News

Haydn The Creation

We’re half way through our rehearsal cycle for The Creation, and very excited.

With its roof-raising choruses and bubbling melodies, Haydn’s Creation is one of the most life-affirming two hours of music you can hear.

We are delighted to be joined by Marcus Farnsworth, Vanessa Bowers and Ruairi Bowen as soloists. Our resident concert manager, Lucy Bending, has assembled a top period-instrument orchestra led by Catherine Martin. It is a real privilege to be able to bring such wonderful musicians to Harpenden.

For the Leas, The Creation will mark a new beginning with our new musical director, Victoria Longdon. We’re loving learning to sing Haydn with style and flair under Tori’s baton, and are really looking forward to raising the roof at St John’s Church, Southdown, Harpenden on Saturday 24th June at 7pm.

Do join us! Tickets here.

Next stop – The Creation

We’re just back from a wonderful weekend singing services in Salisbury Cathedral. Our new musical director, Tori Longdon, chose a beautiful selection of Marian music for Mothering Sunday and Lady Day. It was a real treat to be able to sing Parsons Ave Maria and Poulenc’s O Magnum Mysterium in a cathedral setting, as well as music by Palestrina, Lennox Berkeley, Walmisley and Bruckner. Thank you to all of our friends who came to sing with us or listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve just started our first concert project with Tori – Haydn’s Creation, to be performed at St John’s Church, Harpenden, on Saturday 24 June. Tori spent our first rehearsal enthusing us with the joy and energy of The Creation, which we hope will be perfect listening for a midsummer’s evening.  The period instrument orchestra for this performance, led by Catherine Martin, will feature many of the orchestral musicians the Leas worked with in our 2016 performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, including some of the wonderfully talented professional musicians who we are lucky enough to have local to us in Harpenden. We are delighted that we will be joined by an exciting trio of soloists in Marcus Farnsworth, Vanessa Bowersand Gwilym Bowen. We are particularly pleased to welcome Marcus back to Harpenden, after he endeared himself to our regular audience with a young singers’ masterclass and memorable performance of the Brahms Requiem in 2014.

We are also on a recruitment drive. If you are interested in singing with The Lea Singers, please contact chair@leasingers.co.uk. Previous choral experience and sight singing ability required!

Spring Swing

Spring is in the air, and The Lea Singers are multi-tasking. We’re preparing for our weekend of services in Salisbury Cathedral on 25 and 26 March with our new conductor Tori Longdon, and for our concert at Beechwood Park School on Saturday March 4. This concert, called Spring Swing, is being directed by Joanna L’Estrange. We had our first rehearsal with Joanna last week, and were amazed at the immediate difference she made to our confidence singing jazz. It was lovely to listen to her sing to demonstrate the sound she wanted from us, accompanied by husband Alexander on piano. We are performing Alexander L’Estrange’s “Vive la Velorution” as part of our concert, with a children’s choir part written specially for the choirs of Beechwood Park School. A world premiere, no less!

Find out more about Vive la Velorution here.

Concert and ticket details here.

We are also on a recruitment drive. If you are interested in singing with The Lea Singers, please contact chair@leasingers.co.uk. Previous choral experience and sight singing ability required!

O Radiant Dawn!

The Lea Singers are delighted to announce that we have appointed Tori Longdon our new Musical Director. Tori wowed the choir at audition with her dynamism and charisma, and we are really excited at the prospect of working with her. She chose to teach us MacMillan’s O Radiant Dawn: what could have been more apt?

We are delighted that Tori will take up the baton for our weekend of services at Salisbury Cathedral in March, and for our summer concert. Before then, we have an exciting Spring Swing in store.

Saturday 4 March – Spring Swing
With singer and vocal coach Joanna Forbes L’Estrange at the helm, we are looking forward to our Spring concert going with a swing.

Do join us …

 

 

 

Search begins for our new musical director

We are excited to begin the search for our new musical director. The job description for the role is here. Applications to be sent to chair@leasingers.co.uk by 1pm on Friday 16 September, and we plan to interview and audition shortlisted candidates in October 2016. We hope to have our new musical director in place between March and September 2017.

In the meantime, we are delighted to have Neil Ferris working with us on a project basis for the Autumn, and are looking forward to the Faure Requiem, Schubert Mass in G, Bruckner Motets and Tallis Spem in Alium.

Miriam McKay
Lea Singers Chair
July 2016

Fond goodbyes to Ben

We rounded off a memorable season with our Summer Singing Festival on 25 and 26 June. We felt incredibly privileged to have James Gilchrist and Anna Tilbrook with us for their Shakespeare-themed recital, and more so to see them work with young singers Izzi Blain, Nina Vinther and Oli Martin-Smith in their masterclass. We thoroughly enjoyed Shakespeare 400 concert, and were delighted to be joined by the choristers from St Nicholas Church, Harpenden.

Our big end of season news is that Benjamin Goodson has been appointed deputy conductor of the Berlin Radio Choir. We are thrilled for him, but sad of course to see him go. We will begin the recruitment process for our new conductor shortly. Watch this space!

Looking forward to next season, we are going to turn Ben’s departure into a positive and take the opportunity to work with a range of conductors on a project basis. We have one last concert with Ben, singing Spem in Alium with the choir of Somerville College, Oxford, at St Martin-in-the-Fields as part of the Brandenbert Choral Festival on Thursday 17 November 2016.

Under Ben’s leadership, we have enjoyed some wonderful projects – our staged St Matthew Passion being the biggest highlight – and developed immeasurably as a choir. We’re confident and optimistic about the search for his successor.

Miriam McKay
Lea Singers Chair
July 2016

James Gilchrist is coming to Harpenden!

Stop press: our line-up is pretty much complete for next season, but we’re looking for one more low bass. Please contact chair@leasingers.co.uk if this is you … 

The Lea Singers are now all safely through our bi-annual auditions, and back in rehearsal for the summer term.

On the weekend of 27 May, we return to St Albans Abbey to sing a weekend of services. Click here to see the music list.

On Saturday 25 June, we are holding our annual Summer Singing Festival at St Nicholas Church, Harpenden. This year’s theme is Shakespeare, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. We are absolutely delighted that outstanding tenor James Gilchrist is going to join us to sing a Shakespeare-themed recital, accompanied by Anna Tilbrook, who grew up in Harpenden. Beginning with the 18th century British composer Thomas Arne, the recital will move through to the middle of the twentieth century, taking in works by Haydn, Schubert, Vaughan Williams and Tippett, to demonstrate the many ways composers have approached Shakespeare’s timeless texts in solo songs.

After their recital, James and Anna will conduct a masterclass with three young local singers. The Lea Singers are particularly pleased that, in mezzo-sopranos Izzi Blain and Nina Vinther, the masterclass attendees will include a current and former Lea Singers intern, highlighting the success of our interns scheme at helping talented young local singers to broaden their musical experience. Izzi and Nina will be joined by Oliver Martin-Smith, a tenor lay clerk at St Albans Abbey. All three will perform a solo song, then will be helped to perfect their performances by James and Anna. We hope that local singers, young and old, will come along to this free event and pick up some tips to improve their own singing techniques. The young singers’ masterclass is kindly sponsored by Harpenden Music Foundation.

The festival will end with our Shakespeare-themed a capella concert, for which we will be joined by the St Nicholas Church children’s choir. We are looking forward to singing Shakespeare song cycles by Vaughan Williams and Mantyjarvi, as well as some intriguing settings by Huw Watkins and Frank Martin, with some West Side Story thrown in for good measure.

Recital and masterclass attendees are cordially invited to join the choir for tea and cake between the recital and the masterclass. Never let it be forgotten that The Lea Singers are known for being as accomplished bakers as we are singers!

More details of our Summer Singing Festival here.

Miriam McKay
Lea Singers Chair. May 2016.

Bach afterglow, and onwards with Elgar …

Please forgive us if we continue to bask in the afterglow of our dramatised St Matthew Passion for just a little while longer … This was possibly the most ambitious project The Lea Singers had ever undertaken – musically and commerically. It was an amazing experience to work with an extraordinary cast of professional musicians – James Gilchrist, Johanne Ansell, Helen Charlston, Nick Pritchard and Christian Immler in particular, but also wonderful instrumentalists and the Abbey Girls’ Choir. Watching, learning and participating as Tom Guthrie created his dramatised performance was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and one which we will never forget. After months of planning and fundraising, we were utterly delighted to see the “sold out” sign outside the Abbey, and it was very special to see so many friends in the audience. Many people have told us how moving they found the dramatisation, and it is wonderful to know that we managed to convey the intensity and sense of involvement which we all felt to our audience. Thank you to the inestimable Benjamin Goodson for inspiring us to get to grips with Bach.

Onwards .. to Reading for Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with Henley Choral Society. Many thanks to our friends at Henley for inviting us to sing the semi-chorus, and we look forward to another memorable choral experience.

Miriam McKay
Lea Singers Chairman. March 2016.

 

Passion players …

There are now less than two weeks to go before our dramatised St Matthew Passion. There was a real buzz at last week’s rehearsal, not least because we realised what a privilege it is going to be to hear great soloists and players from close quarters.

We asked a selection of our soloists and players to fill in a five minute questionnaire.

Is there a composer whose work you couldn’t live without?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 6 out of 7 respondants said “Bach”, or in the case of  Oliver Webber (violin): “Monteverdi. No, wait, Purcell. Or Bach. Aargh! Don’t make me choose! :)”

What is the piece of music you play most at the moment?
Helen Charlston (mezzo soprano): I’m listening to and watching quite a lot of Wagner at the moment, as I’m trying to know the Ring Cycle properly ….
Liam Byrne (gamba): Edmund Finnis “Lines Curved Rivers Mirrored” (2014) for solo bass viol.
Stefanie Heichelheim (viola): Right now it’s Passion season, therefore St Matthew and St John Passion by JS Bach.
Oliver Webber (violin): The programme for a recital in Krakow of Italian 17th century violin music.
Miles Golding (violin): “Felicitous” by Michael Proksch, a Trinity Grade 2 Piano piece. I’m at last learning how to play the piano properly, and there’s a short passage of semiquavers in the right hand that I find very hard to execute with evenness of touch and rhythm.
Benjamin Goodson (conductor): Whatever I’m working on! I’ve also been listening to the latest Adele album, and Bon Iver and Norah Jones always.
Tom Guthrie (Christus and staging director): Cosi fan Tutti which starts rehearsals on Monday!

Saturday 13 February 2016, St Albans Abbey. Tickets here. Do join us.

Miriam McKay. Lea Singers Chair. 31 January 2016.

St Matthew Passion – dramatised

The party atmosphere of our Christmas concert – FestivLea! – seemed an age away when we met yesterday at St George’s to find out what a dramatised St Matthew Passion really is.

Director Tom Guthrie took many of us way beyond our comfort zones. “Kommt ihr Toechter, helft mir klagen” (Come, daughters of Zion, help me in my distress), the work begins. If you felt implicated in the crucifixion of Christ, how (and where) would you look as you sung this? How would you walk? Would you want to make eye contact? Beware, however, of over-acting, diving about like a Premiership footballer. With understatement comes power.

Yesterday added a new dimension to our St Matthew Passion, now more or less memorised, and coming to life.

Saturday 13 February 2016, St Albans Abbey. Tickets here. Do join us.

Miriam McKay. Lea Singers Chair. 10 January 2016.

Forthcoming events

 

Haydn’s Creation

Saturday 24 June 7pm
St John’s Church, Harpenden

More information