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Our tour to Paris

15th March 2015, by Mark Lawrence

We are very excited by our forthcoming tour to Paris (8th – 12th April) which will include two concerts and Sunday morning mass in Notre Dame.

More details to follow, but here are the music programmes. Maybe you would like to whizz over to Paris and join the audience?

Adrian Lucas – conductor
Paul Carr – organ

16.00hrs Thursday 9th April 2015 – Eglise de La Madeleine
O Clap your Hands – Gibbons
Kyrie – Mendelssohn
Organ: Impromptu from Pièces de Fantaisie – Vierne
Mass in G Minor – Vaughan Williams
Organ: Allegro giocoso: from Seven Improvisations – Saint-Saëns
Te Deum in C – Britten
Lord of the Dance – arr Willcocks

20.30hrs Friday 10th April 2015 – Abbaye St Germain des Pres
Te Deum in C – Britten
Christus Resurgens – Philips
Sanctus – Mendelssohn
Organ: Pièce d’Orgue BWV 572 – Bach
Mass in G Minor – Vaughan Williams
Organ: Choral Song and Fugue – SS Wesley
Ecce Ancilla Domini – Paul Drayton
In Exitu Israel – S Wesley
Lord of the Dance – arr Willcocks

11.30hrs Sunday 12th April 2015 – International Mass – Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris
Ecce Ancilla Domini – Paul Drayton
Sanctus and Agnus Dei – Mass in G minor – Vaughan Williams
Christus Resurgens – Philips

Marvellous Messiah!

13th December 2014, by Mark Lawrence

2014-12-12 20.38.50Also read Birmingham Post. Struck by the prevailing bugs, I could not sing in Messiah but repaired to the Grand Tier. (I was last in the audience for a City Choir Messiah in 1984 whilst a student, so it was a rare opportunity to see what the paying public gets.)
What a fine performance! Throughout, delicacy, precision of tuning and diction, lightness of touch, agility, dynamic range, good balance between players and singers. Of course, Messiah is a marvel – Handel has written no “dud” numbers in this piece. There was good contrast between main themes and accompanimental semiquavers. The control of tempo and diminuendo at the moment of “the iniquity of us all” was very moving. My favourite moment, “If he delight in him” with staccato – which brought me to the choir in the first place – was consistently applied by all the voices. Even the semitone ascension that is “Since by man came death” stayed in tune.
When you know the work inside out, you also know to look for the pitfalls. I am delighted to say that this performance avoided them, with the exception of a lack of “sync” by fine soprano soloist Rhian Lois in her final aria. James Oxley, tenor, played a dramatic continuity role with movement and gesture (and excellent singing, mostly without a copy) helping to glue the “story” together. Bass George Humphreys also provided excellent recitative and arias (together with the Sound of a first rate Trumpet). Catherine Hopper, contralto, completed this good team. The small CBSO band, with continuo keyboard from Thomas Trotter and Alexander Mason, played with sensitivity and warmth.
Fine work by Adrian Lucas, choir, orchestra and soloists, deserving the warm and immediate applause after the final “Amen” from a very good sized audience in Symphony Hall. Pencil in your diary for Friday 4th December 2015 – don’t miss it.

Packed Symphony Hall twice in one day

22nd November 2014, by Mark Lawrence

WP_20141122_22_01_52_ProSpectacular Classics saw the City Choir and CBSO with conductor / compere Anthony Inglis entertain not one but two full houses.

Sitting in the cafe after the first performance, there was a happy hum of audience as well as the choir – refuelling for the evening performance.

Lasers, maroons, fireworks and streamers added to the excitement at the close of the 1812 Overture. Great feedback on Twitter. Also, super photos thanks to Dan Morrissey.

WP_20141122_22_02_27_ProAfter the evening concert… If anything even more warmly received by the audience. Great fun for all concerned.

Book now for our fabulous performance of Handel’s Messiah on Friday 12th December.

Choir celebrates Karl Jenkins’ 70th to a packed Symphony Hall

1st November 2014, by Mark Lawrence

unnamedWith the conductor and composer on the rostrum, the City of Birmingham Choir and Manchester Concert Orchestra celebrated Karl Jenkins’ 70th birthday in style. A rapturous audience applauded the popular programme of this composer’s works. The concert included movements from Adiemus, The Armed Man, Requiem, Stabat Mater and orchestral movements from the lyrical euphonium concerto played with panache by David Childs. The finale, Song of the Plains, received an encore of the final section. Read the review.

Book now for our superb performance of Handel’s Messiah.

Sixty Years a Soprano

19th September 2014, by Mark Lawrence

Celebrating 60 years

Celebrating 60 years

City of Birmingham Choir former General Secretary and recently retired longest-standing soprano, Sylvia Emberson was presented with a certificate and a celebratory bouquet by choir Patron and former conductor, Christopher Robinson. Also on the platform at our rehearsal room were choir President, Hugh Carslake, current conductor, Adrian Lucas, and chairman, David Pannell, who also presented Sylvia with Life Membership of the choir.

Sylvia writes, “When I was accepted as a member of City Choir in autumn 1954, little did I realise that I would still be a member 60 years later. City Choir was considered to be the best choir in Birmingham so I was very proud to be one of its sopranos (many of the ladies turned up to rehearsals in very posh hats – I was very out of place because I didn’t have one!)”More….

Sylvia Emberson – Memories 1954-2014

19th September 2014, by Mark Lawrence

Celebrating 60 years

Celebrating 60 years

When I was accepted as a member of City Choir in autumn 1954, little did I realise that I would still be a member 60 years later. City Choir was considered to be the best choir in Birmingham so I was very proud to be one of its sopranos (many of the ladies turned up to rehearsals in very posh hats – I was very out of place because I didn’t have one!) The conductor at that time was David Willcocks (later Sir David) and we rehearsed in the small theatre of the Midland Institute – long since demolished – but it was on the corner of Paradise Street opposite the Town Hall. The majority of concerts took place in the Town Hall with the CBSO. I was still at school but soon left to go to teacher training college which was in Birmingham, so I was able to continue my membership of the choir.
60 Years Service Certificate

60 Years Service Certificate

Everything we sang was new to me, so it was a great challenge but very exciting. My very first concert was in November and was a short programme for television and included Polovtsian Dances in English! The broadcast was live, of course, and went out late because the boxing match before it overran. Two weeks later we sang a new piece by Maurice Jacobson, which he conducted, called The Hound of Heaven (we’ve sung it since and it isn’t easy). This was coupled with Intimations of Immortality by Finzi. Then came the first Messiah – I can remember struggling with the lesser known choruses. How many times have I sung this? Must be about 120 I suppose. After Christmas came A Sea Symphony conducted by Vaughan Williams (the rehearsal was in the morning so that he could have a rest in the afternoon!), my first choral symphony; Verdi’s Requiem and finally Belshazzar’s Feast – all that in the first 12 months. What an exciting start!

In the following years there were many highlights, such as singing in the Royal Festival Hall on St Cecilia’s Day in 1960; being conducted by various CBSO conductors and Sir Adrian Boult; together with many first performances and landmark concerts. Two memorable concerts were the first Birmingham performance of War Requiem in 1963; and A Mass of Life (Delius) in 1993. Another highlight season was the Diamond Jubilee of the choir celebrated in 1980-81 when we sang Missa Solemnis, Dream of Gerontius and in May 1981 a very challenging piece by Messiaen called La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jesus Christ. We’d not sung anything quite like this before! In May, leading up to this celebratory year, we performed Verdi’s Requiem so in the space of 12 months I sang in three of my favourite pieces. I reckon we worked hard during that year but it was all so worthwhile.

In 1973 the CBSO launched its own chorus and this provided us with a new challenge – competition. However, we “upped our game” and made every effort to improve our standard and so hold our own. In 1991 Symphony Hall opened. Two years before this the committee decided that we should transfer our concerts to the new venue. Our first rehearsal scared us so much that we were afraid to sing but spurred on by Christopher Robinson we were soon in our stride. I was General Secretary at this time and worked closely with the Symphony Hall Management Team in an attempt to build up a good relationship with them – I think I succeeded.

All this sounds very serious, but there have been some funny episodes as well. For instance when the ladies used to sing “The Planets” from the back stairs in the Town Hall. Someone draped a black curtain across the entrance by the organ, so that we were unseen, and there was a small hole in the curtain through which our conductor kept in touch with the orchestral conductor – no CCTV then!

All this of course happened a long time ago, but I mustn’t forget that the choir continues to give exciting concerts performing both new and standard works both in Birmingham and out of town, all to great acclaim from audiences and journalists.

You have provided me with immense pleasure; I’ve learned such a lot and met some lovely people both choir members and professional soloists and players – not forgetting four very talented and inspiring conductors. How lucky the choir has been to be trained by Messrs Willcocks, Davies, Robinson and Lucas. It will seem strange to sit in the audience, but that is where I’ll be from now on. I shall miss you all but thank you so much for making City Choir so special.

Open Rehearsal – 16th September

7th August 2014, by Mark Lawrence

We will be starting our rehearsals again on Tuesday 9th September, if you are interested in coming along. You can read about our splendid new season of concerts for 2014-2015. We would love to see you there.

open reh flyer In particular, we would like to invite you to our OPEN REHEARSAL at 6.30 pm on Tuesday 16th September in central Birmingham, where you can take part in a rehearsal and see just what it’s like singing in the choir. Maybe that will inspire you to want to join the choir.

Happy Summer wishes!

15th June 2014, by Mark Lawrence

Now that our season is over, we would like to send you our best wishes for the summer. We will be starting our rehearsals again on Tuesday 9th September, if you are interested in coming along. You can read about our splendid new season of concerts for 2014-2015. We would love to see you there.

Most recently, Voices from the City of Birmingham Choir performed in the wonderful church of St Peter, Wootton Wawen, as part of their music festival. Here are a couple of pictures from that day (click to enlarge).

St Peter's Church

St Peter’s Church

Rehearsing for the concert

Rehearsing for the concert

Wonderful Wootton Wawen

18th May 2014, by Mark Lawrence

The name may be hard to say, but we are greatly looking forward to our forthcoming participation in the Wootton Wawen Music Festival. The festival runs from 9th – 14th June, and our concert is on Wednesday, 11th June at 7.30pm. MADRIGALS AND MORE is performed by Voices from the City of Birmingham Choir and instrumentalists Jessica Gabbott (flute) and Kristina Kennedy (harp). It takes place in the marvellous Saxon edifice, St Peter’s Church.

TICKETS £15 (unreserved seating) from Patricia Phillips (01564 793114) or Linda Gilbert (01564 793535)Wooton Wawen's Saxon church

See you on Saturday in Symphony Hall!

12th May 2014, by Mark Lawrence
In Symphony Hall...

In Symphony Hall…

Saturday 17th sees our fantastic musical feast – English Reflections – in Symphony Hall at 7.30 pm.

Along with the popular Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, we present three works by composers writing in the early twentieth century, a period so much in focus as we commemorate the First World War.

In the concert is the tremendously powerful Hymn of Jesus by Gustav Holst, as well as Vaughan Williams’ evocative call for peace, Dona Nobis Pacem. The orchestra will perform Elgar’s King Arthur Suite. Book your tickets online, in person at the Symphony Hall or Town Hall box offices, or call 0121 345 0603. We look forward to seeing you.