Christopher Morley, of the Birmingham Post, reviewed the November concert, and his review can be found here.
At the AGM, held in October, the Society enthusiastically agreed to invite Marcus Huxley to join its select band of Life Vice-Presidents. Those already thus designated are: Harry Bramma, Philip Head, Andrew Millington, Kit Mockett aqnd Jonathan Price. Marcus has been a regular organist for Society concerts for over twenty years, and when Geoff Weaver announced his appointment at the concert in November, the audience received the news with acclaim.
Marcus read Modern Languages at Oxford University and studied the organ in Paris with Marie-Claire Alain. On his return to Oxford he was elected Organ Scholar of Worcester College, where he directed the Chapel Choir and read for a degree in Music. He went directly from Oxford to be Assistant Organist of Ripon Cathedral, where he also lectured at the University College of Ripon and York St John. While in Yorkshire he founded the York Early Music Choir and was Conductor of both the Ilkley and Otley Choral Societies. He is a joint 2nd prize winner for Interpretation in the 1977 St Albans International Organ Competition, where he also won the Audience Prize.
In 1986 he was appointed to his present position as Director of Music at Birmingham Cathedral. Under his direction the Cathedral Choir has given first performances of works by John Joubert, Alan Ridout, Andrew Downes, Andrew Carter and John Sanders, most of which were specially commissioned. He also oversaw, in 1992, the setting up of the Cathedral Girls’ Choir, one of the first in the country. Over the last few years the Cathedral Choir has collaborated with the CBSO, Emma Kirkby, the Choir of King’s College Cambridge, St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, the Richard Hickox Singers, the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus and many other distinguished musicians.
He has regularly given organ recitals in Thomas Trotter’s 'Birmingham Town Hall' series, including at Symphony Hall, and concerts and recitals with Birmingham Cathedral Choir in UK and abroad, as well as recitals in cathedrals and concert halls around the world – including many at Kidderminster Town Hall. He has broadcast many times for BBC Radio (Radio 3, Radio 4 and WM) and Television, and has recorded for Regent Records.
His commissions include the Mass of St Henry & St Philip for the Centenary of the Diocese of Birmingham (2005) and an Evensong (Common Worship) for the Parish of St James Shirley (2002).
Marcus has appeared as Guest Conductor with Kidderminster Choral Society and as organist with the CBSO, Es Cathedra, the Tallis Scholars, the Dresden Kreuzchor and the Swingle Singers. He is also an examiner for the Associated Board.
After consulting members of the Society, the Committee have agreed upon an "up-dating" of choir dress at concerts. The ladies will wear scarves, and the gents bow ties, in cerise/fuchsia/pink (call it what you will!), at the November 2013 concert and from then on.
The ladies have in the past been able to bring a more modern form of dress to the stage, but the men have stuck steadfastly to the Victorian costume adopted in 1899, so perhaps it's time for a change!
Brief notes of the Young Voices programme for the season are given below; for further details, please see the choir's website, at www.wfyvchoir.co.uk
Friday, November 22, at 7.00 pm.: Concert (with Primary Chords) - "Songs for Life"
Saturday, January4, at 5.00 pm.: Graduates' Weekend concert at Holy Innocents' Church
Friday February 14: Concert (details to be announced)
Friday, March 21, at 7.00 pm.: Concert (with Primary Chords and singers from local schools) - "We will remember them", including The Armed Man - a Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins.
Sunday, May 18, at 6.00 pm: Worcestershire Youth Music Gala, at Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Saturday, July 5, at 7.30 pm.: Concert at Great Witley Church - "The Rhythm of Life".
The programme for the 2013-14 Season is as follows:
September 5 - first rehearsal for November concert.
October 17 - Annual General Meeting.
November 22 - Concert by Wyre Forest Young Voices and Primary Chords - Kidderminster Town Hall, 7.00 pm.
November 30 - KCS Concert - Town Hall, 7.30 pm. Programme: Mozart: Great C minor Mass; Schubert: Mass in G.
December 5 - first rehearsal for Christmas concert.
December 21 - Gala Christmas Concert - Kidderminster Town Hall, 7.00 pm.
January 9, 2014 - first rehearsal for March concert.
February 9 - "Singalong with the CBSO" - Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" in Birmingham Symphony Hall.
March 14 - Annual Dinner (date and venue to be confirmed)
March 21 - Concert by Wyre Forest Young Voices and Primary Chords - Kidderminster Town Hall, 7.00 pm.
March 29 - KCS Concert - Town Hall, 7.30 pm. Programme: Elgar: "For the Fallen"; Stanford: "Elegiac Ode"; Vaughan Williams: "Dona Nobis Pacem".
May 1 - first reheasal for Summer Singers.
June 21 - Choir Away Day (details to follow).
June 28 - Primary Chords Summer Concert (venue to be confirmed).
July 5 - Wyre Forest Young Voices Concert in Great Witley Church.
July 12 - Summer Singers Concert in St. Anne's Church, Bewdley.
Further details of programmes and ticket prices will be published as they become available.
During the week beginning May 20, 2013, 15 KCS members, eight partners and Geoff Weaver our conductor travelled by various means from Kidderminster to Husum, to join our Twin Town's choir, the Theodor Storms Chor, in a concert on Sunday May 26 in the St. Marienkirche in Husum. This time we sang Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle.
Seven KCS members stayed in the Hotel am Schlosspark, which they were very happy with. The other KCS members stayed with TSC members, some for the first time, others revisiting old friends. We had three rehearsals on consecutive days, one with Christoph Jensen, the TSC conductor, and two with Geoff Weaver, plus the pre-concert rehearsal, when we were joined by Christoph Jensen on the harmonium, Adam Szvoren on the piano and the four soloists, Julia Henning (soprano), Ulrike Andersen (alto), Martin Hundelt (tenor) and Hans Christian Hinz (bass). The soloists, the organist and the pianist were excellent and the combined choirs’ performance that evening was very well received by an enthusiastic audience in the Marienkirche.
Afterwards we had an excellent supper in the Handwerkerhaus just up the road. KCS members sang two madrigals which everyone enjoyed. Finally we all joined hands to sing Auld Lang Syne together.
In addition to the singing, we were formally welcomed one morning at the town hall by the Bürgermeister. We also had two outings. The first was to the Hamburger Hallig, one of the many small islands west of the mainland not far from Husum, where we enjoyed afternoon tea together. Unfortunately the weather was poor so we had no views across the Hallig. The second outing was all day on the Monday after the concert. The weather was poor then too. We drove to the tiny harbour of Schluttsiel where we boarded a vessel to take us to the Hallig of Langeness. As it was low tide we had to make a long detour to this, one of the longest Halligen, but we arrived safely. There we were taken by tractor-driven carriage to the far end of the Hallig, where we had an excellent buffet meal. Then we were able to visit a house which is now a tiny museum, and the ancient church which is still active. En route by the boat we were able to see some seals not far away.
Most people from Kidderminster then returned home by various means. Those who were flying from Hamburg had to leave Husum at 5.00 am. by train in order to catch their 9.40 am. flight. Luckily they all made it on time. Other members travelled to Denmark or to France, or elsewhere in Germany, for a holiday.
Everyone enjoyed the “Husum Experience” and singing together. Our grateful thanks go to Heinrich Linkogel for organising such an enjoyable stay. In two years' time TSC members are due to join us in a concert here in Kidderminster, so hopefully more KCS members will be able to participate in Twinning.
It is with regret that we report the passing of Jeannie, who was a Life Vice-President of the Society. Jeannie had been a member of the choir since 1947 – singing under six of the seven Musical Directors that the choir has had since its formation in 1899! She was a Committee member from 1975 and was elected President in 1985. Her husband Frank had also been President of the Society, from 1973 to 1975. Kit Mockett, who wrote the Centenary book, published in 1999, remembers Jeannie as a very caring, considerate and perceptive person, with great charm and an impish sense of humour.
Jeannie was born in South Gosforth, Newcastle on Valentine’s Day 1924, and she lived there with her parents and younger brothers until she left home to come to Kidderminster. She excelled at school, becoming head girl in her final year. Unusually for a young woman from a modest background at that time she continued her education, graduating with an honours degree in History from King’s College Newcastle, which was then part of Durham University.
In 1945 Jeannie took up a teaching post at Bennett Street Primary School where she taught the older children and later became deputy head. When she moved Jeannie joined Baxter Church which was to be her spiritual home for the rest of her life. She joined the Choir and became a teacher in the Sunday School, adding a bit of glamour to the congregation in those days. Jeannie contributed to the life of the church in many ways.
Jeannie felt highly honoured when she was invited to be President of the Choral Society. She also served as a magistrate for many years, becoming Chairman of the Bench. During school holidays she enjoyed many foreign holidays visiting the States, Nigeria and Singapore as well as other locations.
In 1973 Jeannie retired from teaching and married Frank, acquiring a new ready made family of three stepdaughters, their husbands and three grandchildren. By the time she died there were nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. They both marked O level English papers and Jeannie became a team leader for the examining board.
When Frank had to stop driving because of failing eyesight and Jeannie was in her 60’s she took driving lessons and though it took her a while she persevered and finally passed her test. She enjoyed driving and tackled the journey to Newcastle several times as well as braving the M25 round London. She volunteered for the National Trust and was on regular duty at Dudmaston Hall for many years. She and Frank went to the Three Choirs Festival each year and Jeannie continued to do this after Frank died for as long as she was able to manage physically. After Frank's death she travelled again and visited her pen-friend in the United States whom she had never met despite exchanging letters with her over many years.
In later years, despite being confined to a wheel chair, she kept busy. She enjoyed certain television programmes – over which she was very discriminating; she read widely, did cryptic crosswords and latterly took to Sudoku puzzles. She was a very special person who lived her life to the full and touched the lives of many people.
For the second time this year Christopher Morley has reviewed our concert, this time "Crown Imperial", in July, and you can read his report here.
We were very pleased that Christopher Morley, of the Birmingham Post, was able to review the concert. His write-up is no longer available on the Birmingham Post website, but we shall add it here as soon as possible.
William Tomaney, from the Kidderminster Shuttle, also reviewed the concert, and his report can be viewed here.
We are grateful to Jane Handley for these notes of the talk given by Geoffrey Weaver on Tuesday 31st January
PSALMUS HUNGARICUS Zoltán Kodály 1882 - 1967
Kodály had a strong sense of pride in his country. Together with Bela Bartok he had travelled throughout Hungary collecting folk songs and possessed a strong sense of national identity with his homeland.
Psalmus Hungaricus was written in 1923 on the 50th anniversary of the union of Buda and Pest and was a passionate protest against the dismemberment of Hungary following WW1 when Hungary lost both Slovakia and Transylvania. The piece expresses his anger at this event. The text is a sixteenth century free translation of Psalm 55 by the poet Michael Veg.
There are 3 main themes which all emerge in the first 18 pages. The main theme appears on page 3, “When as King David sore was afflicted” this theme is repeated throughout the work on pages 7 and 32. It is folksong like in character, it is the key theme which unifies the work, the repeated rhythm appears again on page 23 where it is altered to express Kodály’s anger.
The sighing, lamenting figure of the second theme appears on pages 11 and 14 in both orchestra and voice and in the tenor solo, page 9
The third theme, that of longing, is in the orchestra in the opening passage and again on page 17 where we hear the sighing effect within the orchestration.
The first section is very turbulent. The middle section is much calmer with Psalm 46 “So in Jehovah I will put my trust” appearing firstly in the orchestra and then taken up by the choir.
This is followed by a section reflecting violence, suffering and uncertainty in the music.
In the final section the music changes from warmth at “as for the righteous” to another angular outburst “those that are mighty” before the music subsides and the opening theme is recalled.
A CHILD OF OUR TIME Michael Tippett 1905 – 1998
The depression of the 1920s and the rise of Nazism in the 30s gave Tippett a profound social and political awareness. He joined the Communist party for a time but left when he failed to convert his local branch to Trotskyism.
He wanted to use his art to express solidarity with the oppressed and in 1938 he heard the story of a Polish student, Herschel Grynsban, living in Paris, who had heard from his father of the persecution of his family and of the Jews in general by the Nazis back home in Poland. Grynsban’s response was to go out and kill a Nazi diplomat in Paris.
This resulted in the savage outbreak of violence against the Jews across Europe which began on “Kristallnacht”
Tippett resolved to write a work of protest. He asked his friend T S Eliot to write the libretto, but Eliot suggested Tippett write his own libretto, partly because Tippett already had a good idea of the shape of the work and partly because Eliot feared that his libretto might overwhelm the music!
Tippett wrote his own libretto taking as his model the Bach Passions and to some extent Handel’s “Messiah” using the baroque device of recitative and, in place of chorales, negro spirituals. Another influence was the film “Green Pastures” where “de Lawd looks down from heaven”. That film may also have prompted him in his decision to use spirituals.
The negro spirituals are the emotional heart of the piece, they come out of great tribulation, the negro slaves are forced to the knees to cry out.
This deals with oppression in the world. All is confusion as the people sing “We are lost” the music is almost atonal. In chorus 5 the music has a ‘slithery’ effect - people cannot get a grip on life. The tenor sings of the plight of the poor, the soprano soloist in anguish sings “How shall I feed my children?” a lament that is tragically relevant to our times for mothers in the Horn of Africa. The section ends with the comfort of the spiritual “Steal away to Jesus”
In No. 9 we are introduced to “the man” the child of our time, Grynsban. But before the assassination there is the persecution which led Grynsban to despair and violence. In No. 11 there are hints of some of the “Crucify” choruses in the St Matthew Passion and, in chorus 13, a clear reference to ethnic cleansing. The boy is driven to shoot a representative of the oppressors. Chorus 19 is very violent and angular “break them in pieces on the wheel”. This is followed by No. 21 A Spiritual of Anger: “Let my people go”, the archetypal song of protest ending with the powerful “Go down Moses”
Reflects on how release and liberation might come p.78 “the jewel of great price lies in the icy waters”. p.87 “winter cold means inner warmth”. The secret is hidden and people are impatient p.88. The message seems to be that wholeness and peace will come, but as Eliot says “the meaning is in the waiting”. In the final ensemble No. 29, the soloists sing of longing for wholeness and the hope that is there in the moving waters and “it is Spring” a contrast with the winter of the opening. After the choir the soloists embark on an ecstatic section and “Deep river” brings a measure of the wholeness and peace which are the hope and goal of all humanity.
Based on notes taken at the talk on 31st January together with original material supplied by Geoffrey Weaver.
Any errors are those of the scribe.
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