Concerts - 2012

Journey into Light – CD and Tour Launch Concert
Friday 7 December 2012, 6pm, Jesus College Chapel
The Choirs of Jesus College Cambridge
Conducted by Mark Williams

To coincide with the commercial release of the Choirs’ acclaimed disc of music from Advent to Candlemas, Journey into Light, and in preparation for their second trip to the USA in two years, the Combined Choirs performed a programme of seasonal music to a packed-out Jesus College Chapel, including a mixture of works from the CD and elsewhere. Highlights included Andrew Carter’s vigorous arrangement of the medieval carol, Angelus ad Virginem; the College Choir's performance of Benjamin Britten’s early masterpiece, A Hymn to the Virgin; and the Choristers' rendition of John Ireland's touching piece, The Holy Boy. The centrepiece of the CD, Nico Muhly’s avant-garde Bright Star Carol, commissioned by the College for the 2010 USA tour, found particular favour with many of the high-profile guests, including Dame Alison Richard (former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge) and James O’Donnell (Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey and President of the Royal College of Organists). To round off the performance, the Director of Music took to the piano to lead the Choirs in John Rutter’s heart-warming I wish you Christmas; and an enthusiastic audience enjoyed as an encore Ralph Allwood's arrangement of Jingle Bells.

The Light - Seasonal Sacred Songs
Thursday 6 December 2012, 7.30pm, St Augustine’s Church, Ramsgate
The Choir of Jesus College Cambridge
Conducted by Mark Williams

Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), the pioneer of the Victorian Gothic Revival style, is an instrumental figure in the history of Jesus College as a result of his remodelling of the College Chapel in the middle of the nineteenth century. To celebrate his bicentennial year, the College Choir travelled to Ramsgate to give a performance of music associated with the theme of ‘light’ in St Augustine’s Abbey Church, where Pugin is buried, and which he designed and built himself. Drawing on a wide range of pieces, the programme told the story of the liturgical year. Advent and Christmas music featured heavily, including John Tavener's Annunciation; Jan Sandström’s haunting arrangement of Michael Praetorius’ famous chorale, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen; and Robert Pearsall’s joyful arrangement of In dulci jubilo. However, there was also music from the Epiphany (Orlando de Lassus’ Omnes de Saba), Candlemas (Einojuhani Rautavaara’s ethereal Ehtoohymni) and Remembrance-tide (Charles H.H. Parry’s Sunset and Evening Star, to be included in the Combined Choirs’ upcoming disc of music for Remembrance which will be released on the Signum label). The highlight of the concert - for the Choir at least - came with Benjamin Britten’s brilliant Hymn to St Cecilia, a setting of W. H. Auden’s panegyric to the patron saint of music (‘a light to all musicians’).

Music for a Summer’s Evening
Sunday 1 July 2012, 7pm, St Mary’s Church, Arkesden
The Choir of Jesus College Cambridge
Conducted by Mark Williams

Before starting their summer tour of Germany, the College Choir travelled to Arkesden in Essex to provide an evening of music and entertainment in the village’s thirteenth-century church. Taking place soon after the time of the Jubilee celebrations, the first half of the programme, ‘Fairest Isle: Music from Great Britain across five centuries’, began with works by John Sheppard (Libera Nos) and William Byrd (Laudibus in Sanctis, a great testament to Byrd’s mastery of word painting and counterpoint) and continued through Purcell (Let mine eyes run down with tears) and Parry (There is an old belief), to works by composers from the modern day, including Sir Michael Tippet’s spirituals from A Child of our Time, Richard Marlow’s arrangement of John Brown’s Body and John Rutter’s light-hearted Dashing away with the smoothing iron. Following this whistle-stop tour of music from Great Britain, the second half of the concert (‘Distant Shores: Music from around the world’) encompassed Bach’s magnificent Singet dem Herrn, Francis Poulenc’s Exultate Deo and Arvo Pärt’s unusual …which was the Son of…, a setting of the genealogy of Christ from St Luke’s Gospel.

The concert was made possible thanks to the generous support of Charles Rawlinson MBE, a staunch supporter of the Choirs at Jesus, and donor of the chamber organ which was built for the College Chapel in 2010 by Kenneth Tickell.

'How can I keep from singing?’
Friday 22 June 2012, 7.30pm, St John’s Church, Great Wenham
The Choristers of Jesus College Cambridge
Conducted by Mark Williams

Using the gift of music to support charitable causes is something very close to the hearts of all those in the Choirs of Jesus College. As a result, the Choristers under the direction of Mark Williams gave a concert at St John’s Church, Great Wenham in Suffolk in aid of the British Red Cross, which has been at the forefront of providing humanitarian aid both in this country and overseas for over one hundred years. The programme included a wide range of music in different styles, ranging from Gregorian chant to works by Handel (Eternal source of light divine from the composer’s Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne) and Fauré (the Messe Basse). One particular highlight was A Song at Evening by the late Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012), the text of which, ‘Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’, is known as a nursery rhyme traditionally said by children as they go to bed. The nature of the setting is faithful to the child-like quality of the words, and the simple lyricism of the vocal line further encourages that connection. A Song at Evening was commissioned by Jesus College, Cambridge in 2011 in gratitude for the work of Robert and Margaret Mair at the end of their time in the Master's Lodge. Originally scored for two horns, harp and strings with unison chorus, and performed by the Combined Choirs of Jesus College with Britten Sinfonia, the work gently undulates on its journey with a short interlude before the final request in the second verse: ‘And if I die before I wake, I pray that God my soul will take.' On one of the few beautiful Summer's evenings of June, an overflowing St John's Church greeted the Choristers, the College's Organ Scholars (Robert Dixon and Benjamin Morris) and Shaun Fitzgerald (chorister father and trumpeter) with a standing ovation, and a substantial sum of money was raised for a very worth charity.

For news of the Choirs’ latest charitable work, an upcoming collaboration with the charity Songbound in Mumbai, please see here.

J.S. Bach St Matthew Passion
Tuesday 3 April 2012, 6.30pm, King’s College Chapel
The Choristers of Jesus College and St Catharine’s College
The Choir of King’s College Cambridge
Academy of Ancient Music
Conducted by Stephen Cleobury

Once again, the Choristers of Jesus College joined the Choir of King’s College Cambridge in their Holy Week performance of J.S. Bach’s masterpiece.

Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle
Thursday 22 March 2012, 8pm, Jesus College Chapel
The Choir of Jesus College Cambridge
Conducted by Mark Williams

Although primarily remembered as an operatic composer, Gioacchino Rossini also made two significant contributions to the world of sacred music, first by composing his setting of the famous devotional poem Stabat Mater in 1842, and then by setting the ordinary of the mass to music in his 1863 Petite Messe Solennelle. Described by the composer as “the last mortal sin of my old age” (it being the last work of any significance he composed), Rossini clearly had a strong sense of irony as the work is neither small, nor solemn, nor, in many ways, distinguishable as a piece of sacred music from his operatic works aside from the mass text itself. Clearly, while Rossini could be taken out of the opera house, the operatic music could never really be removed from Rossini. The work abounds with rhythmic vitality and numerous memorable melodies, a hallmark of Rossini’s compositional style.

Alongside a quartet of professional soloists (Rebecca Bottone, soprano; Julia Riley, mezzo-soprano; Benjamin Thapa, tenor; and Robert Rice, bass), and accompanied by the unorthodox combination of a grand piano (played by Roy Howat) and a harmonium (played by Anne Page), the College Choir delivered an exciting performance to a large audience in Jesus College Chapel. All performers really conveyed the sense of drama in the music, particularly in the virtuosic solo passages, and the fugal sections of the Gloria and of the Credo.

Mixing their Music
Saturday 10 March 2012, 7.30pm, Ely Cathedral
The Choirs of Jesus and Gonville and Caius Colleges
The Choir of Ely Cathedral

A concert of music for Passiontide.

Debussy La Damoiselle Elue and Wagner Parsifal Act III
Saturday 28 January 2012, 8.30pm, King’s College Chapel
The Choirs of Gonville and Caius, Clare, Jesus and Selwyn Colleges
Cambridge University Chamber Choir
Conducted by Sir Mark Elder

When it comes to large-scale vocal works, there are few composers who can surpass Richard Wagner. Famous for his immense operatic works, and particularly the Ring Cycle, his opera Parsifal, based on the legend of the grail quest of the Arthurian knight Percival, provided a fitting musical tribute to the awe-inspiring medieval architectural surroundings of King’s College Chapel. For a performance complemented by Debussy’s La Damoiselle Élue, Sir Mark Elder took time out from the Hallé Orchestra to conduct the combined choral forces of Jesus, Gonville and Caius, Clare and Selwyn Colleges, delivering a rendition which was “perfectly polished and professional” (Varsity 2012, 5 star). Supported by a quintet of high-quality professional soloists (Joan Rodgers, soprano; Victoria Simmonds, mezzo-soprano; Simon O’Neill, tenor; Robert Haward, bass-baritone; Robert Lloyd, bass), the result was a spine-tingling evening of music.