Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Missa Brevis in D, Op.63
1. Kyrie 1.36
2. Gloria (soloists Felix Bowden, Osian Guthrie, 2.51
Charles Gundy, Max Todes)
3. Sanctus & Benedictus (soloists Hieu 3.10
Wilkinson and Luca Zucchi)
4. Agnus Dei 2.26
Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012)
The Insect World
5. The Insect World 1.48
6. The Fly 1.14
7. Glow-worms 2.35
8. Clock-a-clay 2.11
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) arr. Clements (b.1983)
9. Wie Melodien sieht es, Op.105 No.1 2.53
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) arr. Clements
10. Du bist die Ruh, D776 4.00
Trad. arr. Britten
11. The Salley Gardens 2.10
12. O Waly, Waly 3.20
Trad. arr. Darbourne (b.1987)
13. Loch Lomond 3.50
Hubert Gregg (1914-2004) arr. Darbourne
14. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner 3.40
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
15. Ave verum corpus, Op.65 No.1 3.21
John Ashton Thomas (b.1961)
16. Nunc dimittis 3.51
A Ceremony of Carols, Op.28
18. Wolcum Yole
19. There is no Rose
20. That yongë child (soloist Max Todes)
21. Balulalow (soloist Ebube Chiana)
22. As dew in Aprille
23. This little Babe
25. In freezing winter night
(soloists Luca Zucchi, Charles Gundy)
26. Spring Carol (soloists James Bennett,
Felix Bowden, Osian Guthrie, Tristan Lockett-Green,
John Morshead, Jian Hui Mo)
27. Deo Gracias
Total time 68.13
The Temple Church Boys’ Choir
It was on Trinity Sunday 1959 that Benjamin Britten completed the Missa Brevis which he had composed for George Malcolm and his choristers at Westminster Cathedral; it was performed by them for the first time on 22 July of that year. Malcolm, a renowned pianist, organist, harpsichordist and composer, had been appointed Master of Music at Westminster’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in 1947 and, while there, had trained his choir to sing in what has sometimes been called the ‘continental’ style. This was in contrast to the more mellow sound long favoured by Anglican cathedrals and parish churches. In the article that he contributed to the ‘Tribute to Benjamin Britten on his Fiftieth Birthday’, Malcolm claimed that ‘in England, most choir-boys are systematically trained to produce an artificial and quite unnatural sound, popularly known as ‘Cathedral Tone’. For his part, he wanted boys ‘to sound like boys’ and not to be ‘taught to produce for church purposes an uncharacteristic quality of tone, remotely unlike that of the voices in which they talk, or laugh, or cheer at a football match, or recite poems, or even sing songs round the camp fire’.
One of those to be impressed by the Westminster sound was Benjamin Britten who heard the boys sing his own Ceremony of Carols in 1958. ‘The whole choir sang with a brilliance & authority which was staggering’, he told Malcolm in a letter, adding that it was ‘owing to you, my dear.’ When he learnt that Malcolm was about to retire from his post at the Cathedral, Britten hurriedly put together the short mass for a three-part boys’ choir and organ that he had promised to compose for him some time before. Its first performance took place at one of the last services at the Cathedral in which Malcolm was to participate, with Britten and his partner, the tenor Peter Pears, in the congregation.
Britten set only four sections of the Mass – the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus and Benedictus and the Agnus Dei – thereby omitting the Credo. Also dating from 1959 is the four-movement Missa ad Praesepe (Mass of the Crib) for four-part choir and organ by George Malcolm himself.
The year 1965 was a very important and also a busy one for Richard RodneyBennett. It was in July of that year, while at the Oxford Bach Festival where he was to perform the First Piano Sonata by Pierre Boulez, that he came across, and had been impressed by, a photograph of a young tenor called Dan Klein. Within a week or so he had received a phone call from Klein who needed a contemporary piece to sing in a recital and wondered if Bennett could write something for him or could suggest a piece he had already written. When Bennett attended a lunchtime concert given by Klein at St James’s, Piccadilly in September 1965 he decided at once that this was the man with whom he wished to spend the rest of his life. For three months of that year, Bennett had been occupied with the composition of his First Symphony (the second movement of which he was to dedicate to his new friend and partner) but this was by no means the only project he was involved with at that time. There was some incidental music needed both for a radio documentary about Vaslav Nijinsky and for a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Timon of Athens, the score for a horror movie (The Nanny) starring Bette Davis to compose and also two sets of unison songs for children – The Aviary and The Insect World.
The first performances of these two song-cycles took place during a BBC radio broadcast in January 1966 when they were sung by the soprano, Dorothy Dorow, with the composer at the piano. A few days after Bennett’s Symphony had been given its first performance on 9 February by the London Symphony Orchestra and István Kertész, The Aviary and The Insect World were heard live for the first time in the Drawing Room of the Arts Council at 4 St James’s Square. This time they were performed by Dan Klein and his regular accompanist, Anthony Saunders.
For the texts of his four insect songs, Bennett went to three poets – Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), William Oldys (1696-1761) and John Clare (1793-1864). From the works of the metaphysical poet, politician and colleague of John Milton, Andrew Marvel, he chose a poem called Glow-worms, from the antiquarian and bibliographer, William Oldys, one called The Fly, and from John Clare, the so-called ‘Northamptonshire Peasant Poet’, both the poem which gives this cycle its overall title and one called Clock-a-clay, a Northamptonshire dialect word for a ladybird.
Bennett dedicated The Insect World to Malcolm Williamson and his wife, Dolly. The Williamsons were friends of Bennett at that time and he had recently collaborated with Malcolm (who was to become the Master of the Queen’s Music in 1975) on a piece to commemorate the fiftieth birthday of Benjamin Britten. Soon after composing his two song-cycles, Bennett transformed five of the songs – three from The Aviary and two from The Insect World – into his Little Suite for small orchestra.
Wie Melodien zieht es (‘As sweetest melodies it breezes’) is the first of the five songs by Johannes Brahms which were published in 1889 as his Opus 15. It is a setting of words by Klaus Groth (1819-1899), a German poet and Professor of Literature at Kiel University, who was a long-standing friend of the composer. It is said that Brahms was inspired to compose this song in September 1886 by his admiration for Hermine Spies, a talented and beautiful German mezzo-soprano. At about that time, Brahms was also composing a sonata for violin and piano in A major and into its first movement he incorporated the opening bars of this song.
The poet whose words Franz Schubert was to set in his song Du bist die Ruh (‘You are the calm, the restful peace’) was another professor, this time of Oriental languages, Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). Rückert’s poem dates from about 1820 and was first published in his collection of Östliche Rosen (‘Oriental Roses’). As the poems in this volume were untitled, Schubert had to choose a title of his own for this one when setting it to music in 1823, opting for the first four words of its first verse. (In later editions of Rückert’s works, the first line of the poem’s third verse was given as its title – Kehr ein bei dir, that is ‘Come enter in’.) Schubert’s Du bist die Ruh was first published in September 1826 as his Op.59 No.3.
Jim Clements, whose arrangements of these songs by Brahms and Schubert are recorded here, was born in the village of Lower Stoke in Kent in 1983. As a boy he was chorister at nearby Rochester Cathedral during the time that Roger Sayer was its Organist and Director of Music. While still a choirboy, Clements had begun to compose and his first choral piece was sung at Evensong in the Cathedral on 23 May 1995. At the age of thirteen he won a scholarship to Tonbridge School and his first orchestral piece was performed in 2001. After a year at St Paul’s Cathedral he went to read music at Manchester University. While in Manchester he sang in the Cathedral Choir and founded two close-harmony groups. Subsequently he has acted at Arranger-in-Residence for VOCES8, sung in the choirs of Worcester and Southwark Cathedrals and become a member of Stile Antico. His arrangements and original compositions are now being performed worldwide.
Over the years Benjamin Britten made many arrangements of folk songs. He composed his first set in the early 1940s and his last in 1976, the year of his death. The first, third and fifth volumes, which appeared in 1943, 1947 and 1961 respectively, contained folk songs from around the British Isles, the second (1946) from France, the fourth (1960) from Ireland and the sixth (1961) from England. Apart from the sixth set which has a guitar accompaniment, the others are accompanied by the piano. The final volume, which is not numbered, contains eight folk song arrangements for voice and harp.
It was while he was in the USA during the Second World War and, probably at the suggestion of Peter Pears, that Britten started making these folk song arrangements. They were originally intended either to end the recitals that they gave together or to act as encores. For example, a concert they gave in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in October 1941 ended with four such arrangements which went down very well with the audience. One of those performed on that occasion was The Salley Gardens, an Irish song with words by the poet W.B. Yeats. The tune for this song is known as The Maid of Mourne Shore and the word ‘salley’ (sometimes spelt ‘sally’) comes from a Gaelic word meaning willow. Britten’s arrangement is dedicated to Clytie Mundy who had been one of Pears’ singing teachers while he was living in the USA.
O Waly, Waly is one of the many folk songs from Somerset collected by CecilSharp at the beginning of the twentieth century. Sharp had been born in London on St Cecilia’s Day (22 November) 1859 and thus shared a birthday with Benjamin Britten who was born on that day in 1913. He was educated at Uppingham School and Clare College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics. After working in Australia for a while, he returned to England in 1892 and became the music master at a preparatory school and, later, principal of Hampstead Conservatory. In 1903 he was staying at Hambridge in Somerset and there heard a local gardener singing a song called The Seeds of Love. This experience affected him greatly and soon he had made it his mission to collect as many folk songs as possible. By the following year he had published the first of his five volumes of Folk Songs from Somerset, the fifth of which was to appear in 1909. Sharp spent the rest of his life collecting folk songs from all over the British Isles and beyond and, in recognition of his work in this field, the English Folk Dance and Song Society named its London headquarters, Cecil Sharp House, after him.
Britten’s version of O Waly, Waly is to be found in the third volume of his folk song arrangements the one he dedicated to his friend, the soprano Joan Cross, who had recently scored a great success as Ellen Orford in the first performances of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes and as the Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia.
Loch Lomond, or as it is sometimes called The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond, is one of the best-known of all Scottish songs. It was first published in 1841 in a collection entitled ‘Vocal Melodies of Scotland’ but it is not known who wrote the words nor who composed the tune. Some commentators, notably John Purser, author of ‘Scotland’s Music’, have noted a strong connection between this tune and an earlier one – The Bonnie Hoose o’Airlie – while others suggest a likeness 9with The Lowlands of Holland which dates from the time of the Anglo-Dutch wars in the seventeenth century. Purser also claims that the event commemorated in this song is the return to Carlisle from Derby of the Jacobite army in 1745. It is also likely that its words are the work of a Jacobite prisoner who had been incarcerated in Carlisle prison having been condemned to death for his support of Bonnie Prince Charlie. These words therefore seem to be telling of a soldier who used to go with his sweetheart to the banks of Scotland’s largest loch but who will be going there no more as he is soon to be executed. However, when he is dead his spirit will be returned via the ‘Low Road’ to Scotland – for legend has it that the souls of all Scots who die outside their native land will be brought home by that route – and will therefore arrive before the living who will be travelling on the ‘High Road’.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner was composed by the broadcaster, actor and songwriter, Hubert Gregg in 1944. ‘It took me twenty minutes to write before supper one night,’ he maintained, adding that ‘it’s only got sixteen bars, but people seem to like it.’ Like it they certainly did. It was not until 1947, however, that it was brought to the attention of Londoners themselves who immediately took it to their hearts. In February of that year, Gregg had received a phone call from the band leader and impresario, Jack Hylton, who was about to put on a new show starring the Crazy Gang and needed a song for Bud Flanagan to sing in it. During the 1930s, until the outbreak of the Second World War, the Crazy Gang – whose members were Jimmy Nervo and Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold, Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen and, occasionally ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray – had been appearing annually at the London Palladium. Hylton’s appropriately named Together Again was to be their first post-war show in their new home, the Victoria Palace. After a bit of thought, Gregg remembered the song he had written three years earlier and into the show it went. Together Again ran for two years from April 1947 until October 1949 and before long others had taken up its most popular number. One of those to record it was the actor Jack Warner who, from 1955 to 1976, was to be seen on British television as Dixon of Dock Green. For the early episodes of this popular series about a sympathetic and humane East End policeman, the theme song chosen was, perhaps not surprisingly, Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner.
Jonathan Darbourne, who has made the arrangements of Loch Lomond and of Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner used for this recording, has been singing with the Temple Church Choir since 2010. He began his musical life as a chorister at Southwark Cathedral under the direction of Peter Wright. During this time he also apppeared as a treble soloist at the Barbican, Queen Elizabeth and Royal Albert Halls and took various operatic roles, notably Miles in Elijah Moshinsky’s production of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw which won him high praise in the musical press. After reading for a degree in music at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he sang as an academical clerk under Bill Ives and Daniel Hyde, he took a Masters in consort performance at the Schola Cantorum, Basle. Alongside his career as a countertenor, he has a busy life as a choral arranger and composer, a passion inspired by Bill Ives while he was an undergraduate. He has had pieces performed by groups such as Chapelle du Roi, Ex Cathedra and the Temple Church Choir, some of which have been broadcast on BBC radio, and has continued to expand his close harmony collection as performed by his own group, the Oxford Clerks.
In June 1894 Gabriel Fauré wrote to the Princesse Edmond de Polignac to apologize for not being able to attend her dinner party the following Friday. The Princess, as the heir to the fortune made by the Singer Sewing Machine Company which had been founded by her father in 1856, was a great patron of the arts and in particular of music. (Fauré was to dedicate several of his songs to her.) Also in the aforementioned letter, Fauré referred to some of his most recent compositions. ‘I have composed four short pieces of religious music’ he told the Princess, ‘but (I’m very much afraid) not in the spirit of the new Religious Music Society. I have invested them, trivial though they may be’, he added, ‘with the human expression that I felt like investing them with.’ (The Society to which Fauréwas alluding was the Schola Cantorum that had recently been founded as a rival institution to the Paris Conservatoire where the emphasis was on instrumental music and opera.)
It seems that two of the four short pieces were the motets Ave verum corpus and Tantum ergo, which together form his Opus 65, and it is thought that one of the others might have been the Ave Maria, Op.67. The Ave verum is a short Eucharistic hymn intended for the feast of Corpus Christi. It is said to date from the fourteenth century and is often attributed to Pope Innocent VI although some scholars consider that it was written much earlier. It has certainly attracted countless composers over the centuries and there are many settings of it in the repertoire in addition to this one by Fauré. Perhaps the most famous of these is the one Mozart composed in the last year of his life but there are other notable settings by William Byrd, Edward Elgar, Camille Saint-Saëns and Francis Poulenc.
In the Anglican Church, the Nunc dimittis is one of the canticles which, along with the Magnificat, forms the central part of the service of Evensong, or Evening Prayer. With words taken from the Gospel according to St Luke – Chapter 2, verses 29 to 32 – it is known as the ‘Song of Simeon’. As the Bible relates, there was a just and devout man in Jerusalem, by name of Simeon, who had been told by the Holy Ghost that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. So it came to pass that he was in the Temple when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus for a service of consecration of the firstborn (not as is often stated, for circumcision) and he took the child in his arms and uttered the words that in the Book of Common Prayer are translated as ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word’.
In early times, the Canticles would have been spoken, or sung to plainchant melodies, but, over the years, many composers have clothed the words with music of their own period to create all kinds of settings from the simple to the large-scale, unaccompanied or with accompaniment of organ and even orchestra. This new setting by John Ashton Thomas is for boys’ choir (in particular for that of the Temple Church), organ and the saxophone of Mark Lockheart.
John Ashton Thomas was born in Plymouth in March 1961. At the age of eight he became a chorister at Exeter Cathedral where the organist, Lionel Dakers, gave him great encouragement and conducted his first choral work. The assistant organist, Paul Morgan was later to perform one of his early instrumental compositions. From 1980 he studied composition (with Richard Arnell) and piano at Trinity College of Music in London, being awarded the Senior Composition Prize in 1984 and a scholarship for a further year of study. During that time he wrote several film scores for students at the London International Film School and played in several bands. After a spell in Liverpool where he worked as a lecturer in music and became one of the city’s busiest jazz pianists, he returned to London where he joined The Chance Element, an experimental, minimalist, funk band.
Back in London he also taught in various schools and colleges and worked for an M.Mus degree at Goldsmiths’ College. Since then he has taught composition at Trinity Laban (formally Trinity College of Music) and jazz at the Royal Academy. He has also worked with a variety of musicians including Diana Ross, Nicola Benedetti, Michael Bublé and Phil Cunningham.
In May 1939, four months before World War II began, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears set sail for North America. During the next three years, Britten composed, amongst other things, his first opera, Paul Bunyan, the Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, the Seven Sonets of Michelangelo, his first string quartet and the Sinfonia da Requiem. By the end of 1941 he was beginning to feel very homesick and therefore decided to return to England. It was not until the spring of 1942, however, that he and Pears were able to book a passage on a boat home. It was thus, on 16 March, they boarded the MS Axel Johnson, a Swedish cargo vessel, in New York. The journey across the Atlantic was a long one and involved a brief stop at Halifiax, Nova Scotia, in which city Britten picked up a copy of The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems. Armed with this, and two harp manuals, he then set about composing his Ceremony of Carols. The book of poems provided him with most of the words for this new work, and the harp manuals (which he had with him as he had been contemplating the composition of a harp concerto), inspired him to use that instrument to accompany it. (Also during this voyage, Britten composed another choral work, the Hymn to St Cecilia.)
It was not until 17 April that the MS Axel Johnson docked at Liverpool. Before long Britten and Pears had registered as conscientious objectors and were exempted from military service on condition that they give concerts for CEMA, the Council of the Encouragement of Music and the Arts. By August of that year, they had moved into a house in London’s Cheyne Walk owned by Ursula Nettleship, herself a great supporter of CEMA. For her, the two musicians gave concerts ‘all over the place under the strangest conditions’, as Britten put it.
The first performance of the Ceremony of Carols was given in the library at Norwich Castle on 5 November 1942 by the women’s voices of the Fleet Street Choir conducted by T.B. Lawrence with Gwendolen Mason as the harpist. The same artists gave the first London performance some three weeks later, on 21 December. The following year Britten revised this new work and added two more items, including the harp interlude. By then Britten had decided that he would prefer boys’, rather than women’s voices, to sing this piece so the first performance of the revised version was given by the Morriston Boys’ Choir at the Wigmore Hall, conducted by the composer and with Maria Korchinska playing the harp. Not surprisingly, Britten dedicated the Ceremony of Carols to Ursula Nettleship.
© Peter Avis, February 2016
Roger Sayer, Conductor
Roger Sayer is Organist and Director of Music at The Temple Church, London, having previously held the same position at Rochester Cathedral. He is also Deputy Chorus Director and Accompanist to the London Symphony Chorus.
In his early years Roger was an organ student at St Paul’s Cathedral and also won many prizes for organ playing as a student at the Royal College of Music. Notably his success as a prize winner in the 1989 St Albans International Organ Competition led to a career of international recital tours which took him all over the world. He has since made many recordings both as organist and conductor which have received wide critical acclaim.
Under his direction the Temple Church Choir has performed live on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM, the Cadogan Hall, in Washington DC and, more recently, Holland, the Far East and Australia. Roger is organ soloist on the soundtrack of the blockbuster film Interstellar and, in May last year, performed the score live at the Royal Albert Hall. His organ performances and recordings are numerous and, most recently, he has recorded the complete twenty sonatas of Rheinberger.
Greg Morris, Organ and Piano
Greg Morris is Associate Organist of the Temple Church in London, Musical Director of Collegium Musicum of London, and founding Musical Director of the Bar Choral Society.
An acclaimed solo recitalist, Greg has performed widely throughout the UK and Europe. He gave the world première of David Briggs’ Organ Concerto, and subsequently recorded the work with the Northern Chamber Orchestra. His three solo CDs have received widespread critical acclaim; the most recent, the first to be recorded on the newly restored organ of the Temple Church, was released by Signum in 2014, and has been described by Gramophone as ‘a singularly impressive release’. Since 2006, Greg has accompanied the acclaimed Temple
Church Choir. He has performed with them on BBC Radio 3, in CD recordings, and in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, as well as on tours to Washington D.C. and Holland. He has appeared at the BBC Proms with the BBC Singers, and is in demand as a freelance accompanist and ensemble player.
Greg also works extensively as a conductor. Highlights have included directing the Temple Singers and Players in Purcell’s magnificent ode, Hail! Bright Cecilia in Middle Temple Hall, and conducting Collegium Musicum of London in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem in a new chamber version at St James’ Piccadilly. Plans for this year include Arion and the Dolphin, a new work by Jonathan Dove, and Haydn’s Creation.
Anne Denholm, Harp
Anne Denholm is one of Britain’s leading young harpists, and is Official Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales. She is earning a reputation for her dynamic and engaging performances across a variety of musical fields. She received her Master’s from the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London with distinction, graduating with the Renata Scheffel-Stein Harp Prize, the Sir Reginald Thatcher Prize, and a Regency Award for notable achievement. Whilst at the RAM, she was the first ever harpist to win the historic RAM Club Prize, and was twice winner of the Skaila Kanga Harp Prize.
Denholm underwent a British musical upbringing, studying at the Junior Department of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Purcell School, Cambridge University and the RAM. She has won numerous prizes in local, national and international competitions, including second place in the Wales International Harp Festival 2014 and reaching the string category finals of the BBC Young Musician in 2010. Concerto appearances have included works by Handel, Mozart, Pierné and Glière.
Anne is increasingly in demand as an interpreter and performer of new music; she has been recording and premiering new works for solo harp since 2006, and in 2013-14 worked with Sally Beamish on a video project of her work, Awuya. She is a founding member of contemporary experimental quartet, The Hermes Experiment, and greatly enjoys working with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
Anne freelances with orchestras across England, most recently working with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and The Orchestra of the Swan. She also enjoys working with choirs; collaborators have included The Temple Church Choir, Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir, The Choir of St John’s College Cambridge, City of London Chamber Choir, and Voce Chamber Choir.
Mark Lockheart, Saxophone
Saxophonist and composer Mark Lockheart first came to prominence in the mid-1980s with the influential big band Loose Tubes.
In 1992 Mark formed the eclectic co-led quartet Perfect Houseplants, a group that released six albums and collaborated with classical artists such as the Orlando Consort, Andrew Manze and Pamela Thorby. He joined Seb Rochford’s Polar Bear in 2003, which went on to record five ground-breaking albums. The band’s second CD, Held on the Tips of Fingers, was nominated for the 2005 Mercury Award and later appeared in Jazzwise’s ‘100 Albums That Shook the World.’
Mark was a featured soloist in Mark Anthony Turnage’s About Water, which was premiered on the Southbank in June 2007. He collaborated several times more with Turnage, performing his A Man Descending and in the opera Anna Nicole which was premiered at the Royal Opera House in 2011. In 2009 Mark’s quintet album In Deep was released to critical acclaim and the following year saw the release of his first big band album Days Like These with the Hamburg-based NDR big band. That same year Mark was awarded APPJC ‘Parliamentary Jazz Musician of the Year 2010.’ In 2013 he released Ellington in Anticipation, a radical reworking of Ellington melodies. The CD attracted four and five-star reviews and was MOJO magazine’s ‘Jazz Album of 2013’.
Mark’s most recent trio Malija released its debut CD in Dec 2015 to critical acclaim. Recent success at the Jazz FM Awards saw Mark coming away with ‘instrumentalist of the year 2016’.
The Temple Church Boys’ Choir
Alex Rigo McSweeney
Jian Hui Mo
Emerson Murphy, Head Chorister
Max Todes, Deputy Head Chorister
Luca Zucchi, Deputy Head Chorister
The Temple Church Choir of 18 boy-choristers and twelve choirmen has in recentyears regained the prestige it enjoyed when Sir George Thalben-Ball and Ernest Lough made (in 1926) their world-famous recording of Mendelssohn’s Hear my Prayer/O, for the wings of a Dove. The present choir shot back to prominence with the commission and – at the Temple Church itself – the première of John Tavener’s all-night musical vigil The Veil of the Temple, ‘Tavener’s masterpiece’ (The Daily Telegraph). The Choir took The Veil to the Lincoln Center Festival in New York, and then to the Proms in a shortened version which was released on a double-CD by Sony. This recording has been followed by three further discs from the choir, all of them critically acclaimed.
In recent years the choristers have appeared on Hyperion’s new release of Britten’s St Nicholas, performed The Ceremony of Carols at the opening concert of the Britten Centenary celebrations at the Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh, joined forces with the BBC Singers in Britten’s A Babe was Born at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, and broadcast a memorial concert to Sir John Tavener on Classic FM. Last year they also joined the BBC Singers in a recording of music by Judith Weir, which was broadcast recently on BBC Radio 3. The Choir is proud to commission new music, including works from Thomas Adès and Gabriel Jackson. In November 2014 the choir gave the première of A Safe Stronghold, a collaboration between two young composers to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War – the German Lars Schwarze and the British Gareth Treseder. Nico Muhly’s Our Present Charter was commissioned to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, and as part of events to celebrate the same anniversary, the choir performed at both the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. Our Present Charter also appears on the choir’s latest CD for Signum, A Knight’s Progress, released last year, which features additional music by Haydn, Parry, Walton and Vaughan Williams.
On the morning of Monday 15 June 2015 at Runnymede Meadow, the Temple Church Choir performed a new anthem by John Rutter, in the presence of HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, to mark the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. The Choir also toured Holland at the end of July, where it performed a programme of five concerts in some of the country’s finest churches and cathedrals. Last November Classic FM broadcast John Rutter’s 70th Birthday Concert sung by the Temple Church Choir who were joined by the Winchester College Quiristers. The Choir rounded off 2015 with a live performance on BBCRadio 3 as part of the Temple Winter Festival. In February this year, the Choir’s Ash Wednesday Choral Evensong was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Produced by Tom Guthrie
Recorded by Graham Semark
Edited by Nick Sheridan
Recorded on 12, 13 and 19 March 2016 in the Temple Church, London
Cover Image by Nina Large
“The presence of [the choir’s] famous boy soprano Ernest Lough is never far away from this music, particularly when soloist Ebube Chiana is singing; surely a boy with a bright future … Britten’s Missa Brevis in D and the great Ceremony of Carols, both sung with admirable precision and classy musicianship”
– The Guardian, 4*
“The trebles of London’s Temple Church sing this imaginatively mixed programme with verve and energy. Rodney Bennett’s The Insect World is a charming vehicle for their sweet tone.”
– BBC Music Magazine