Music and conflict

Take a close look at this picture. The cheeky chappy, smiling fourth from the right in the second row, is Lance Corporal Cardy. our own Karen Cardy’s grandad. I’m sure many of you will have wondered about relatives who fought in both world wars – those who came back, and those who didn’t. Our concert on Saturday night, 10th March, is a chance to remember them.

The last piece in the concert is a beautiful arrangement by Nigel Short – of Tenebrae fame – of an American Civil War ballad – The Dying Soldier. Barry Flutter sings it beautifully.

Written centuries apart, Palestrina’s and Martin’s masses for double choir both speak of conflict in their own way. Palestrina apparently wrote his Missa Papae Marcelli for the Council of Trent as a plea for the continued use of polyphony in the liturgy, the success of which saw Palestrina hailed “the saviour of church music”. Martin famously wrote his ethereal Mass for Double Choir in a fervour of religious conflict, never intending it to be performed. It is one of the most seering eloquant and emotional mass settings ever written.

Do come!

Christmas is coming!

We’re well into rehearsals for FestiveLea on Saturday 23 December. Tori has put together a wonderful programme for us – everything from a medieval French carol through The Holly and the Ivy and Bethlehem Down to a reprise of Tim Sutton’s lovely setting of The Christmas Song. We’re supporting a great local charity this year – the Our Lady of Lourdes Developing World Group – and work has already begun on the famous Lea Singers Christmas hampers as raffle prizes. Beware the home brewed sloe gin! Do join us – ticket information here.


Summer holidays!

We finished our season with our first concert with Tori – a thoroughly uplifting performance of Haydn’s Creation. We were very grateful to Harpenden Town Council, the Williams Church Music Trust and the Jarvis Harpenden Charitable Foundation for their support. Read Peter Twitchin’s very kind review here.

The Choir is now on holiday until September 6th, but the Committee are still busy. Tori and Miriam have been scouring the County for tenors and interesting concert venues – with considerable success – and Liffy – newly appointed Treasurer – is working hard on our year end accounts.

We’re on a recruitment drive, so if you’re interested in singing with us next season, please contact [email protected]

Tori has come up with some wonderful programming for next season, starting with the Durufle Requiem and Bernstein Chichester Psalms on Saturday 11 November. More details here. We look forward to seeing you!


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 [email protected]. 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 [email protected]. 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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.

Music and Conflict

Saturday 10 March, 7.30pm

St Lawrence Church, Bovingdon, HP3 0LU

Tickets here

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