The Brandenburg Choral Festival of London
St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, London
Saturday 22nd October 2016
A wonderful evening at the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden in a joint concert with the Voblana choir from Spain. The Maidstone Singers and Kathryn Ridgeway proved that their new relationship can provide an evening of the highest quality of choral music across the full range of their repertoire. A feast for the appreciative audience!
The Maidstone Singers’ Summer Concerts June 2016
The final concert of the 2015/16 season took place at St Mary’s in West Malling on Saturday 25th June and the choir signed off in great style. The first of the choir’s two summer concerts dedicated to Jeffrey Vaughan Martin had taken place at All Saints Church on Sunday 19th June where the award of Honorary Vice President was presented to Jeffrey’s wife Jean in recognition of all the work that she has done for the choir over many years.
Peter Ashley again opened the West Malling concert with Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’, one of Jeffrey’s favourites. This was followed by the core choir with six a cappella pieces which they had taken on their tour to Ronda and Cadiz in Spain earlier in the month.
The highlight of the concert was Sir Karl Jenkins’ ‘Stabat Mater’ performed by the extended choir and orchestral ensemble. This had formed part of the Spanish tour and the contralto soloist, Stephanie Crooks, once again thrilled the audience with her vocal versatility in this challenging but tremendously rewarding work. The concert would not have been possible without Ciara Considine who stepped in to rehearse and conduct the work that Jeffrey had planned.
The Maidstone Singers’ Tour of Spain June 2016
This was a tour that Jeffrey Vaughan Martin had planned for the choir but one which he did not live to see completed. The loss of their Music Director did not stop the choir from touring however; in fact, it charged their performances with an emotional intensity that provided their unsuspecting audiences with a remarkable musical experience. The tour became a tribute to Jeffrey who would have been very proud of the group that he had created and led for 20 years.
In the beautiful city of Ronda the choir performed some of their most familiar sacred repertoire in the Convento de Santo Domingo, ably conducted from their ranks by Marion Weller. The programme contained fifteen pieces including Bruckner’s ‘Ave Maria’, Stanford’s ‘Beati Quorum Via’, Gjeilo’s ‘Ubi Caritas’ and Lauridsen’s ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ all of which were sung quite beautifully. The audience was particularly impressed when the choir split into two to sing ‘Hail Gladdening Light’ by Charles Wood. But the emotional high point for both choir and audience was perhaps Philip Stopford’s ‘Do not be afraid’ which has become one of the choir’s favourite pieces. Having survived this challenge admirably, they showed their spirit with Jeffrey’s battle cry of an encore ‘De battle ob Jericho’ and the walls very nearly did come tumbling down with the standing ovation at the ending.
On to Cadiz, where the Singers joined with the chamber choir, Nova Mvsica in a concert in the Iglesia del Carmen in San Fernando. The two groups took it in turns to sing a variety of sacred music and then joined to perform ‘O quam gloriosam’ by T.L. de Victoria. In the year of their 25th anniversary Nova Mvsica, conducted by Eduardo Gallardo de Gomar, chose seven pieces including Byrd’s ‘Ave Verum’ and Thomas Tallis’ ‘If Ye Love Me’. This experienced and talented group provided a perfect counterpart to their English partners.
The final concert in Cadiz was the highlight of the tour. Once again the choirs combined, this time in performing Sir Karl Jenkins’ ‘Stabat Mater’ with Stephanie Crooks as the contralto soloist and with accompaniment from the youthful Ensemble La Stavaganza. This challenging piece incorporates Middle Eastern vocals and instruments into the Western style of the traditional Stabat Mater setting in Jenkins’ own unique way. It calls for a remarkable talent on the part of the soloist as well as the choir, and Stephanie, who is very familiar with the piece, excelled. The Andalusian audience whose culture is infused with their Arabic past had no difficulty in relating to this mixture of styles and immediately recognised the quality of both the music and of the performance itself. The 300 strong audience seated in the open air cloisters of the Iglesia Conventual de Sto. Domingo on a warm summer’s evening showed their appreciation with a standing ovation and demanded an encore. The excellent music direction by Eduardo Gallardo de Gomar and the part played by his choir helped to prove what high standards can be achieved by such international cooperation between musical groups, as Jeffrey Vaughan Martin always believed. But the evening was also a triumph for a British composer and a choir from England.
The Maidstone Singers’ Spring Concert 2016
This year’s Spring Concert was again held at St Mary’s Church in West Malling as a joint concert with the West Malling Community Choir. The Maidstone Singers chose to offer some more modern classics such as ‘Night and Day’, ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Tea for Two’ as well as a selection of the religious music which they will take on tour to Cadiz and Ronda in Spain this June. Philip Stopford has become a regular feature in the choir’s repertoire and the packed audience enjoyed his ‘Ave Verum’ and ‘Do not be afraid’. Other works included Eric Whitacre’s ‘Lux Aurumque’, Anton Bruckner’s ‘Ave Maria’ and Charles Villiers Stanford’s ‘Beati Quorum Via’, demonstrating the choir’s wide range and quality. The WMCC presented a medley from Walt Disney pictures and a selection of twentieth century music mostly arranged by Jeffrey Vaughan Martin who once again conducted both choirs with great enthusiasm.