Rehearsing for Summer Cathedral Visits

Lewes Singers rehearse in Ringmer Church

We’ve had one of our three rehearsals for our forthcoming cathedral visits:

Westminster Abbey: our fourth visit will be from Friday 20th July evensong until Sunday 22nd evensong. Music to include Byrd 2nd service, Brewer in D, Berkeley Missa Brevis and anthems by Blitheman, Osgood and Wood.

Canterbury Cathedral: our first visit to Canterbury will be the weekend of 18th and 19th August. More about the music to come.

The photo above was taken at Ringmer Church before our concert there in February.

Chichester Cathedral next month & 2018 plans

We’re back at Chichester Cathedral to sing the services on September 2nd and 3rd. Two anthems by Clive Osgood, Arvo Part’s Nunc Dimittis and William Byrd’s Four Part Mass are some of the pieces we’ll be singing.

We’ve had the first of our two rehearsal days and are looking forward to the weekend.

Plans for 2018 are shaping up well. In February we are giving audiences another chance to hear our 2014 concert ‘Masterpieces of the 1940s’ , featuring the wonderful Briony Lambert who takes the mezzo solo role in Aaron Copland’s ‘In the beginning’. More details on our Concerts page and even more detail nearer the time.

Come July we will back at Westminster Abbey, our fourth visit, for a weekend of services. We love singing there, it’s such an experience and a privilege.

Looking ahead to December 2018, plans are underway for a Christmas concert – unforeseen circumstances meant we didn’t have a 2016 Christmas concert, but we’re now keen to get back onto our regular biennial appearance at St Michael’s which is always popular (we even had to turn people away last time, which is always a shame!) More details nearer the time. We’re looking forward to seeing all our lovely supporters for another magical evening of Christmas music.

Singing at Winchester Cathedral next weekend

winchester cathedral

We’ll be singing the services at Winchester on Saturday 29th – Sunday 30th October. We’ve just had the second of our rehearsals and the music is all sounding lovely. As well as plenty of English music in the fine Anglican tradition (Sumsion in G, Howells’ Jubilate etc) we’re enjoying learning a new piece for us, Jonathan Dove’s ‘Seek Him that Maketh the Seven Stars’ – beautiful and ‘moderately challenging’, as it says on the back of the score!

We’ll also be singing Andrew Carter’s ‘Wakefield Service’ which we sang at Westminster Abbey a few years ago. Another wonderful 20th century piece, one that doesn’t get a lot of outings, for some reason. Also we’ll of course have Nick’s responses and some lovely psalm chants. I think we do a good job of the psalms, and we always sing some of them a cappella which I think adds to the mystery.

It’s great to have our organist Clive Osgood with us too!

Saturday 29th October, 5.30pm Evensong:

Responses: Houghton (throughout the weekend)
Canticles: Sumsion in G
Anthem: Weelkes, When David heard (hear a snippet of us singing this here)

Sunday 30th October

9.45am Mattins:

Jubilate: Howells, Collegium Regale
Anthem: Victoria, O quam gloriosum

11am Sung Eucharist:

Setting: Darke in F
Motet: Bairstow, Let all mortal flesh keep silence

3.30pm Evensong:

Canticles: Carter, Wakefield Service
Anthem: Dove, Seek him that maketh the seven stars

September concert – ‘Faire is the Heaven’

Faire is the Heaven poster

We’ve a concert coming up in Lewes, at St Michael’s Church, on Saturday 26th September at 6pm.

We’re calling it ‘Faire is the Heaven’ after the anthem of that name by English composer William Harris. It’s one of two Harris anthems on the programme, which also includes two of J S Bach’s mighty motets, Komm, Jesu, Komm and Lobet den Herrn, motets by Charles Villiers Stanford and the Requiem by Herbert Howells.

We sang Faire is the Heaven at Westminster Abbey last month when we sang five services over three days. Tiring, but wonderful. They can seat up to a thousand people for services, and that’s just in the Quire and transept, not the main nave (which only gets used on special occasions). The atmosphere in the Quire is always magical, but there’s something a little disconcerting to know you’re being watched round the corner on screens by who knows how many hundreds of people.

The transept at Westminster Abbey before a service

Westminster Abbey is the final resting place of many fine musicians, writers & artists. Polly took a pic of Nick and I by the monument to Henry Purcell.

Nick & Robin Houghton at Purcell's grave, Westminster Abbey

Purcell was the organist at the Abbey from 1679 to 1695 and he’s buried a few feet away from where we’re standing. We always try to sing something by Purcell at Westminster Abbey and this time is was ‘O God, Thou art my God’ at Sunday Evensong.

The music for the September concert is on order and we’ll soon be sending it out to singers prior to our first rehearsal on September 12th. Incidentally, if you’re in Lewes do drop by St Michael’s during the day – not only will you hear us in rehearsal, but it’s Heritage Open Day at the church and it’s a good chance to have a nose around and hear more about this fascinating building. There are many other historic properties open in Lewes on that day – full details here.

Gearing up for Westminster Abbey

Lewes Singers at Westminster Abbey

It took a bit of negotiation with the Minor Canons (who decide on the music at the Abbey) but we are finally there. The music has been sent out to singers and we have a week and a half until our first rehearsal. Westminster Abbey ask visiting choirs to sing the same Introit for each service. That suits us fine, as by the time we’ve sung it for the fifth time on Sunday evening we’ve usually got it down mighty fine. Last time I remember we sang ‘Lord for thy tender mercies’ sake’ (Farrant) and it felt gorgeous. This time, however, our first and second choices were rejected as being either unseasonal or too sombre. So we agreed on Tallis ‘O Nata Lux’. A beautiful and clean opening for each service. Another piece which ended up being vetoed was the Andrew Carter ‘Wakefield Service’, a great shame as we loved singing it there last time… however, we’re looking forward to singing the glorious ‘Faire is the Heaven’ by Harris, at Saturday Evensong. This will probably be the title of our September concert in Lewes, as we’ll be singing it there too.

Plans for 2014 and beyond

Nick Houghton Octet
Nick Houghton Octet
Photo of the Nick Houghton Octet by Rob Orchard

Happy New Year!

It’s been a lovely Christmas season from a concert point of view, and although we weren’t officially performing Nick did form up a vocal ‘octet’ to sing at the biennial Amnesty International Benefit Concert, ‘In the bleak Midwinter’, at St John’s Sub Castro in Lewes just before Christmas. The event was organised by Liz Taylor and Roger Fenn and was a terrific success, raising thousands for Amnesty and the Philippines appeal. We really enjoyed performing – above is a pic of us singing ‘The Three Kings’ (Cornelius) with Andrew Robinson doing a brilliant job on the solo, showing no nerves – even though there were several high profile professional basses in the audience including Sir John Tomlinson!

Also exciting on the run up to Christmas has been sales of our CD, which has been flying out of the Tourist Information Office apparently – thank you to everyone who’s buying it!

Planning for the Lewes Singers is tricky – all our members have ‘regular’ choirs they sing with, and not always just one. Plus full and busy lives! So it’s a fine balance of setting up dates far enough in advance and hoping that other local choirs and event planners are prepared to communicate and compromise from time to time.

We usually (just about) manage it. But asking people to commit to rehearsal dates a year in advance doesn’t mean that things won’t come up that take precedence – illness, a family event etc. So this year we’re aiming to increase our ‘pool’ of singers, in order to take the pressure off regular members and also allow us to plan events with confidence.

So far there are two 2014 dates to save: Saturday 20th September and Sunday 21st December. Both concerts will be in Lewes, and the September date will include the exciting In the beginning by Aaron Copland and Gerald Finzi’s marvellous Lo, the full, final sacrifice. The December date will be our first dedicated ‘Christmas’ concert. As well as some lovely carols & motets (well known and less well known), expect also Poulenc’s atmospheric Soir de Neige.

We seem to have set yet another trend in the last couple of years: namely the 6pm concert start time. The first time we did this it was considered a risk. And yet now it seems to be de rigueur for quite a few choirs.

As regards cathedral visits, we don’t have any dates this year (so many choirs competing for the pleasure!) but visits to Canterbury and Winchester are on the cards for 2015 and beyond. More updates to come.

CD now on sale!

Lewes Singers CD

Lewes Singers CD

It’s been a labour of love but our CD is finally out. Full details are on this page. It’s available from Skylark (in the Needlemakers) in Lewes, online from this website and from members of the choir. Lots of lovely English music – motets/anthems and a few madrigals too.

We’ll be singing some of the music from the CD at our next concert in Lewes on September 21st, together with some of the music we’re singing at Westminster Abbey at the end of the month, and also a piece written especially for the Lewes Singers by Clive Osgood, Miserere. If you like Allegri’s famous Miserere, you’ll love this . . . featuring the fab voice of Nadia Bunker on a lovely top C.