Choral

Got a Handel on it now?

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Chorally Confused gets a handle on Handel
Chorally Confused

Chorally Confused has been getting along just fine singing with the South Devon Choir.  Despite her relative inexperience and near non-existent music reading skills enthusiasm and determination have paid dividends and when it was announced that the Choir would be singing Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah Chorally Confused thought to herself

“No problem. I’ve heard it so many times, it will be a doddle to learn.  After Verdi’s Requiem, how hard can it be?”

At the first practice Chorally Confused discovered that she was the only one, apparently, who had never sung Messiah before.  Gasps of amazement at her inexperience were heard – then she noticed that she was not the only one who had put up her hand – others, slowly were admitting that they, too, had never sung this piece before.  The conductor smiled cheerily and the rehearsal started.

It’s funny how, no matter how many times you may, or may not, have sung a piece of music there is always something new to be discovered, or some passage that you never sang quite correctly.  For Chorally Confused it has been a whole new experience – how to sing something correctly when you have only heard it sung before and how to pack an awful lot of notes into a very short space of time.  When asked what she thought of it after the first rehearsal she was heard to observe, “I think Handel must have been in a hurry when he wrote this and he didn’t have to try singing it himself.”  Well, she was right in her first observation – the whole work was written in a matter of three to four weeks, so perhaps Handel was in a hurry.

Chorally Confused has also been observed wandering round muttering to herself.  We discovered that this was not muttering but her practising the long runs of notes as suggested – pa-pa-pa-pa.

Providing she, and the rest of the Choir, remember to sing the words, this will have been a very helpful exercise.

By last week’s rehearsal Chorally Confused admitted that she “Had a Handel on it, thanks”.  We are pleased for her.

If you would like to come along and hear the Choir sing on Saturday 10 December at 7.30pm at Central Church, Torquay , and of course hear if  Chorally Confused really has got a handle on the notes and necessarily in the right order, then you can buy tickets online https://southdevonchoir.org/hallelujah-its-christmas/  or on the door.  Tickets cost £12 (please note a booking fee applies online).  Alternatively you can check out our Tickets page for further information.

Please do come.

#sdchoirchristmas #sdcchristmas

 

 

Sing in a choir for health

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Gareth Malone rehearsing the Trafalgar Square audience in singing part of Bizet's Carmen.
Gareth Malone rehearsing the Trafalgar Square audience in singing part of Bizet’s Carmen.

Once singing in a choir was reserved for church on Sundays but in the last few years choral singing has become more and more popular.  Gareth Malone and his series The Choir and other reality TV shows, such as the X Factor, have inspired people to find their voice and find a choir to sing in.  In fact, it is now estimated that 2.8 million people in Briton take part in a choir or singing group and many more probably sing solo in the shower, the kitchen and the car as they go about their daily business. Music is a mood influencer and we have only to look at the amount of music written over centuries to see its powerful effects.

What’s more, it has been shown that if you join a choir you will feel part of a group more quickly than many other activities.  There is something special about singing, revealed in an October 2015 research project undertaken by The Royal Society which indicates that singing may be an evolutionary development that enables human beings to bond more quickly in social situations.

Singing can even act as a pain-killer probably due to the release of endorphins and can create a feeling of well-being, especially when singing as part of a group.  The harmonious activity acts to synchronise us together and creating a beautiful sound lifts the spirits.

We hope that this will have convinced you that a choir is worthwhile joining for all its beneficial effects.  Come along and try for yourself; the Choir resumes singing in September when we shall be practising the fantastic Messiah

 

Picture from https://www.flickr.com/photos/8176740@N05/4703393210/in/photolist-8aC7Wo-8ayTRB-8aC9nm-8aySuX-7YAzYS-7YAAKq-7YAAmh-7YAzBu

The Verdi Soloists – Cheryl Brendish

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Cheryl Brendish
Cheryl Brendish

In the fourth of our soloist introductions the Coast to Coast Choir has pleasure in introducing the soprano singing the mezzo soprano role in the combined choirs performance of Verdi’s famous Messe da Requiem to be performed at 7.30pm on Saturday 2nd July 2016 in the Assembly Rooms, Torquay Town Hall.  Tickets for the Torquay performance can be obtained through this website – for further details click here 

If you are unable to come to Torquay then the performance takes place again in the Pannier Market, Barnstaple on Sunday 3rd July starting at 3pm.

The soprano singing the mezzo soprano role is the effervescent and versatile Cheryl Brendish.  As you will see from her resume below she has had a varied career and we have discovered it started at the very young age of seven when she won her class at the Mansfield Music Festival singing Where the Bee Sucks.  Regrettably there is no recording of that occasion available on the internet, nor indeed have we been able to find a clip of Cheryl singing so you will have to content yourselves with listening to the Liber Scriptus performed by Violeta Urmana and know that you will have the pleasure of hearing Cheryl sing this beautiful solo when you come along to the concert.

We understand that Cheryl enjoys an active career as an operatic and concert performer. She studied voice for many years and her operatic roles include Thirza The Wreckers, a role which had not been performed on stage for 100 years, directed by David Sulkin; Suzuki Madame Butterfly; First Lady Magic Flute; Zerlina Don Giovanni; Dido in Dido & Aeneas and many more.

Cheryl is also a successful concert artist. In 1985 she performed Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with Sir Simon Rattle and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Alan Opie in 2005. Other concert repertoire highlights include Verdi Requiem, Mozart Requiem, Handel Messiah, Bach Christmas Oratorio, Bach Magnificat, Elgar The Kingdom and Charpentier’s Te Deum.

Cheryl has been the guest soloist with the Mount Charles Band at the The Minack Theatre for the past 9 years for ‘Last Night of the Proms’.

Cheryl has been invited to attend many masterclasses, including on 1982 with John Carol-Case and most recently with Ingrid Surgenor, Mollie Petrie, Richard Jackson, Russel Smyth, Peter Harrison and Neil and Penny Jenkin.

A member of Cantamus from 1978 to 1983, Cheryl studied in London before joining the Victoria State Opera, Melbourne. Cheryl moved to Cornwall in 1997 and won the title of Cornwall’s Vocal Champion in 2000. Cheryl performs many solo recitals both in and out of the county; along with Kay Deeming and Paul Drayton, Cheryl formed the trio ‘Col Canto’ in 2005.

The past few years have been challenging and exciting for Cheryl as her voice has blossomed into a full lyrical soprano, which has opened up a whole new repertoire of heroines to be portrayed. Cheryl continues to produce and develop her ‘Opera Cabaret’, where she performs a variety of genres from jazz to swing and cabaret classics all mixed with storytelling and torch songs; with invited musicians from across the south west.

 

The Verdi Soloists – Darren Jeffrey

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Darren Jeffery
Darren Jeffery

In the third of our introductions we turn our attention to the bass soloist in the Coast to Coast Choir’s performance of Verdi’s famous Messe da Requiem to be performed at 7.30pm on Saturday 2nd July 2016 in the Assembly Rooms, Torquay Town Hall. Tickets for the Torquay performance can be obtained through this website – for further details click here

If you are unable to come to Torquay then the performance takes place again in the Pannier Market, Barnstaple on Sunday 3rd July starting at 3pm.

Singing the bass soloist’s part for us is Darren Jeffery. If, like most of us, you wish you could attend the BBC Proms but trying to get hold of tickets, travel and somewhere to stay makes such a trip out of reach you will be pleased to know that, not only can you hear a work that is being performed at the Proms this year but also, a performer who has sung a major roles at the Proms including performing in Elijah in 2003.

Here’s a taste of his voice like the finest, darkest chocolate. Listen as Darren sings “Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge” from Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner and let it whet your appetite for his performances in the dramatic Messe da Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi.

Darren has had a varied and successful professional career. He was born in Fordham, Cambridgeshire and attended The King’s School, Ely. He then studied as both an undergraduate and graduate student at the Royal Northern College of Music from 1995 to 2001. During that time he won the RNCM’s highest student award, the Curtis Gold Medal. He sang in the chorus of Glyndebourne Festival Opera while still a post-graduate student as well as singing the title role in the college’s 2001 production of Verdi’s Falstaff. On completion of his studies in Manchester, he joined The Royal Opera’s Young Artists Programme in its founding year.

Jeffery made his professional debut as a principal artist as Sciarrone in Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House in 2002. He subsequently appeared with the company in several more roles, including Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Monterone in Rigoletto, and Masetto in Don Giovanni. He went on to an international career, appearing on the stages of many European opera houses and festivals. In 2008 he was a finalist in the Seattle International Wagner Competition and in 2013 made his US debut as Kothner in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.  His work as a soloist in oratorio and concert includes  ElijahLe RossignolLe TroyensThe Seven Last Words of ChristPeter Grimes, and most recently a concert performance of the Glyndebourne production of Billy Budd.

Among Darren’s several appearances at the BBC Proms was Elijah in 2003.

We look forward to welcoming him to Torquay and Barnstaple and hearing him sing.

The Verdi Requiem Soloists – Dawid Kimberg

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Dawid Kimberg
Dawid Kimberg

The treats continue as the Coast to Coast Choir has pleasure in introducing the second of the four soloists for the combined choirs performance of Verdi’s famous Messe da Requiem to be performed at 7.30pm on Saturday 2nd July 2016 in the Assembly Rooms, Torquay Town Hall. 

If you are unable to come to Torquay then the performance takes place again in the Pannier Market, Barnstaple on Sunday 3rd July starting at 3pm.

Tickets for the Torquay performance can be obtained through this website – for further details click here

Second on our list of soloists for these two concerts is South African baritone Dawid Kimberg.  Dawid has stepped in to sing the tenor part as the soloist originally advertised, David Webb, is unable to join us.  We are fortunate indeed to have Dawid to sing with us – as you will discover from his resume and the wonderful video from Inside Opera Live he is not only a fine singer but also capable of turning tweets into artistry.

Dawid was a Jette Parker Young Artist for The Royal Opera 2009–11, singing roles including Steersman (Tristan und Isolde) Moralès (Carmen) Marullo (Rigoletto) and Surintendant des Plaisirs (Cendrillon). Since leaving the Programme he has returned to sing Masetto (Don Giovanni) for the Company.

Kimberg was born in Johannesburg and moved to the UK in 2001 to study singing with Ryland Davies at the Royal College of Music and at the National Opera Studio. Kimberg’s engagements have included Dr Falke for Bolshoi Opera, Guglielmo (Così fan tutte) for Opera Holland Park, Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) for Glyndebourne on Tour, Mr Gedge for Théâtre du Capitole du Toulouse and Ned Keene (Peter Grimes) for Deutsche Oper am Rhein.

Kimberg regularly performs in many major oratorio works in the UK and beyond, and in recital has sung at the Wigmore Hall. Further concert appearances include Schubert’s song cycles  Die schöne Müllerin  and Schwanengesang in the Crush Room at the Royal Opera House.

 

The Verdi Requiem Soloists – Heloise West

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Héloïse West
Héloïse West – soprano

We are in for a real treat as the Coast to Coast Choir has pleasure in introducing the soloists for the combined choirs performance of Verdi’s famous Messe da Requiem to be performed at 7.30pm on Saturday 2nd July 2016 in the Assembly Rooms, Torquay Town Hall.  If you are unable to come to Torquay then the performance takes place again in the Pannier Market, Barnstaple on Sunday 3rd July starting at 3pm. Tickets for the Torquay performance can be obtained through this website – for further details click here

First on our list of soloists for these two concerts is Héloïse West, a well-known and accomplished soprano who we are delighted to welcome.  Heloise will take us through the highs and lows of the great work finally reaching the highest of high notes towards to the end of the Requiem.  You will discover what this is like if you watch the video below, sung by Renee Fleming and conducted by Antonio Pappano – if you haven’t time to listen to the whole piece go to 7 mins 15 seconds and listen for a moment or two. At 11mins 26 seconds you can hear another stratospherically high note. This is, indeed, one of the great feats of the human voice and to hear a singer live achieve this wonderful sound is a treat indeed.

Héloïse West was born in Devon.  When she joined the National Youth Choir of Great Britain she received a gifted pupil award. She gained an Entrance Exhibition to the Royal Academy of Music, graduating with an LRAM and a Bachelor of Music degree in performance. She has also studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Héloïse has recently started an in-depth course of study on Wagnerian roles with Lionel Friend.

She has a busy career in the South West singing oratorios.

Her performances include : Bach- St.Matthew Passion, St.John Passion,Mass in B Minor, Brahms– Requiem, Handel- Messiah, Haydn– Nelson Mass, Creation,Mendelssohn-Elijah, Mozart– C Minor Mass, Coronation Mass, Requiem,Poulenc-Gloria, Verdi-Requiem.

#verdicoast #torquay

 

Practice makes perfect

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It’s always  a challenge to learn a complex piece of music – especially if you don’t read music.  South Devon Choir is a community choir and a recent survey of members revealed that 25% of members read music very little.  Nonetheless, you don’t have to read music to be able to sing very complex music – ears are the key.  Hearing the music as others sing it, listening to the piano and practice, practice, practice are what enables the singer to learn.

Here South Devon Choir practice the Sanctus from the Verdi Requiem with the passionate John Hobbs, their Musical Director.  Each part (SATB) is split in two – so there are 8 parts singing.  Timing is complex, the music intricate. With plenty of time to go until the actual performance members of the Choir concentrate on learning the unfamiliar notes and timing.


The performance itself will feature over 200 voices as South Devon Choir combines with choirs from North Devon and Cornwall to form the Coast to Coast Choir in an epic staging of the Requiem in the Assembly Rooms, Torquay Town Hall, Torquay – on 2nd July 2016 and again in Barnstaple Pannier Market on 3rd July. Accompanying them will be the Festival Orchestra and professional soloists Cheryl Brendish, Heloise West, David Webb and Darren Jeffery.  Tickets are available from Visitor Centres in Torquay, Paignton and Newton Abbot, on our website (click here for tickets) or you can buy them on our Facebook page.

On the Eve of Advent

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Do you need an antidote to Black Friday?  

After the frantic buying, the news reports, the arguments over televisions, and general retail frenzy of Black Friday do you feel edgy, worried about getting everything done for Christmas and rather disillusioned with the whole thing?  Before Advent has even dawned do you wonder why we end up with the Season of Goodwill being more like the Season of Retail Madness?

A Winter Night
A Winter Night

On the Eve of Advent Sunday venture out into the winter night.  Leave the twinkling and glitter of Strictly, the adverts for turkey, iPads and toys that will be broken by Boxing Day.  Brave the cold and the damp;  make your way to St Marychurch Parish Church in Torquay.

Listen to the beginning of the Christmas Story – Mary’s song of joy, wonder and thanks for the impending and miraculous birth of a child.  Whether you believe or not, music weaves a magic that calms and restores the spirit, and the experience of hearing it, living, rising and falling, reverberating through the great space of St Marychurch will be a calming antidote to all the hustle and bustle.

Bach and Vivaldi both celebrated Mary’s song of joy with their versions of the Magnificat and the South Devon Choir will sing both of them on Saturday 28th November, together with the uplifting and well-known Vivaldi Gloria.  The Choir will accompany soloists Melanie Hoadley, Rebecca Smith, Sarah Farleigh and Daniel Hoadley.  The Choir and soloists will be conducted by John Hobbs, who will also sing a solo part.  The organist is Christopher Sears, Head of Music at Torquay Boys Grammar School.

Tickets are will be available online until Friday and are also be available on the door on Saturday night – £12, under age 19 free.

To buy tickets online click here.  For further information click here

Picture credit

A Baroque Start to Christmas

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THERE is no doubt that we love tradition in Britain and one of the most satisfying traditions is to hear a choir singing and keeping alive the music of long ago; the tradition seems even stronger and more meaningful when the music is bound up with the history of the Church and the daily musical and choral life in our parishes and, particularly, our stunning cathedrals.

The Magnificat settings of Bach and Vivaldi have now been sung for almost 300 years since their first performances in the early 18th century and, of course, the story is much older than that. Go back another hundred years and we have the splendour of Tudor times and what has been termed a golden age in English music, when the Magnificat was being composed by the likes of Thomas Weelkes at Chichester Cathedral and Orlando Gibbons at Westminster Abbey; they died in 1623 and 1625 respectively. The traditional settings of Luther’s translation of the Magnificat can be traced back to variants of Gregorian chant and in Protestant music it is thought that no other Latin text was more often set to music.

Madonna of the Magnificat
Madonna of the Magnificat – Sandro Botticelli – Galleries of the Uffizi, Florence.

There was a great resurgence of interest in Bach’s music in Victorian times, which may have been triggered in 1829 by a then rare performance of the St Matthew Passion conducted by Mendelssohn. Our nation’s choral societies have always loved their Bach and the South Devon Choir is maintaining that tradition on 28th November at The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, St Marychurch, Torquay, though it is surprising to note from Malvern Cooke’s history of our choir that Bach’s Magnificat – reckoned to be one of his most significant and popular works – has been performed only once before, in 1986 at Central Church, Torquay.

The problem is that maintaining tradition takes money and an awful lot of effort. Concerts such as this do require a budget, a great deal of planning and roughly a three-month session of weekly rehearsals. Basically, our singers do it because they love the music and they want to maintain a tradition.

For us, the audience at this time of year, it becomes a wonderful Christmas gift.

If you would like to join us on Saturday buy your tickets online here

Image –  – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_of_the_Magnificat

In celebration of the life of Brian Armstrong (1945-2015)

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Our next concert, Magnificat & Gloria, celebrates the life of one of our popular Choir members Ronald Brian Armstrong (usually known as Brian) who died recently.

Brian very kindly left a legacy to the Choir and his request was that we perform the Vivaldi ‘Gloria’, his favourite choral piece.  Such was his love of this music that, despite being very ill and wheelchair-bound, he was spotted at a local choral workshop and performance of the ‘Gloria’ simply to participate and enjoy the wonderful music.  We shall miss him greatly.  If you would like to join us in celebrating his life, tickets can be obtained here

 

Brian Armstrong
Brian Armstrong

His Life

Although Brian only lived in Scotland until he was 18, he considered himself ‘Absolutely Scottish’. Born to Scottish parents, Hugh and Cathy, he grew up in Glasgow with 3 brothers, Blair, Kenneth and Michael.

After a ‘gap’ year with his best friend , Geoff,  in 60s London, working at St Stephens Hospital and pulling pints on the Kings Road, Brian decided to be a teacher.

He switched from the science subjects of his Highers and focused on history and drama. Later he earned degrees in educational leadership and in TEFL. He taught in Denmark for a year and learned passable Danish. After that he took up his first post in Saudi Arabia teaching English and for 9 years taught in secondary and intermediate  schools. He also taught in an adult education programme at the University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran. He was then recruited to teach at the university (later to be known as King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals). Several times he was ‘Teacher of the Year’,  known as Mr Brian throughout the Eastern Province ! He continued  to teach there as a valued member of English Language Centre until 2012 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Brian was passionate about everything he did. As well as his passion for the English language he played rugby, tennis, squash very  competitively and swam with great determination until the last stages of his illness. Poetry and music were pastimes which he always enjoyed and Brian was in choirs throughout his life. He had a particular love of choral music.

Brian was married to Marjorie for 30 years and is survived by their three sons, John, David and Mark and three grandchildren, Monty, Maple and Marigold in Canada.