Requiem Mass held for organist John Birch
25 May 2012
Requiem Mass held for the late John Birch
A Requiem Mass for John Birch, who died on 28 April, was held on 15 May at All Saints Church, Margaret Street, London, where Birch had been organist and choirmaster during the 1950s. In his sermon, the Very Revd Nicholas Frayling, Dean of Chichester, told of Birch’s deep faith and of his appointment as director of music at Chichester Cathedral during the time of Dean Walter Hussey; from this creative collaboration came the revival of the Southern Cathedrals Festival, and the commissioning of Leonard Bernstein to write the Chichester Psalms, of which Birch conducted the British premiere in 1965.
While at Chichester Birch continued to lead an active musical life outside the cathedral, as a professor at the Royal College of Music, a council member of the Royal College of Organists, organist and visiting lecturer at the University of Sussex, and as an international concert artist. After leaving Chichester, Birch was organist at the Temple Church in London and became curator organist at the Royal Albert Hall. Roderick Swanston gave a warm tribute, recalling Birch’s meticulous pedagogical approach – which resonated with the former pupils present in the church – and sharing memories of Birch’s wit, love of art, and fine hospitality.
Paul Brough directed the choir in movements from Duruflé’s Requiem and Stanford’s Beati quorum, and Stephen Disley played the closing voluntary, ‘Varhany solo’ from Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass. A special service was held at the same time in St Michael and All Angels Church in Observatory, Cape Town, where Birch wintered during the last ten years of his life.
A full obituary will appear in the July/August issue of Choir & Organ.
Halsey set to become LSO and LSC chorus director
17 May 2012
'Dream come true': Simon HalseyMatthias Heyde
Leading conductor Simon Halsey has been appointed the chorus director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and the London Symphony Chorus (LSC). The post will involve coordinating all the choral work relating to the orchestra as well as the chorus.
Principal conductor of LSO Valery Gergiev said he was looking forward to developing his relationship with Halsey: ‘We’ve worked together many times elsewhere. I look forward to a very special partnership with him. I am thrilled about Simon’s appointment.’
Plans are already underway for the LSO and LCS’s 2012/13 season, including performances of Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater and Song of the Night and Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem; both performances will see Halsey work with Gergiev.
Earlier this year Halsey was made artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic’s Youth Choral Programme and appointed as the director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir. He has been chorus director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus since 1983.
Halsey said of his new appointment: ‘The London Symphony Chorus is one of the world’s finest choirs and it’s a group that I hold dear. To return as their director and to take a new post created to bring choral work into the heart of the LSO and its Discovery programme is a dream come true.’
An LSO spokesperson said, ‘It’s a real opportunity. Singing has always been an important element of our discovery work and it has now been highlighted in the national music education plan. With this appointment, Simon can take an overview of all our choral activities, including the three youth choirs and our annual Singing Day.’
Gerre Edward Hancock (1934-2012)
26 January 2012
Gerre Edward Hancock (1934-2012)
Gerre Hancock, one of America’s most highly acclaimed concert organists and choral directors, passed away peacefully on January 21st, surrounded by his family, in Austin, Texas. The cause was coronary artery disease. A gifted artist, teacher and composer, he was considered by many to be a giant figure in twentieth to twenty-first century American sacred music. He was known not only for his artistry, but also for his energy, optimism and love of the people he taught and for whom he performed.
At the time of his death, Dr. Hancock was Professor of Organ and Sacred Music at The University of Texas at Austin, where he taught along with his wife of fifty years, Dr. Judith Hancock. Prior to this appointment in 2004, he held the position of Organist and Master of the Choristers at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City, where for over thirty years he set a new standard for church music in America. Previous to his time at Saint Thomas, he held positions as Organist and Choirmaster of Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, where he also served on the Artist Faculty of the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, and as Assistant Organist at St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City.
The full obituary features in the March/April issue of Choir & Organ, available to purchase from 1 March 2012.
British Composer awards announced
12 December 2011
Michael Zev Gordon has won the Choral section of the 2011 British Composer awards for Allele, a 40-part unaccompanied work set to a text by Ruth Padel in which singers performed parts derived directly from their own genetic code. Julian Anderson scooped both the orchestral award for his Fantasias, and the Liturgical award for his ‘Bell’ Mass, commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey to mark the 450th anniversary of the Abbey's Collegiate Charter.
Full list of winners:
Instrumental Solo or Duo
William Sweeney - Sonata for Cello & Piano
Anthony Payne - String Quartet No. 2
Huw Watkins - Five Larkin Songs
Michael Zev Gordon - Allele
Wind Band or Brass Band
Lucy Pankhurst - In Pitch Black
Julian Anderson - Fantasias
Orlando Gough - A Ring A Lamp A Thing
Julian Anderson - Bell Mass
Contemporary Jazz Composition
Tommy Evans - The Green Seagull
Community or Educational Project
John Barber - Consider the Lilies
Making Music Award
Richard Bullen - I can’t find brumm…
Bent Sørensen - La Mattina
Graham Fitkin - PK
£1.5m rescue bid for Chapel Royal Choir
12 December 2011
A new Choral Foundation has been set up to secure the musical future of the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace. The Choir to date has been largely self-funded through donations from the congregation but due to growing expenses, funding is now insufficient to sustain it. The Foundation’s launch event followed a special Evensong to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible, and was attended by over 200 supporters; guests included descendants of the composers John Blow and Henry Purcell, who were Children and Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal and both performed and composed as part of the musical establishment at Hampton Court Palace.
A spokeswoman told C&O: ‘The Choral Foundation will raise money to fund the musical training of the choir boys, to establish scholarships with local schools for boys who would otherwise not be able to enter the Choir and attend these schools, to undertake major repairs on the historic organ to bring it back to world class standard, and to fund professional Gentlemen singers so they can practise and perform regularly with the Chapel Royal Choir.’
The Chapel Royal has been called ‘the cradle of English church music’. From the 16th century, renowned composers and musicians performed for Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II, William III and Mary II, and Queen Anne. These composers included William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Morley, Henry Purcell, Pelham Humfrey and John Blow. The musicians and composers of the Chapel Royal inspired and were copied by cathedrals, churches and chapels throughout the country. The tradition of musical excellence continues today: the choir regularly performs works by living British composers such as Sir Nicolas Jackson, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, James McMillan and Jonathan Dove.
Canon Denis Mulliner, Chaplain of the Chapel Royal, said: ‘The Chapel Royal is a hidden treasure, a living, vibrant church with an outstanding choir at the centre of an historic royal palace. We would like to share this with as many visitors as possible.’ Worshippers do not pay the Palace entrance fee to attend services.