Christmas 2019 will see us singing again at The Abbey School, on Sunday 15 December at 4.30 pm. We will be raising money for Christian Community Action, a local charity that provides pre-loved furniture, emergency kitchen and bedding packs, and food supplies for people in need.
Our programme is framed around The Manchester Carols. This is a suite of twelve songs, interspersed with readings. The words for the songs and the words for the readings are all written by Carol Anne Duffy, until last year our Poet Laureate, and the music is composed by Sasha Johnson Manning, herself a singer and cellist. Everything about this relatively new work is a delight – gorgeous tunes and thought provoking words. It really is a retelling of the Christmas story for today’s world. And there will be a chance for our audience to join us in a couple of familiar and traditional carols too.
On April 4 2020 we join with South Chiltern Choral Society to sing Rossini’s Petite Mess Solonelle in the Great Hall of Reading University, where we shall be singing with an orchestra and four professional soloists, including our director Matthew Thomas Morgan. Famous for its inclusion of a harmonium, Rossini described the work as the last of my péchés de vieillesse or sins of old age! He questioned whether he had written sacred music or sacrilegious. Whatever, it is a joy to listen to.
In June 2020 we go to France for a concert in the French Alps – a mix of traditional French songs, opera choruses and a return to Rogers and Hammerstein. We hope to bring some of the music back to sing locally before the summer is out so watch this space for more news on that!
Our Summer concert in July 2019 was a first for us in a new venue – The Abbey School – and at a new time – 4.30pm. We, and our audience seemed delighted with both innovations.
The theme for the concert was Americana and we took a ride through two centuries of American music. We opened the concert with three traditional Spirituals. We loved singing the work of Samuel Barber, Randall Thompson and Morten Lauridsen, all of whom write brilliantly for SATB choirs. In American popular music the words are often just as important as the notes, and it was fascinating to explore three different settings of Sure on this Shining Night, not least because it meant our conductor, Matthew Thomas Morgan was able to take a solo to set us off.
The spotlight also fell on our accompanist, Martin Jones, who played, with great bravura and to great applause, four of George Gershwin’s Preludes. The concert ended with a fabulous medley of fourteen songs by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein.
And we raised over £400 for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, thanks to our generous audience and our generous hosts at The Abbey.
In February 2019 we returned to a much loved venue, Caversham Heights Methodist Church, for a programme of sacred music which we called Laudamus – Songs of Thankfulness and Praise. We sang two very different settings of the Te Deum (Haydn from the eighteenth century, and John Rutter from the twentieth) and the theme was continued by Ian Westley’s joyful playing of Karg-Elert’s Nun Danket on the splendid organ in the church. Martin Jones joined in with a happy Handel Gigue and the audience joined with us in two iconic hymns.
A beautiful solo from Matthew Thomas Morgan delighted everyone; the choir opened each half with some lovely a cappella singing; we reminded ourselves of the joy of a good coronation with Zadok the Priest and to cap the whole programme off we chose Karl Jenkins Jubilate Deo.