chorus performs most often with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, it was wonderful to have the opportunity for the Chorus to appear in their own right, and to perform a radically different type of concert, entirely unaccompanied. Tippett Spirituals, James MacMillan's Who shall separate us? and Janet Beat's Bow thine ear were included along with music for double choir- Schütz Singet dem Herrn and Rheinberger's glorious Mass in Eb, Cantus Missae.
Bach's Christmas Oratorio, complete with 'Bachian' carols!
Edinburgh Bach Choir delivered a wonderful Christmas musical feast with a performance of Bach's major work, the Christmas Oratorio. However, whereas similar concerts might only include perhaps Parts 1-3, I devised a concert that required only two soloists, contained all of the main choral numbers, and included audience carols such as 'O little town of Bethlehem' and 'O come all ye faithful', but re-arranged to use Bach's music and flowing immediately from the final chorale of each part. A wonderful, collegiate performance, enjoyed by choir, orchestra and audience alike!
Gaspard's Christmas- first recording!
I was hardly in the door in my new position when I was invited to conduct the RSNO, along with an enthusiastic community choir, in Jonathan Dove's new musical tale of Zeb Soames' book, Gaspard's Christmas. A wonderful couple of sessions, culminating a few months later in two performances leading up to Christmas and a broadcast of the 'carol' on Classic FM on Christmas Day! Great fun! You can find a few more photos from this great project here.
Semur-en-Auxois Collegiate Church Organ!
An unexpected holiday treat- getting to put this wonderful Classical French organ through its paces! The organ was built in 1798 and is still very largely in its original condition, with a thrilling 'fire' in its trumpet-y sounds which you can hear a bit of here. One of the resident curators, Jean-Claude Dupperon was on hand to demonstrate and gave me a wee shot!
Edinburgh Bach Choir singing joyfully, with a glad sound!
Edinburgh Bach Choir closed their season with a concert of Great British Choral Music, in the company of the amazing tenor Ross Scanlon. A highlight was Finzi's large-scale ode For St. Cecilia using Robert Gower's recent arrangement for organ, and of course such a concert had to include that paean to 'singing everlastingly', Parry's Blest pair of sirens! Click here to hear a snippet of the finale!
"Pride, energy & celebratory noise!" New work for Brass & Choir
Although the Garleton Singers created a virtual performance of Nigel Don's new piece, The Haddington Psalms during lockdown, (see below) there's no comparison with the experience of giving its world premiere performance LIVE! Joined by Brass Tracks, the choir's accompanist, Caroline Cradock and a plethora of percussion, it was so good to hear Nigel's colourful score come to life.
Some fun piano duets!
It's been great to have had the chance to give several piano-duet concerts with Gail Evans, the Northern Ireland-based pianist and accompanist, who was also my accompanist at Belfast Philharmonic Choir. While I have several digital recordings of my 4-hands arrangements of Christopher Norton's music, it was great to record two of them live. Click here to watch us in action!
A 'new' setting of the Passion by 'Bach'. Maybe...
Along with the monumental and familiar Passion settings by JS Bach there is the rarely-performed St Luke Passion- smaller in scale and 'associated' with the great composer (hence being attributed to Bach) if not actually composed by him. Nevertheless, it's full of wonderful instrumental affects and great choruses and it was a delight to perform this work with Edinburgh Bach Choir.
Kodaly Missa Brevis relaunches 'the Phil'!
Having already made a virtual recording of Kodaly's major setting of the Mass (see below), Belfast Philharmonic Choir chose this work to announce their return to the performing stage, along with folk songs settings by Seiber and music by Ola Gjeilo and others. An amazing richness of sound after 18 months of silence!
Edinburgh Bach Choir sings LIVE!
Well, some people thought it would never happen, but we're back!! Edinburgh Bach Choir sings a programme including the '3 Bs'- Bach, Beethoven and Brahms all accompanied by the delights of piano duet. the music is this programme was almost all 'by arrangement' and it was such a treat to hear the choir in full voice once again.
Last Night of the Proms!
I was delighted to be asked for my fun arrangement of Island Spinning Song to be included as past of the Last Night of the Proms celebrations. This arrangement already appears on a CD performed by the National Youth Choir of Scotland, and has winged its way in a SSAA form over to America, so it was lovely to hear it sung with added folk musicians from Glasgow on the telly!
Edinburgh Bach Choir sings Brahms and a new work by James Robertson
There is no shortage of compositional talent out there and James Robertson has created a powerful and inspiring setting of the Requiem: the Requiem for the Innocent which he has kindly dedicated to EBC. While the piece's formal 'world premiere' will have to wait a little while yet, it was so good to be able to perform it in a virtual setting, alongside Brahms' lovely Schicksalslied, all accompanied by a chamber ensemble who submitted their recordings remotely. Bravo to James for his creation- watch it all happen here.
A world premiere from the Garleton Singers
Following their successful Christmas recording, the Garleton Singers strive ever upwards with a world premiere of a piece written especially for the Choir's 50th birthday celebrations- but sadly postponed due to the pandemic. Nigel Don is a member of the choir and, in his Haddington Psalms, has fashioned 5 colourful and powerful psalm settings, with a vibrant Prelude and also including some plainchant discovered in Haddington itself which dates back to the Reformation! Much to enjoy in this virtual recording- watch it here.
Belfast Philharmonic Choir sings Kodaly
For their second virtual recording during the restrictions of lockdown, the 'Phil' sang another major work of Zoltan Kodaly, the Missa Brevis, itself composed in dire conditions during the Seige of Budapest in 1944-45. The Mass its known for the stratospheric Soprano trio in the Kyrie and Agnus Dei, and I was delighted to record the organ part in Edinburgh, while the singers recorded themselves remotely in Northern Ireland! Much to enjoy in this committed performance, which you can find here.
Kodaly's spectacular Laudes Organi- a visual and musical treat
Virtual recording doesn't mean straightforward music- far from it!- and Edinburgh Bach Choir launched their first virtual performance with an impressive performance of Kodaly's last major work, Laudes Organi. A paean of praise to the organ and the 'choir below', its full of imaginative textures and vibrant word painting and is paired, in this virtual recording, with the same composer's probably most famous work: the lovely Esti Dal. Sit back and turn the volume up!- watch this visually spectacular performance here.
Britten St. Nicolas
A veritable virtual tour-de-force, Belfast Philharmonic Society features a Tenor soloist, youth choir, adult choir, an instrumental ensemble with organ and the massed ranks of community singers, all of whom recorded and submitted their performances remotely! Congratulations to all for their hard work; the final video wasn't able to be kept online for copyright reasons, sadly, but you can watch a teaser here.
Zoom into Christmas!
Garleton Singers, like most other choirs, have been silenced but that's not stopped them delivering their usual sell-out Christmas concert! The choir's first virtual performance can be watched here.
New arrangements for Piano Duet
I've been working with pianist and composer Christopher Norton- famous for his 'Microjazz' series- and I'm delighted that two books of my arrangements of his 'Connections for Piano' for Piano Duet have just been published! A perfect activity if you have two pianists stuck in the house!
You can hear some digital sound files of my arrangements here.
"Exceptional colour of tone" from the Garleton Singers!
The Garleton Singers, this time accompanied by 5-piece ensemble Aura Brass, Organ and Percussion performed- as usual- to a packed house in St. Mary's Church, Haddington. Several American works were featured including Walker's Rejoice! Christmas Songs with its "good intonation and clear intricate rhythms"
and the gloriously lush Welcome all Wonders by Jay Wilcox. As ever a fantastic festive feast!
A Sparkling Baroque Christmas!
Edinburgh Bach Choir, accompanied by full professional orchestra were delighted to perform to a large audience for their annual Christmas concert, which this year had a decidedly Baroque theme. Bach's popular Magnificat was a highlight, but smaller delights such as Rutter's Joy to the world 'alla Handel' and some orchestrations of my own including a highly-imaginative combination of Mendelssohn's Hark the herald- to the music of Bach's 3rd Orchestral Suite!- all brought smiles from performer and audience alike!
"All the proverbial stops were pulled out!"- Saint-Saens 3
I was delighted to be involved in the opening concert of the Ulster Orchestra's 2019-20 season with their new Chief Conductor, Daniele Rustioni, playing the mighty Mulholland Organ in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. Every organist's dream is to play Saint-Saens' famous Organ symphony No.3 in C minor and this was definitely a performance to remember!
You can hear an extract of the famous tune at my Sound files page.
"A powerful, focused sound" in Mendelssohn's 'Elijah'
I was delighted to conduct Belfast Philharmonic Choir and the Ulster Orchestra in a fantastic end to the choir's 145th season, with a performance that brought "a sense of excitement each time the choir stood". Elijah, as well as the work that introduced 'the Phil' to the world back in 1874, has always been one of my favourite works and you can read one of the great reviews of the performance in the Ulster Hall here.