December 2018

With Christmas just around the corner, the choir was well prepared for the busy month of festive concerts and services ahead. We enjoyed preparing for our semi-staged performance of Handel’s Messiah in Bristol by performing extracts from it in Midweek Music, our lunchtime concert at the beginning of the month. With excellent solo performances from many of our choral scholars, the following performance at St George’s, Bristol, was very well received. The audience were totally immersed with our variety of staging and lighting, and the unique atmosphere created by the Bristol Ensemble made for a truly special evening.

The next week, the choir travelled into central London to perform at the stunning Apsley House. Including repertoire from Whitacre’s gorgeous The Seal Lullaby to Frederic Austin and Ian Humphris’ comical take on the Twelve Days of Christmas, the audience were thrown right into December with a good dose of Christmas Spirit! Just a few days later, we travelled up to Oxfordshire to sing at Raymond Blanc’s gourmet restaurant, Le Manoir. We enjoyed singing carols in the beautiful venue including the well- and less-known, interspersed by magical readings of Christmas stories. Afterwards we were incredibly grateful to enjoy being served food by the fantastic chefs at Le Manoir, along with some champagne to accompany the festivities!

Back at College, we took our places back in the stalls, and gave two splendid evenings of our renowned Lessons and Carols service. With a brilliant mix of sacred and secular readings, the choir performed some of our best repertoire, featuring work from Ben Parry, Ola Gjeilo and a moving rendition of Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen by Sandström — a particular highlight for many of the audience. The next evening we concluded our busy week (and term) with our Christmas “Extravangza”. We sang all of our favourite Christmas repertoire in one fantastic concert, only made complete by a cameo by Father Christmas, a.k.a. our very own Rupert Gough.

The next morning, the choir set off bright and early to make our way to Treviso, Italy, for a whistle-stop tour and concert. We arrived in a stunning modernised chapel, and really made use of the fantastic acoustic of the building. A particular highlight for many was the small ensemble performance of O Nata Lux, the hauntingly beautiful five-part work by Thomas Tallis. Following two curtain calls and an evening of delicious pizza and fine wine, we flew back to London early the next morning to prepare for a Mid-Advent carol service at St. Bartholomew-the-Great later in the evening. This service revolved around the traditional “O Antiphons”, with each being sung from a different part of the church, creating a really atmospheric environment.

We arose early the next morning, joined by some alumni, to fly off to our second foreign destination of the week, Schwäbisch Hall, a small town near Stuttgart. On the way to our hotel, looking out of the coach window, it was often easy to forget we were still in the 21st Century. The next morning we browsed around authentic Christmas Markets, enjoying the beautiful festive atmosphere, before heading into the enormous church, St Michael’s, we would be performing in later that night. When we processed out onto the altar to sing, we were struck by the vast number of audience members, which we were later informed was about 1800 people! We gave a brilliant concert, and following our encore of Jingle Bells, the stewards at the church gave us each a cuddly toy fox as a thank you. The next morning, we said farewell to each other, and headed our separate ways back home, to spend the rest of Christmas with our families.

December was a fantastic month for the choir, full of festivity and some of the most magical moments of the year. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2019!


November 2018

The first 2 months of the Autumn term have kept the Chapel Choir busy and active, both on campus and in London. Most recently, we traveled to St. Bartholomew-the-Great in London to sing Mozart's Requiem for All Souls' Day. It was a moving performance of a very well-loved and familiar piece to many in the choir, and it was also lovely to be able to travel off campus and experience performing in a different venue!

This past weekend kept all of us up to our ears in some truly wonderful music with two very different concerts. On Friday, we traveled to St. Martin-in-the-Fields to perform a programme featuring the works of Sir C.H.H. Parry, to mark the centenary of his death. While in London, we had the opportunity between rehearsal and concert to explore central London a little - being from the United States, I had never seen that part of the city before, so a few of my friends took me around and showed me some of their favorite parts, including Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace! We speed-walked back to the church just in time for the concert, which was truly a pleasure and a privilege to sing.

The following day had us equally busy in preparation for that evening's concert in celebration of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. We performed alongside the Brandenburg Baroque Soloists in a program featuring two works by J.S. Bach, a Handel organ concerto, and Vivaldi's Gloria. Following the concert, the 2nd and 3rd years were invited to a banquet dinner with some of the patrons of the choir, during which we performed various selections from throughout the term between courses. It's been great fun to be part of such an active, enthusiastic, and talented group of musicians, and I look forward to moving into the Advent and Christmas season with them!

Image: the choir at the end of their concert for the Brandenburg Choral Festival Concert, November 2018

Clara Swartzentruber, Soprano, Visiting Music Student


September & October 2018

The term began with 'choir camp' which involved singing in beautiful venues such as Portsmouth Cathedral, Winchester College chapel and Romsey Abbey. An intense rehearsal schedule combined with living (and cooking) for each other for four days gave us the perfect opportunity to get to know one another. Highlights of the residential included a workshop with former King’s Singer David Hurley, as well as exploring the beautiful town of Winchester. On Saturday evening, we also performed our ensemble pieces informally to the rest of the choir which gave us a chance to receive constructive criticism from our peers.

The first half of term has involved several successful Midweek Music concerts with an overarching theme of ‘Cityscapes’; featured cities have included Gloucester, with the English premiere of a work by David Bednall, and Paris, in which we sang pieces by the likes of Debussy, Fauré and Poulenc. We have already performed two commissions this term: ‘The Cry’ by Adrian Snell and a commission from the Hellenic Institute (a research centre based in Royal Holloway’s Department of History) entitled ‘The Odyssey’ by Lydia Kakabadse. We sang ‘The Cry’ with a children’s choir and string orchestra at Windsor Parish Church and the latter was performed in the Royal Holloway Chapel to an appreciative audience which included the Ambassador of Greece. It has been really wonderful to be involved in such diverse musical activities, and I am thoroughly looking forward to lots more performances throughout the rest of term!

Image: the choir rehearse in the Church of Holy Trinity, Privett, next-door to our accommodation.

Maia Jarvis, 1st Year Soprano, Music & English Student