Review of 2016-17
This summary of the Schola's work in 2016-17 first appeared in the Vaughan Magazine in September 2017.
The Schola Cantorum has been very busy as always this year, aided by the introduction of some very talented new First Form boys in September. As always, the heart of our work continues to be the singing each week at the Lower School Mass. We have also this year been able to lead the School’s worship at several visits to Our Lady of Victories Church, for All Saints Day, for a Remembrance Mass in November, for Ash Wednesday in February and for the Feast of St Peter and Paul in June.
During the Michaelmas Term, seventeen boys sang in English National Opera’s spectacular production of Tosca at the Coliseum [for photos see the Opera Page of this site]. Other highlights include an Evensong at Winchester Cathedral in September and a beautiful service at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square for Remembrance Sunday. The Schola gave a concert for the Army Benevolent Fund at Haileybury School in October and sang the Duruflé Requiem for our own Remembrance Mass in November. The Schola sang twice at Westminster Cathedral during the first term of the year and also led the singing at a Mass to celebrate Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor’s fiftieth anniversary of joining the Priesthood.
The end of the Michaelmas Term was spent learning Handel’s Messiah for a concert performance given at St Gabriel’s, Pimlico in December. This was a memorable evening with the solos sung by the boys of the choir (sixteen of them) as well as the choruses. In preparation for this we welcomed internationally renowned conductor Paul McCreesh to the School to take the boys through their paces.
The term ended with the Annual Carol Service, which included the first performance of a new Carol by Ben Parry commissioned for the evening, who among other things, directs the National Youth Choir.
Early in the Lent term we sang for the Vigil Mass at Westminster Cathedral and then a little later in January gave a concert at St Peter’s, Eaton Square for Aid to the Church in Need. At the concert the Schola gave its first ever performance of The Twelve by William Walton, a famously difficult work, both for the choir and the organist. The Schola acquitted itself admirably, assisted, as always, by the quite brilliant accompanying of Mr Evans. The concert, which also included the Requiem by Duruflé, raised £750 for the crucial work of ACN.
In February the Schola travelled to Liverpool, having been granted the considerable honour of singing the Sunday services as guests of the Metropolitan Cathedral. We had a great weekend, also singing a concert at the Dome from Home, on the Wirral.
Before half-term the Schola also sang the first performance of the winning composition in a competition run for the Music Education Expo held at the Olympia.
For Ash Wednesday, at Our Lady of Victories for the whole School, the Schola prepared the annual performance of Allegri’s Miserere with the famous top C acrobatics for one of the trebles. The duty fell to Aidan Cole this year, who sang them admirably, assisted by James Fernandes who sang one, and also by Joseph Short who sang the less flamboyant but arguably more difficult second treble part in the repeating solo verses.
Most of the second half of the Lent term was spent preparing for a very special event, a concert entitled Festa Venziana!, given with His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts and tenors Nicholas Mulroy and Peter Davoren. His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts perform on instruments that are the same as those used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and together we presented a programme of music from Venice at that time. The concert was given in the twelfth century Temple Church, the first time the Schola has performed there, and as part of the Temple Music Foundation Concert Series. Being involved in this prestigious concert series helped us draw a large audience and also resulted in the concert being professionally reviewed – four stars!
There was one further event for the Schola when at the end of March the choir sang Evensong at Westminster Abbey. This was an especially lovely occasion marked by some very fine singing from the choir in music by Henry Purcell, who was organist at the Abbey and is buried just a few feet from where the choir sang.
The Summer Term was full of events for the trebles, whilst the older boys were away taking their exams. We gave a very lovely recital for The Campaign for The Traditional Cathedral Choir in June, singing an hour-long concert at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate.
A week later gave the boys gave the choir’s first ever performance in the Aldeburgh Festival, singing a new song cycle by Luke Styles as part of the Friday Afternoons singing initiative. This was a wonderful event given at Snape Maltings, with the Schola sharing the programme with the National Youth Choir and Jubilee Opera. The day before we had spent time at Benjamin Britten’s House, the Red House, where the boys sang in Britten’s Library and also recorded some pieces with harpist Olivia Jaguers for her Royal Philharmonic Society award nominated project Fifteen Second Harp.
The end of the Summer Term saw the boys singing in the Royal Opera House’s spectacular production of Puccini’s Turandot. This is a production we have been involved with a number of times before and it is perhaps the best opera for the boys to be in. We had a wonderful time during this run of nine performances. [For photos see the Opera Page of this site].
Next year in October the Schola is to travel to South Africa for the first time, giving concerts and services in a whole variety of settings including Soweto and Cape Flats outside of Cape Town. The boys will return to Covent Garden for Puccini’s Tosca this time and the whole choir will sing Evensong at St John’s College, Cambridge and York Minster. At Christmas the choir is to sing a concert for Great Ormond Street and in April we will give a performance of the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 with His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts. There will be news of this no doubt on the Music Department Blog and the Schola’s website, www.scholacantorum.co.uk.
Finally, some thanks. I am grateful as always to Mr Evans, who contributes so much in so many ways to the work of the Schola. His commitment, which runs far beyond the time that he is paid for, is really very important to the choir’s work. I must also thank our wonderful team of singing teachers who support the choir so admirably – Miss Morrison and Miss Dymott who work so hard with the trebles, and Mr Clarkson, Mr Davoren and Miss Gabriel who are doing great work with the older boys. I would also like to thank the parents of the choir – having a boy in the Schola is a big commitment. And of course I would like to thank the boys who really do work very hard – especially the younger ones who have been real soldiers this year! I look forward very much to seeing where our adventures take us next year!