Haydn – St Nicholas Mass, Britten – Saint Nicolas

Joseph Haydn – St Nicholas Mass
Benjamin Britten – Saint Nicolas

Although we associate the person we have come to know as Santa Claus with the celebration of Christmas, Britten‘s St Nicolas was commissioned to celebrate the centenary of Lancing College, Sussex and was given its first official performance there in July 1948. However, there had been an unofficial première six weeks earlier as part of the opening concert for the first ever Aldeburgh Festival. Both were conducted by the composer, with the role of Nicolas sung by Britten’s partner, Peter Pears, a former pupil at the College.

More than two centuries earlier Joseph Haydn composed his St Nicholas Mass to celebrate the nameday, 6th December, of his employer, Prince Nicolaus Esterházy. The Mass follows the usual format of Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei and while it is comparatively short it shares all the trademarks of joy, vivacity and tunefulness as the masses he wrote in his old age.

2018-19 Season Preview

Remaining 2018 Concerts

  • Saturday 27 October 2018, Carl Orff Carmina Burana, Royal Albert Hall
  • Saturday 3 November 2018, Beethoven Missa Solemnis, All Hallows’ Church
  • Wednesday 12 December 2018, Carols by Candlelight, Cadogen Hall
  • Saturday 15 December 2018, Carols, St. Michael’s Church
  • Sunday 16 December 2018, Handel Messiah, Royal Festival Hall

2019 Concerts

  • Saturday 9 March 2019, Janacek Glagolitic Mass, Poulenc Gloria, All Hallows’ Church
  • Saturday 18 May 2018, English and Spanish music, St. Michael’s Church
  • Saturday 6 July 2019, Vivaldi Gloria, Zelenka, All Hallows’ Church
  • Saturday 7 December 2019, Carols, St. Michael’s Church

Bernstein – Chichester Psalms

Leonard Bernstein – Chichester Psalms

2018 marks the centenary of the birth of composer, conductor, author, music lecturer and pianist Leonard Bernstein, whose most famous scores include West Side Story, On the Town, Candide and On the Waterfront.

Commissioned from Bernstein by the Dean of Chichester Cathedral for the 1965 Southern Cathedrals Festival, the Chichester Psalms received its UK premiere on 31st July 1965 and has gone on to become a highly popular staple of choral societies to this day. Consisting of three short movements, the Chichester Psalms is sung in Hebrew.

Our programme of 20th- and 21st-century compositions is completed with choral works by Janáček, Morten Lauridsen and Vaughan Williams.

Handel – Israel in Egypt

George Frideric Handel – Israel in Egypt

"The horse and his rider hath He thrown in to the sea." These are the final words of Israel in Egypt, which sets to music passages from the Old Testament Book of Exodus and Psalms. The libretto is believed to have been prepared by Charles Jennens, who was also to compile the biblical texts for Messiah a few years later.

Frogs, pestilence, flies, lice, locusts, hailstones, fire, darkness and the parting of the Red Sea all feature in this extraordinarily dramatic oratorio, composed by Handel in one month.

HCS musical director Ron Corp shares his thoughts on Handel’s work in this video.


Mozart Mass in C, Szymanowski Stabat Mater

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Mass in C Minor K427
Karol Szymanowski – Stabat Mater

Free pre-concert talk by Ronald Corp at 6.20pm.

Works written for two very different occasions form the opening concert in Highgate Choral Society’s 2017-2018 season. Following the recovery from illness of his fiancée, Constanze Weber, Mozart promised to write a mass of thanksgiving. Although it was never completed the Mass in C minor was premièred, in its incomplete state, with Constanze as one of the soprano soloists, in Salzburg on 26th October 1783 and harks back to the Baroque world of Handel and Bach.

Originally commissioned by the Polish-born art collector Bronislaw Krystall to write a requiem commemorating his wife’s death, Karol Szymanowski decided to change the contract and instead composed what is considered to be his greatest masterpiece. The inspiration for his Stabat Mater was the tragic death of his niece, Alinka and the subsequent suffering of his pregnant sister, who was soon to lose another child. Completed in 1926, Stabat Mater is of fundamental importance in the history of Polish music after Chopin.

Carl Orff – Carmina Burana

Carl Orff – Carmina Burana

  • Venue: Royal Albert Hall
Carl Orff popular favourite, Carmina Burana plus other works to be confirmed.

Verdi : Requiem

Verdi : Requiem

Highgate Choral Society begins its 2015-2016 season with Verdi’s highly dramatic Requiem. The terrifying (and instantly recognizable) Dies irae which introduces the traditional sequence of the Latin funeral rite is repeated throughout. Verdi uses vigorous rhythms, sublime melodies and dramatic contrasts to express the powerful emotions engendered by the text.

At the time of its premiere in 1874 it was not particularly favourably reviewed, with criticism ranging from “an opera in ecclesiastical robes” to a religious work in “dubious musical costume.” It is currently one of the most popular works in the entire choral canon.