FESTIVAL OF CHICHESTER: Chichester Singers offer opening concert

Jonathan
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Elgar’s The Music Makers will be the major work as the Chichester Singers offer the opening concert of the 2016 Festival of Chichester in Chichester Cathedral on Saturday, June 18, at 7.30pm.

The first half of the evening will comprise three shorter works by Brahms – the Academic Festival Overture, Alto Rhapsody and Nanie.

Chichester Singers musical director Jonathan Willcocks said: “We are delighted to be opening the festival. Chichester Singers are the largest and probably the longest-established of the performing arts organisations in the area, and we are thrilled that the various elements have conspired to enable us to be the opening concert with a large-scale romantic programme of Elgar and Brahms.

“We are as keen as anybody that the Festival of Chichester should thrive and flourish and should draw together all the best things that the area can offer. Our major work will be the Elgar which is scored for contralto soloist, and we have got a wonderful contralto Diana Moore who is now internationally renowned. I have worked with her several times, but she is now internationally sought-after. The month before she is with us she will have performed at the Carnegie Hall. She has got a wonderful contralto voice. There are many excellent sopranos, but a true contralto is rare. She is also an outstanding communicator. She has not worked with the Chichester Singers before. This will be her first time in Chichester.

“The Music Makers is a really fine piece of writing, full of drama and colour and lovely expressive melodies for the choir to really get their teeth into. It provides a terrific vehicle for the soloist alongside the chorus.

“It is a work I am very fond of, and having been born in Worcester, the city that Elgar is most closely associated with, I feel a great affinity with this piece and his work. We have done this twice before with the Chichester Singers, once in the 1980s and also, I think, in 2001. It will be the third time I have directed it with them. It is the sort of work that you should have in your repertoire every ten years ago. When you do it again, you approach it afresh, you get out the score and you readdress it. It is one of the later of Elgar’s major works, after Dream of Gerontius and The Kingdom, and in a way, it is reflective, but it was written in 1912, and he lived on until the 1930s. It is not completely a retrospective work, but he does look back in it in a nostalgic way. But really, it is just such an expressive and colourful piece, and the choir love it. About a third of the choir have done it before, and that is a lovely combination, to have two thirds of the choir that are discovering it for the first time alongside a third of the choir you can have confidence might know the notes already.”

The Elgar will form the second half of the evening; the first half will focus on Brahms: “Brahms was a big influence on Elgar, and he greatly admired Brahms’ work. The three pieces we are doing are quite varied: the Academic Festival Overture at the beginning of the concert and then the much less-known Nanie which the choir has never done before in its entire history, and also Alto Rhapsody which is again a beautiful piece, and again Diana Moore will be the soloist.”

For Jonathan, programming is one of the great pleasures: “You plan individual concerts, of course, but they are also part of an overall season.”

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