Welcome to the December edition of the TCCA Newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading about what fellow members and the current Choir have been up to over the last months.
Earlier this term, I caught up with Michael Waldron (Organ Scholar, 2006) about the London Choral Sinfonia’s latest release of music by Richard Pantcheff, which all started when Michael encountered Pantcheff’s A Christmas Carol. I hope you enjoy finding out more about this composer’s work and the LCS’s plans for a further recording.
With carolling in mind, given the ongoing health situation it will be a real sadness not to gather in Temple Church for the annual Alumni Carol Service. However, we are delighted that TCCA members have been able to contribute to a special video, curated by the Alumni Relations and Development Office, for a festive celebration of readings, carols and music. The video is available to watch.
Also in this issue: an update on the Choir’s recent activities; we showcase all of the wonderfully creative ways TCC members past and present have ‘kept the music playing’ over lockdowns; and an update on forthcoming Annual Gatherings.
I very much hope to see you at a TCCA event in the not too distant future. In the meantime, a very Happy Christmas to you and your loved ones from the Committee, from the Alumni Relations and Development Office, and from the Chapel and Music Office.
An update from the Choir
At the start of what has been a Michaelmas Term like no other, we welcomed 15 new Choir members, including a new Organ Scholar, Jonathan Lee, who joined us following a gap year at Hereford Cathedral.
Before the start of term, the Choir was able to come together in Chapel to sing the Duruflé Requiem. This service is available to watch online here. The Choir also released a recording of David Briggs’ St Davids Te Deum, which was sung at this year’s Matins and Act of Remembrance. To watch, click here.
Organ Scholars Harrison Cole and Jonathan Lee devised an organ recital series for Michaelmas term, streamed live from Chapel and featuring major works by J S Bach, including the complete Trio Sonatas. These recitals are available to watch again here.
Given the circumstances, unfortunately it isn’t possible for the Choir to give their annual performance in St John’s Smith Square. We have therefore used this year as an opportunity to make video recordings of a selection of Christmas carols which we wouldn’t normally sing, to be released on the Choir’s YouTube page during the approach to Christmas. The first video will be released on 16 December.
In conversation with Michael Waldron: the London Choral Sinfonia’s latest release – music by Richard Pantcheff
What was your first encounter with Pantcheff’s music?
I first met Richard in London in 2013. Over the following months we exchanged emails and scores, and I was immediately struck by his music. It was still relatively early days for the London Choral Sinfonia, but plans were afoot for a recording of Christmas music, and I was keen to include one of Richard’s pieces. A Christmas Carol seemed like the perfect addition to the album. It had not been recorded before, but from fumbling through the score at the piano I could sense it was a piece of great depth. I am always captivated by music that has the ability to transport a listener in a relatively short period of time: A Christmas Carol does just that, and has remained a firm Christmas favourite of mine ever since. It is available on the LCS’s album, O Holy Night.
How did this recording come about?
Within 12 months of the O Holy Night recording, Richard and I were in discussion about an album showcasing his music. A single-composer album requires particularly thoughtful programming: I was very keen to showcase Richard’s broad appeal whilst including specific pieces – both sacred and secular – he and I both felt should be profiled. These choices had to sit together within 70 minutes of a coherent whole.
The album contains a mixture of a cappella pieces, and works accompanied by piano or organ. The organ accompaniments are played brilliantly by Jeremy Cole (Organ Scholar, 2010), and the choir of 30 comprises several former Trinity choral scholars. The album was recorded at St Mark’s Church, Regents Park, London, over four days at the beginning of January 2015.
Is the influence of Britten, Pantcheff’s mentor, evident?
Definitely. Richard himself writes that much of the music on this album he considers “… to be in a line which stretches from Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Howells, and Britten, through to Leighton, Lutyens, and beyond.” He goes on to say, “The focus has always been on combining intellectual rigour, understanding of form, and harmonic originality with the expressive purpose of the music and the context for its performance.”
I am in total agreement, and believe he is successful in achieving this focus. His music can certainly be heard in context of the lineage he identifies, but it is never pastiche. Like Britten, there is an inventiveness and originality to Richard’s music. He knows how to write a good melody – and writes sensibly and skilfully for the forces available – but there is a sparkle of originality and flavour throughout his music which makes it so special.
Do you have a favourite track?
It is too difficult to pick just one! I think the two settings of the Evening canticles are brilliantly contrasting and equally very fine. The edgy, dynamic setting for upper voices was written for Christ Church, Oxford. It is designed perfectly to capture the acoustic of that landmark Oxford building, as well as its Rieger organ and very distinct style of singing from its trebles. In complete contrast are the canticles commissioned by the late John Scott for the gentlemen of St Paul’s Cathedral. Here, the acoustic challenge of that famous building is met by a setting filled with undulating, melismatic phrases and mellowness.
For sheer unbridled joy, Spirit of Mercy must have a special mention. This short anthem for four-part choir and organ begins with a simple and beautiful melody for sopranos, after which the whole choir joins for a rousing and thoroughly uplifting finale. It’s a real gem.
Is there a plan for another volume of Richard’s work with LCS?
Very much so. I was fortunate to get back into the recording studio with the LCS in February 2020 – just before the pandemic took hold – to record Volume 2 of Richard’s music. This is a much larger-scale project, profiling Richard’s work for choir and orchestra, and includes some orchestra-only compositions. There are two Nocturnes (for flugelhorn and orchestra) which are particularly fine, as well as a mass setting for choir and orchestra. There is a lot of great music on this album too, and I’m really excited for the release, which is scheduled for March 2021.
The Music of Richard Pantcheff, Volume 1: Choral Music is available here. Michael also took part in the new Alumni Interviews project, which you can read more about here. If you would like to get involved and share your story, please contact [email protected]
How do you keep the music playing?
Following our latest light music release, How do you keep the music playing?, over the summer months we shared on our social media some of the wonderfully innovative ways Choir members past and present have been responding to the question of how we can go on creating, performing and sharing music in these challenging times. Here, we showcase some of the creative projects TCCA members devised or were involved in over the first lockdown. We’d love to hear more stories of how you’ve been sharing music over the last months – do get in touch with Eleanor if there’s a project you’re involved in which we could feature on our social media or in a future newsletter.
First up, Hannah King collaborated with nurseries in her home town of Bolton to compose a song, arranged by Owain Park, which helps nursery-age children learn how to stay safe (and still have fun!) in a time of social distancing. Click here to find out how to be like a Wellasaurus!
Helen Charlston and Michael Craddock launched the Lieder Relay project, streaming performances from their home, and later collaborating with composers to build a series of works written during lockdown or which reflect the current health situation, culminating in the creation of an ‘Isolation Songbook’, which premiered on 29 July with the City Music Foundation and will soon be recorded for release on Delphian Records.
The Gesualdo Six, directed by Owain Park, brightened up our morning coffees by putting the spotlight on some favourite musical tracks and groups in the series G6Elevenses. The group also performed as part of Live from London, an online festival showcasing some of the world’s finest vocal ensembles, created to reconnect audiences with live music-making.
Jess Dandy, contralto and founder of SongPath – a mental health initiative based in South Cumbria which encourages connecting through walking, talking and making music together – shared lullabies to help all struggling to sleep or wind down. Ranging from Brahms to the Beatles (via some classics from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins), Jess’s beautiful renditions can be listened to here.
The Apéritif Concerts series was hosted by Michael Waldron and the London Choral Sinfonia, and featured many Choir alumni, including organist Christopher Allsop, soprano Emily Dickens, Jess Dandy, Helen Charlston and Michael Craddock, who performed live from their own homes.
Soprano alumna Andrea Cockerton founded #LOCKJAM, an initiative created to help freelance performers and technicians, as well as to bring live, interactive performances to audiences whilst in-person gigs are on hold. Partnered with The Dosoco Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which promotes music as a powerful tool for positive social change, the profits from #LOCKJAM go to musicians and sound crews who have lost work as a result of the pandemic.
A number of former Choir members featured in Bitesize Proms, a series of mini-Proms celebrating classical music and raising money for Help Musicians. You can watch performances by pianist and tenor Cameron Richardson-Eames, Jess Dandy, Helen Charlston, Solomon’s Knot (featuring Zoë Brookshaw) and many others .
Many past and current members of the Choir are volunteers at Sing Inside – a charity which takes singing workshops into prisons, breaking down social barriers, and cultivating confidence and creativity. Sing Inside’s volunteers took part in The 2.6 Challenge (a campaign created to help charities negatively affected by the cancellation of the 2020 London Marathon), including learning the tuba over 26 days, composing a 2.6-minute song, and, the centrepiece of their challenge, 26 volunteers performing 26 songs (click here to watch Trinity alto Rachel Coombs’ take on The Monkees’ I’m a believer!), all raising over £4,500.
The charity has also found new ways to connect with residents and volunteers, including circulating in-cell resource packs to 18 prisons, and recording remote workshops for the residents and staff of HMP Liverpool.
2020 Alumni Carol Service – an update
Given the ongoing health situation, the annual Alumni Carol Service in Temple Church will not take place this year.
The Alumni Relations and Development Office have released aof readings and carols, with music by members of the TCCA – we hope you enjoy watching.
Annual Gatherings 2021
Circumstances allowing, the 2021 Annual Gatherings will take place on 17 July (1996-98), 21 July (1968-71), 11 September (2008-10), and 15 September (1965-67).
For information about the Gatherings and for bookings, please visit the Alumni Relations and Development Office website.
As we have done in the past, we hope to invite members of the TCCA to volunteer to form a choir for one or more of the Gatherings. More information about this will either be communicated via e-mail or in the next Newsletter, so do keep an eye out for updates.
Latest CD release
The Choir’s recording of choral music by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi was released in October and has received wide acclaim, Music Web International calling it ‘a triumph in every respect’.
The recording features an entire ‘Trinity Service’ with especially commissioned responses, psalm chant, canticles, and Lord’s Prayer, as well as settings of the Ave Maria and O lux beata Trinitas. More information about the recording can be found on the Hyperion website.
At Evensong on 14 November 2019, the Choir premiered the commissioned works which feature on this recording. The service is available to listen again to on our website.
Dates for your diary
Please check the Alumni Relations and Development Office website for information about forthcoming TCCA events.