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Our highlights from the 2021/22 season

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The 2021/2022 season is now over, and choir members will be enjoying a well-earned break over summer. We’re already missing rehearsals, concerts and recording sessions, so we decided to take a look back at some of our highlights…

Return to rehearsals – 06/09/2021

As many of you will know from personal experience, the operations of community singing groups and choirs were hit particularly hard by COVID-19, so our first rehearsal back was a momentous occasion for us. Our return to Westminster Cathedral Hall was an emotional experience for many who had so deeply missed the company and joy that singing in a group brings. These weekly sessions paved the way for a busy year of making up for lost time…

Return to the concert stage – 24/10/2021

It was only right that our return to the concert hall happened at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. This is the London venue that we use the most, and the home of our annual St Matthew Passion performances amongst others. One of the standout moments from our first concert back was Richard Blackford’s Vision of a Garden which paid tribute to choir member Peter Johnstone and the NHS after his struggles with COVID-19. David Hill summed up the occasion perfectly in an article for Classical Music UK: 

“The sight of 250 beaming faces on the stage of the Festival Hall was a hugely emotional moment but the biggest applause on this occasion was for the audience of Intensive Care Unit nurses who saved Professor Johnstone’s life”

You can read about how Vision of a Garden was created here and listen to the piece’s recording here which was released on Lyrita in May. BBC Music Magazine gave it four stars and called it ‘immediate and engaging’.

The release of The Promise – 24/10/2021

The 2021/22 season saw many of our COVID-19 recording projects coming to fruition. The first to be released was The Promise, a piece composed by Gabriel Jackson with text by Laura-Jane Foley. The piece was then made by the team at We Dream Films into a stunning short film which is the perfect companion to Jackson’s arresting work, and it illuminates Foley’s text wonderfully too. We’re not the only ones to think this – so far, The Promise has been won these awards at film festivals from all over the world:

  • Finalist, Best Originality | Music Video Awards
  • Jury Award: Best Experimental Film | Flickfair
  • Experimental Film: Best Screenplay | Tiete International
  • Best Editing and Best Cinematography in an Experimental Film |  BIMIFF
  • Best Music Video – The Promise | Phoenix Short Festival

See what’s turned so many critics’ heads by watching The Promise in full here. You can also find out more about how The Promise was recorded during lockdown here.

RBL Festival of Remembrance – 13/11/2021

In November, it was an honour to once again be a part of the RBL Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, which was streamed live on BBC One. Our fellow performers included Alexandra Burke, Alfie Boe, Gregory Porter, Cynthia Erivo, Ramin Karimloo, The Royal Marines Band Service and the Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir.

You can watch the event in full on iPlayer here. You’ll also find us mentioned on the BBC News website report from the event here which also lists the attendees – these included our Patron HRH The Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Royal British Legion for all of the incredible work that they do in supporting our armed forces. If you wish to donate to them, you can do that here.

Carols at Cadogan – 20/12/21

It would be hard for us to recall a year where singing carols with you, our wonderful audience, wouldn’t be considered a highlight. This year was no different – at Carols at Cadogan 2021, we sang classic carols alongside three new commissions from the Sir David Willcocks Carol Competition. Our winners were Fernando Taberner, Thomas Neal and in the 18-and-under category Christopher Churcher. These are all names that you should look  for in future. We’ll be opening up the 2022 competition soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that and sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear about it if you haven’t done so already.

Sing for Ukraine – 13/03/22

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is something that shocked the world, and upon hearing about it we decided that  the choral community had to try and help in some way. This is why we organised an event in Hyde Park called #SingforUkraine where London’s choral community came together to sing for the people of Ukraine. We encouraged everyone who attended (and those who couldn’t) to donate to the DEC Appeal, and raised over £12,000 overall which (amongst other things) could provide emergency food or blankets for 240 families for a month. After this fundraiser we were asking to sing this piece at the CBI Dinner, which the Ukrainian Ambassador was present for.

The crisis is still ongoing and the DEC Appeal still needs money to help the people of Ukraine – so if you’re in a position to, you can donate to the DEC Appeal by clicking here.

The release of Bach Inspired – 18/03/22

Our second record release of the year was our Bach Inspired project. This collection of interpretations inspired by  Bach’s St Matthew Passion chorales began its life in lockdown. This collection of pieces by James B Wilson, Gavin Higgins, Héloïse Werner, Charlotte Harding, Carmen Ho and Des Oliver was released to an overwhelmingly positive reception in March. On the launch night, our composers and The Times’ Chief Music Critic Richard Morrison discussed the album and Bach’s relevance to today’s society at St John’s Smith Square. 

The album was played on BBC Radio 3 by Hannah French and Andrew McGregor, was added to official playlists by both Spotify and Apple Music, and was given 4 stars by BBC Music Magazine. Listen to it on your chosen music streaming service by clicking here – it’s also available to buy on iTunes.

The return of the St Matthew Passion sung in English – 10/04/22

On April 10, our performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion returned for the first time since 2019. The COVID-imposed two year break was the longest ever break since 1930 (incredibly, we still performed the piece during World War 2).

Everyone who attended agreed that it was more than worth the wait. Thoroughly Good spoke of the performance below – you can read their review in full here.

“The attention to detail in articulation and enunciation was stunning – such precision isn’t solely down to conductor David Hill’s clear direction, but the commitment each and every singer brings to the performance, I’m sure.”

Roll on 2023!

Into Spring – 19/05/22

The end of the year was particularly busy with recording sessions and concert appearances, and one concert really stood out. For Into Spring, we took the opportunity to celebrate some of our favourite female composers. Pieces from Errollyn Wallen, Cecilia McDowall, Lili Boulanger and Amy Beach all featured. One particularly unique aspect of this concert was that we were ‘unplugged’ – performing without an orchestra. The audience felt closer than ever to The Choir – our Musical Director David Hill called this performance ‘one of the highlights of The Bach Choir’s a cappella performances’.  We also performed pieces from Britten and Vaughan Williams – if you’re hungry to hear more of Vaughan Williams’ work, remember that we’re performing his Sea Symphony and other works at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall this November, so click here to buy your tickets.

Vocalise! Concert with 100 school children – 10/06/22

In our Vocalise! programme, we have so far shared the joy of singing with over 5,000 children across London. This year’s concert was held at the prestigious Cadogan Hall, and 100 children took part alongside 75 members of The Bach Choir. Because our aim with Vocalise! is to celebrate the fact that every child has a voice, the concerts are not in any way auditioned – this means that the rehearsals with the schools take up a lot of time for choir members, workshop leaders and accompanists. We’d like to thank everyone who took part in this year’s Vocalise! programme – the concert was a wonderful celebration and the hours truly paid off. The children sang alongside David Hill, Philip Scriven and flautist Jenine Mudge.

These are just some of the key moments – other honourable mentions from the year include recording projects with Richard Blackford and Joe Hisaishi, a record number of Come and Sing and Choral Workshop sessions, a performance from inside The British Library and many, many more. We expect our 2022/23 season to be even more exciting, so make sure you sign up to our newsletter to be a part of it – you can do that by clicking here. One of our first concerts of next season will be inNovember, to celebrate our former Musical Director Ralph Vaughan Williams’ work at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in his 150th anniversary year- you can buy your tickets for that here.