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Choir & Organ is the leading independent magazine for all professionals and amateurs in the choral and organ worlds – whether you are an organist, choral director or singer, organ builder, keen listener, or work in publishing or the record industry, Choir & Organ is a must-read wherever you live and work.

Every two months our expert contributors bring you beautifully illustrated features on newly built and restored organs, insights into the lives and views of leading organists, choral directors and composers, profiles of pioneering and well-established choirs, and topical coverage of new research, festivals and exhibitions. In keeping with our commitment to music at the cutting edge, we commission a new work from a young composer in every issue, making the score freely available for download and performance.

Our international news and previews, with breaking stories, key awards and forthcoming premieres, combine with reviews of the latest CDs, DVDs and sheet music, and listings of recitals, festivals and courses, to keep you up to date with events and developments around the world.


The Neoclassical Organ and the Great Aristide Cavaillé-Coll Organ of Saint-Sulpice, Paris

Latest News

JOHN MCCABE DIES

14 February 2015

The distinguished composer and pianist John McCabe died yesterday, after a long illness.   


McCabe was born in 1939, and studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the Royal Northern College of Music) and at the Hochschule für Musik, Munich. He successfully held together a dual career as a concert pianist – his complete Haydn Piano Sonatas for Decca became a landmark recording – and composing.   

His extensive catalogue, numbering more than 200 works, covered almost every genre, ranging from compositions for large orchestra (among them symphonies and concertos) and full-length ballets (Edward II, Arthur) through to chamber music, and particularly piano music. His choral canon included works with orchestra (the cantata Voyage, a Stabat Mater, Songs of the Garden, Reflections of a Summer Night), liturgical music and carols, and commissions from prestigious bodies and performing groups including the BBC, the King’s Singers, and festivals in Chichester, Norwich, Cork and Harrogate, among others. 

His most recent work, Christ’s Nativity, was commissioned by the Hallé Choir and was premiered in Manchester in December 2014.   

McCabe also wrote eleven works for solo organ, of which the most recent – Esperanza – was commissioned for the Interpretation Competition of the 2011 St Albans International Organ Festival. The work was inspired by the Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days following the accident at the Copiapó mine.   



McCabe was appointed CBE by Her Majesty The Queen in 1985 for his services to British music. In 2004 he was honoured with the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ Distinguished Musician Award in recognition of his ‘outstanding contribution to British musical life’, and two years later received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Liverpool University. Last year he was presented with the Ivors Classical Music Award.  www.johnmccabe.com

 

Obituary in the May/June issue of Choir & Organ.

BRITTEN SINFONIA SUCCESS

10 February 2015

Edward Nesbit, 28, has been selected as the winner of OPUS 2015, Britten Sinfonia’s open submission scheme for unrepresented composers.   


Applicants were asked to submit two pre-existing scores together with audio recordings. All applications were judged ‘blind’ by a panel led by Britten Sinfonia Principal Piano and composer Huw Watkins, and composer Dobrinka Tabakova. From 258 composers, 12 were shortlisted and invited to write a new piece for horn trio, workshopped in January 2015. From these, Nesbit was chosen to compose a full commission for Britten Sinfonia, to be performed in the ensemble's 'At Lunch' series in Norwich, Cambridge and Wigmore Hall, London, during November and December 2015.

This is the third year of OPUS, which offers a composer who is not represented by a publishing house a commission to write a work for Britten Sinfonia’s award-winning ‘At Lunch’ series.   

Nesbit’s Winter Journey for organ solo features in the New Music section of the January/February 2015 issue of Choir & Organ.   

CHORAL CONDUCTING AWARD

10 February 2015

Gregory Batsleer wins Choral Conducting Award
Gregory Batsleer wins Choral Conducting Award© Eoin Carey

Gregory Batsleer has won the Arts Foundation Award 2015 for Choral Conducting. The award of £10,000 was presented by author Jeanette Winterson at a ceremony on 29 January at the 20th Century Theatre in Notting Hill, London.   


The Award is a first for the Foundation, and reflects the huge increase in community singing thanks to outreach work by musicians and musical organisations, and its popularisation through TV programmes.   

Batsleer (25) first became involved with choral singing at the age of nine as a member of the Manchester Boys Choir. He developed his choral conducting while a student in Princeton, and from 2008, based back in the UK, he co-founded the Manchester Consort, became director of the Hallé Youth Choir, and led the Manchester University Chorus. He graduated from the Royal College of Music in 2012, and is now artistic director of the National Portrait Choir, the only in-house choir in a UK gallery.   

Batsleer commented, ‘For my entire life choral music has made me tick, made me alert and has basically become the backbone to who I am. With the Arts Foundation Fellowship I will be able to give the needed space and dedication to my next stage of development, find new and further inspirations and give a commitment to learning and progressing the art of choral conducting.’   

The runners up were Isabelle Adams, Victoria Ely and Lee Reynolds, who each received £1,000. The judges were conductor Ralph Allwood MBE and composers Bob Chilcott and Cecilia McDowall.   

The Arts Foundation was founded by an anonymous donation in 1993 and has since given over £1.6m to support artists from all areas of the arts. Other awards presented on 29 January were for Spoken Word, Art in the Elements, Video & Digital for Performance, Materials Innovation and Arts Producers. 

RUSSIAN-THEMED CD WINS GRAMMY

10 February 2015

Conspirare director Craig Hella Johnson receives the GRAMMY award in Los Angeles
Conspirare director Craig Hella Johnson receives the GRAMMY award in Los Angeles

At the 57th GRAMMY Awards, the Best Choral Performance category was won by The Sacred Spirit of Russia, sung by Conspirare and conducted by Craig Hella Johnson (Harmonia mundi SACD 807526). The CD positions music by Rachmaninoff alongside that by Alexander Kastalsky and Alexander Grechaninov, and was described in C&O’s Reviews section as ‘a lovely recording, in immaculate sound’ (Mar/Apr 2014). 


Other CDs shortlisted were: 
Bach: Matthäus-Passion Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin, Rias Kammerchor & Staats-und Domchor Berlin / René Jacobs (dir), on Harmonia Mundi 
Dyrud: Out Of Darkness Nidaros Cathedral Choir / Vivianne Sydnes (dir), on 2L (Lindberg Lyd) 
Holst: First Choral Symphony; The Mystic Trumpeter Susan Gritton (s), BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Andrew Davis (dir), on Chandos Records 
Mozart: Requiem Dunedin Consort / John Butt (dir), on Linn Records.   

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus also featured in the awards: their ASO Media CD of Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis pacem, Symphony no.4 and The Lark Ascending won Best Engineered Album, Classical category, thanks to the engineering talents of Michael Bishop.

www.grammy.com

Three Choirs Festival looks to the future

23 January 2015

Three Choirs Festival artistic directors (from left) Geraint Bowen, Adrian Partington and Peter Nardone
Three Choirs Festival artistic directors (from left) Geraint Bowen, Adrian Partington and Peter Nardonecopyright Ash Mills

The Three Choirs Festival has established a new foundation to help to secure the future of the festival and open it up for wider participation. The Three Choirs Foundation, which marks the Festival’s 300th anniversary this year, was launched on 22 January at a reception in the House of Lords, London, hosted by Lord Faulkner of Worcester.

Sir Michael Perry, chair of the Three Choirs Foundation, said that he hoped that the new trust would facilitate some large-scale commissioning of new works, something for which the Festival has been known over its three centuries. Other speakers included Dame Felicity Lott, President of the Three Choirs Festival Society, and mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly CBE, who said: ‘I never take for granted an invitation to sing in one of the three great cathedrals of the Three Choir Festival; indeed my summer would be incomplete without it. It is an honour to be part of this rich history of music-making which has given a platform to so many musicians within the last 300 years …The Three Choirs Festival can never be accused of being stuck in a time warp. It is in the good hands of people who are open to many new ideas while being aware that audiences still want to hear what they know.’ 

Edward Gardner OBE, outgoing music director of English National Opera and chief conductor designate of the Bergen Philharmonic, sent a message which was read on his behalf by Adrian Partington, current artistic director of the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival: ‘It was the Three Choirs Festival where, as a chorister, I took my very first steps into this amazing international community of classical music. Performing as a youngster alongside the best soloists, the excellent chorus, and singing new works by international composers, opens the eyes like nothing else …  I want to express my fullest support for a Foundation which seeks to ensure that choristers of 2115 have the chances I had, and that audiences are still relishing and celebrating our great British tradition for centuries to come. Without the experience gained at the Three Choirs Festival, I would not be conducting at the Coliseum – it’s as simple as that.’

Lay clerks of Gloucester Cathedral, directed by Adrian Partington, entertained guests with a brief but eclectic programme of plainsong, Byrd’s Vigilate and Is you is or is you ain’t my baby, reflecting both the sacred and the secular origins of the Three Choirs Festival.

Initiatives to be undertaken by the Three Choirs Foundation include the support and development of the Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir, founded in 2010, and the creation of Three Choirs Voices, a chamber choir drawn from the Festival Chorus. Funding goals include £50k per annum for bursaries to support the training of cathedral choristers at Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester. www.3Choirs.org/Foundation


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