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 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.
"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.
Highgate Choral Society’s annual family carols concert has become an unmissable event, with plenty of variety and audience participation, plus your first taste of mince pies and mulled wine of the season! Early booking is advised as this is always a sell-out.
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 popular favourite, Carmina Burana plus other works to be confirmed.
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.
Come and join us for our annual concert of carols for all the family. As well as many seasonal favourites there are more unusual offerings from Howard Skempton, John Rutter and the 18th century Czech composer František Xaver Brixi.
The opening concert in our 2016-2017 season has a sombre feel, commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Starting with The Banks of Green Willow by George Butterworth, who was killed in action on 5th August 1916, aged only 31, this work is complemented by Ronald Corp’s The Somme – a lament, part of a larger work by Corp entitled Dawn on the Somme.
The mood lifts with the choral arrangement of Serenade to Music by Butterworth’s contemporary, Vaughan Williams and the programme is brought to a close with Brahms’s glorious German Requiem.
Possibly inspired by the death of his mother in 1865, Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem, To Word of the Holy Scriptures, Op. 45 is the composer’s longest composition. In contrast to the traditional Roman Catholic requiem mass, which begins with prayers for the dead, A German Requiem focuses on the living, beginning with the text ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted’ from the Beatitudes. This theme, transition from anxiety to comfort is central to the work.
The text of Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music is an adaptation of the discussion about music and the music of the spheres in Act V, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.
There’s not the smallest orb which thou beholdst
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims.
Vaughan Williams wrote the piece as a tribute to the conductor Sir Henry Wood to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Wood’s first concert. The solo parts were composed specifically for the voices of sixteen eminent British singers chosen by Wood and the composer, but Vaughan Williams subsequently made arrangements for four soloists plus choir and orchestra, for choir and orchestra, for choir and piano, and for orchestra alone.
Promoted by Raymond Gubbay
We often perform alongside international stars as part of the Raymond Gubbay concerts. This rousing piece is one of our – and the public’s! – favourites!
Our annual Christmas concert invites the whole community to join us, with the St Michael’s School junior choir and also the New London Children’s Choir and make merry! Carols and music will include some old favourites as well as some you may not know. It’s just the event to begin the run up to Christmas, so join us!
Promoted by Raymond Gubbay
The majesty of the Royal Albert Hall provides the perfect setting for Handel’s choral masterpiece, again one of our regular appearances as part of the Raymond Gubbay concerts
Promoted by Raymond Gubbay
An unmissable all-Beethoven programme featuring the monumental ‘Choral’ symphony with its climactic ‘Ode to Joy’.
Our first concert of 2017 is an all-British affair featuring two towering figures of 20th-century music, Delius and Elgar.
The concert begins with the highly attractive Walk to the Paradise Garden, an orchestral interlude from Delius’s opera, A Village Romeo and Juliet. The motion of waves is suggested throughout by the orchestra in Sea Drift, while the choir sings the tale of a pair of mocking birds nesting on the sea shore in a setting by Walt Whitman.In The Music Makers Elgar also sets an entire poem, Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, to much original music punctuated with quotes from previous compositions including The Dream of Gerontius, Sea Pictures, the First Symphony, the Enigma Variations and Rule, Britannia.
Throughout 2017 the 50th anniversary of the death of Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály is being marked. In 1945, while hiding with his wife and many others in the cellar of the Budapest Opera House during the Nazi occupation, he completed his Missa Brevis, which had originally been an organ mass. Its first performance was in the cloakroom of the Opera House, later receiving its official première at the 1948 Three Choirs Festival in Worcester.
By the time of this concert Highgate Choral Society will have been on its tenth tour abroad, to Naples, Sorrento and Pompeii, where they will have performed sacred and secular pieces by Finzi, Mascagni, Rossini, Vaughan Williams and Verdi, as well as Campion, Palestrina and Tallis.
The soloist in the Missa Brevis will be young soprano Iúnó Connolly, who will also sing a selection of English and Italian songs accompanied by organist Edward Batting.
When the first recording of Mass in Blue was released in 2006, MusicWeb International ended its review thus: “Choral singers and directors on the lookout for enriching their choir’s choice should get this, as should anyone who appreciates a well-themed piece of sung music that brings off the balance between accessibility and sustained creative delight.” Premièred in 2003, Mass in Blue, scored for soprano solo, choir, piano, bass and drum kit, has gone on to receive performances throughout the world.
Perhaps this will happen to Two or Three Angels too? To complement the Mass, Highgate Choral Society has commissioned an exciting new work for soprano and double choir from “one of the brightest young talents to emerge in recent years”, Russell Hepplewhite (Evening Standard Top 1000 most influential Londoners). Consisting of 12 movements, Two or Three Angels sets to music poetry by William Blake, Rabindranath Tagore, Emily Dickinson, W B Yeats, Stephen Crane, James Henry Leigh Hunt, John Keats and Henry van Dyke. 1 July 2017 will be its first performance.