On Monday 13th November the Chapel Choir sang evensong in the cathedral for the first time this academic year.
The highlight of the service was undoutably the Vaughan Williams anthem: Lord, Thou hast been our refuge for choir, organ and trumpet, the final chords of which shook the building. Many thanks go to Tom Rickard, 3rd year Economics, for his trumpet playing and to Peter Swift, the College Organist, for playing the organ.
On the weekend of 21st-22nd October, several of the St Chad’s College Choir Scholars joined the St Chad’s Alumni Choir for a weekend of singing at the prestigious Leicester Cathedral. Although the Scholars were very generously treated to a four-star hotel and a lovely meal, the weekend was no jolly and lots of hard work was achieved!
Having left Durham at 7am in a minibus for Leicester, upon the arrival of the Durham cohort, rehearsals started straight away led by Philip Drew. The repertoire for this weekend was a treat, featuring some great British choral classic such has Howell’s Collegium Regale and Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via. The choir sang two services: Choral Evensong on Saturday and a Eucharist Service on Sunday morning. Both services were a success, especially considering the short rehearsal time that all the members had together. Notably, the choir did very well to get to grips with pesky Psalm from Saturday’s evensong which was extremely long with difficult moments!
The choir felt very welcome at Leicester Cathedral by the staff and by the people of the parish. The whole weekend was highly enjoyable, and I would like to thank the Alumni for asking the scholar’s to join them at their reunion and also thank them for their extreme generosity!
Third year, Music, Choral Scholar
Thanks to Philip Drew for directing, to Peter Swift for playing the organ, and to everyone who came and sang, or supported us!
A couple of weeks ago a slightly depleted Chapel Choir took a weekend trip to Jersey. Though they generally tour for longer this year various commitments meant that tour time was reduced, making the relative proximity of Jersey the ideal choice.
It would be fair to say that there were doubts in the choir about what the tour would be like, having become accustomed to more exciting sounding locations, but the doubters were soon proved wrong; Jersey turned out to have plenty to do, excellent weather and some of the best audiences the choir has had.
On Saturday 17th September around 20 former members of St Chad’s Chapel Choir, plus family and friends, came together to rehearse and sing Evensong at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Conducted by Alumnus David Lewis (2012-2015), with organ music from Simon Williams (St Chad’s 1978-1981) and officiated by Revd David Rushton (St Chad’s 1993-1996) the service was well attended by a combination of locals, tourists and family and friends. With a break for lunch, and drinks and a meal in the pub afterwards providing opportunities for mingling, everyone had ample opportunity to share stories of their university and choir memories across several generations of the Chapel Choir, as well as catching up with contemporaries.
Music was selected with a touch of Durham and a nod to William Shakespeare as part of the many celebrations of the 400th year since his death. This included music by Henry Ley, Thomas Morley, Orlando Gibbons (arr. Michael Haynes), William Smith and William Byrd. Readings were the Lectionary readings for the day: Wisdom 19 and Mark 13: 32 – end.
Particular thanks go to Holy Trinity Church for hosting us, to Professor Ronnie Mulryne for providing an expert guided tour of the church and to Lucinda Murphy for her hard work liasing between the church and College, and organising everything to perfection- even finding a copy of the Apocrypha just in time!
The Alumni Choir’s next outing will be in London for the College Carol Service, 16th December, St George’s Hanover Square, 7pm. We will also be doing a Chadstide Evensong in London on Saturday 11th March, time and venue to be confirmed. If you’d like to join us in singing for either of these do get in touch, or it would be lovely to see familiar faces in the congregation.
From 15th – 20th June, our College choir went on tour to Amsterdam, the beautiful capital city of The Netherlands. Following the overnight ferry crossing and some initial sightseeing, it was time to depart for Sint Nicolaaskerk in the picturesque town of Edam for our first concert.
Our concert programme was centred around Vierne’s haunting and powerful Messe Solennelle, and was interspersed with other choir favourites, including Bruckner’s Locus Iste and Christus Factus Est; Byrd’s setting of the Ave Verum Corpus and Ireland’s moving Greater Love Hath No Man. Our concerts also featured organ recitals from our Organist Dr. Peter Swift and Director of Music Roger Muttitt. We also featured a violin solo from second year choral scholar and Music student Emma Coombs.
The Catholic Church in Edam was packed for the evening concert, and Vierne’s Agnus Dei moved one member of the congregation to tears, which was incredibly touching to hear. However, there was considerable debate over whether they were tears resulting from the beautiful music, or the slight mishap of our baritone soloist interrupting the soprano solo during Greater Love. We hope that it was the former! One tiny hiccough, nonetheless, did not stop our choir receiving a hearty round of applause and standing ovation at the conclusion of the concert.
The following day saw a second concert, this time at the English Reformed Church in central Amsterdam. After an extended lunch break for sightseeing, we assembled outside the Royal Concertgebouw. This is one of the most famous concert halls in the world and it is home to one of the greatest orchestras in the world. We were given the privilege of taking to the main stage for a choir rehearsal. It was quite an honour to stand upon the stage that has played host to classical music giants Riccardo Chailly and Mariss Jansons.
Our final destination on tour was the Gothic Oude Kerk in Delft. It is a town renowned for its ceramics and the Dutch Golden Age painter Vermeer, who is buried inside the Church. The echo and reverberation inside this building was incredible, and it reinforced and complemented Aston’s contemporary piece Alleluia Psallat. It is notoriously difficult to sing, but we managed to pull it off! The acoustics also accentuated our violinist Emma Coombs’ stunning rendition of Elgar’s Chanson de Matin. The choir were once again received with a rapturous round of applause and standing ovation, and it brought to an end another incredibly successful choir tour.
The tour to Amsterdam also heralded the end of another successful year for St. Chad’s Chapel Choir, and we look forward to welcoming new members from all of Durham University’s colleges when the new academic year commences in October.
Photography courtesy of Naomi Ireland-Jones, who has recently graduated with a First Class degree in Archaeology and Anthropology. She has sung with our college choir for three years and will be sorely missed!
On Thursday evening, our Director of Music, and talented organist, Roger Muttitt, delivered a recital in the Chapel inspired by two themes: Variations and Shakespeare. It was an exquisite selection of pieces, and they were all delivered masterfully.
Roger’s first piece would be familiar to everyone who is a fan of the BBC’s The Apprentice. Sergei Prokofiev’s Dance of the Nights from his ballet Romeo and Juliet usually accompanies the start of each episode, and tonight, Roger himself transcribed the orchestral arrangement for the college’s organ. A slow, haunting and steady section is situated between by the famous thundering chords which accompany those dreaded words “You’re fired”!
William Shakespeare died 400 years ago, and it was very fitting that Roger selected music inspired by the bard for tonight’s recital. His other theme, Variations, was also an excellent opportunity to showcase works inspired by a common theme. His next selection was Jan Pieter Sweelinck’s Variations on ‘Mein junges Leben hat ein End’, which was written in the Sixteenth Century, in a similar style to Byrd and Gibbons, who wrote music with which Shakespeare would have been familiar. The Dutch song has a very soft, subtle melody, and as the Variations progress, it evolves into a rich, quick and powerful work that tested our Director’s dexterity and athleticism!
The Belgian composer Flor Peeters wrote Variations on an Original Theme some three centuries later, and it shares a similar structure and style, with a gentle, subtle introduction, followed by a rousing finale. This Twentieth Century piece had a richer texture, almost evoking a black-and-white film score, but it was delivered with skill and poise, with a particular highlight being the rapid fast movement.
British composer William Walton wrote the Henry V Suite, and Roger chose the Passacaglia entitled Death of Falstaff. Sir John Falstaff is a Knight who fell out of favour with the King (“The King has killed his heart”). Walton’s music begins slowly, with a sombre, powerful slow section reminiscent of a funeral march. The organ – being the King of all instruments – is capable of evoking joy and sorrow equally, and Roger’s juxtaposition of the moving Walton in between the happier Peeters and Bach meant that the audience was presented with a complete array of emotions.
The recital concluded with J. S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor. An organ piece by a Baroque master was a fantastic finale to the programme. The passacaglia began like the Walton passacaglia, with a slow, sombre, gradual beginning, before evolving into the powerful and uplifting fugue. Roger interpreted Bach’s music beautifully, and as the organ grew louder and stronger, every note was played to perfection, and the audience duly gave our Director of Music a hearty round of applause as he drew the recital to a rousing end.
St. Chad’s College currently has a vacancy for an Organ Scholarship, and an Organ recital is usually delivered every term in the Chapel. On Monday, the College choir will combine with the rest of Durham University’s college choirs to sing Evensong in the Cathedral, before departing upon a tour to Amsterdam.
On Thursday, the College’s choir, staff and students gathered together in the chapel for an evening of fantastic music. Following a successful visit to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh in February and appearance at the North East Festival of Youth Choirs, this concert was an ample opportunity to share some of the choir’s musical highlights. A rousing rendition of Noble’s Magnificat in B Minor was accompanied by Geoffrey Burgon’s subtle and moving Nunc Dimittis, accompanied by trumpeter Tom Rickard (first year, Economics).
The theme of British music continued with SCR member Liz Roberts providing a stunning recital of ‘The Swimmer’ from Elgar’s Sea Pictures, and choral scholar Emma Coombs treating the audience to the main theme from Nigel Hess’ Ladies in Lavender on the violin.
Tom Rickard then joined Abigail Ingram (first year, Music) for a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine. This performance was back by popular demand, because the pair had also previously played and sung together in Durham Cathedral for the Chad’s Day service.
Our choral scholars Bryony Freer and Tom Heywood performed Schumann and Bach respectively. Bryony sang du ring an meinem finger, and Tom treated the audience to the piano accompaniment to Bach’s sixth Violin Sonata.
Then there was a change in mood. Away went choirs and classical composers, and in came the fantastic Toh Yi Rong (first year, Natural Sciences), who sang Zina Goldrich’s Taylor the Latte Boy, complete with her own Starbucks cup! Our Director of Music Roger Muttitt accompanied this most unusual of songs on the piano, and the audience were amused and captivated by this modern serenade about meeting a young man behind the counter of a coffee shop.
Talented pianist Ollie Griffiths (first year, Chemistry) played the soothing adagio from Beethoven’s Pathethique Sonata (No. 8), and then it was time for the grand choral finale.
The contrast between Stanford’s heavenly Beati Quorum Via and Vierne’s almighty Kyrie from his Messe Sollenelle (with a fine accompaniment from our College organist Dr. Peter Swift) was stunning.
St. Chad’s College is awash with musical talent, and Thursday’s concert was an opportunity for our fantastic musicians to share their talents. We hope to make these concerts a regular fixture on the College Calendar!
St. Chad’s College Chapel Choir is the largest and most diverse of Durham University’s college choirs, welcoming in talented singers from other colleges too. The choir sings Eucharist every Sunday at 11am, and a service of Choral Evensong most Thursdays at 6:30pm. Next term, they will be going on tour to Amsterdam.
There are Choral and Organ Scholarships available to students, and requests for information should be sent to Roger Muttitt (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On Saturday evening, the combined voices of St Chad’s Chapel Choir and the Chamber Choir of Durham School performed in the inaugural North East Festival of Youth Choirs in Durham Cathedral. Showcasing the work of 14 choirs, made up of around 600 voices, this was a truly spectacular event.
This has been the second time the choirs from St Chad’s and Durham School have collaborated, the first having been at the annual ‘Friends of the Cathedral’ Concert in December. Both are directed by Roger Muttitt who fills the role of Director of Music at both St Chad’s and the school. The choir sang Anton Bruckner’s Locus Iste, followed by William Todd’s In This Place.
The simplicity of the Bruckner was a wonderful contrast to the dissonant harmonies of In This Place, a piece which was written for Durham School’s 600th Anniversary. The concert was rounded off with a rousing performance of Parry’s I Was Glad, sung by all choirs together, directed by Michael Summers, concert organiser and Manager of Music Education at Durham Music Service. The organ was played by James Lancelot, Master of Choristers and Organist at Durham Cathedral. This raised a standing ovation from the 800-strong audience.
Overall, the evening was a great success and it was fantastic to be involved and to see the strength of and enthusiasm for singing from across the North East. With participants’ ages starting from 5, it’s safe to assume that the future of choral music is in good hands for many years to come!
St Chad’s College Chapel Choir sings Eucharist and Evensong most term-time weeks, on Sunday at 11am and Thursday at 6.30pm respectively. This week Evensong is on Tuesday 1st March, sung by the Choral Scholars only. Next week, Thursday 10th March, we are hosting a concert involving the musicians of the choir and college, performing a selection of duets, solos and choral pieces in St Chad’s Chapel at 6pm.