Wednesday, July 23, 2014

From the Vaughan Magazine - Schola Review of the Year

The following text will appear in the Vaughan Magazine to be published in September. Here is a preview!

This has been a very busy year for the Schola and the choir continues to go from strength to strength, ever increasing the ambition of its activities, its repertoire and its reputation. As always, it has sung each week at the Lower School Mass, performing a vast array of music ranging from Palestrina and Victoria through to Dove and MacMillan. In addition the Schola has continued to sing once every half-term at the Saturday evening Vigil Mass at Westminster Cathedral. This has been a very important development, allowing the choir to sing regularly in one of the world’s greatest choral acoustics. I am most grateful to the clergy of the Cathedral, and Father Alexander Master in particular, for being so very supportive of the Choir’s visits. 

In the Michaelmas term the Schola’s concert activities were based around Duruflé’s Requiem which we sang twice, once in a splendid joint concert with Ealing Abbey Choir in Ealing Abbey itself, and then by ourselves in Douai Abbey. The concert in Douai, which was very warmly received by a large audience, was given in return for the fathers of the Abbey having been kind enough to allow us to record our latest CD In Honour of Our Lady there the previous June. There was some lovely singing in both concerts, especially in Douai where a varied first half of English music was contrasted with the glories of the Duruflé in this most wonderful of settings.

The Schola’s new CD is being sold for Aid to the Church in Need, one of several charities which the choir has helped this year. In November we sang at the Royal Festival Hall as part of a concert for The Passage, the homeless charity, and the concert at Douai was in aid of Hopes and Homes for Children. We sang for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham’s Carol Service once again and also played in a major role in the Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea’s Carol Service which raised funds for Cystic Fibrosis.

The Vaughan’s Carol Service was a memorable occasion, held for the second year in St James’s, Spanish Place. A packed congregation of around 800 people heard carols that included two first performances, a setting of Dormi Jesu by Matthew Martin that had been commissioned by the Schola, and also a carol entitled What Child is This, which had been commissioned by The Financial Times from Fifth Form pupil Thomas Fetherstonhaugh. Thomas’s carol was recorded by the Schola for newspaper’s website and the music was printed in full in their weekend supplement early in December. As a result, Thomas was invited to appear on Radio 3’s In Tune programme, where he talked about his composition and the Schola. Recordings of both his Carol and of the Schola were played to the nation. It was a very exciting day – made more exciting still by 30 foot high pictures of Thomas, Mr Evans, myself and the Schola, being all over the advertising billboards in Shepherd’s Bush!

In the New Year the Schola gave a concert based around the Psalms of David in the Chapel of King’s College, London as part of the Brandenburg Festival. The main work was Allegri’s Miserere, in which Leo Blair performed the famous top c’s required for the solo part. David Hill, conductor of the Bach Choir and the BBC Singers, visited the School to lead a workshop with the Schola on this and other pieces for the concert at King’s Chapel. The Allegri was also performed at a very beautiful Ash Wednesday Service, which marked the welcome return of the Vaughan after a number of years to Our Lady of Victories on Kensington High Street. Poulenc’s difficult Lenten motets were performed at St John’s Smith Square in April and that same week the Schola sang at a very beautiful service entitled Via Crucis at the School which, led by Father Dominic Allain, offered a reflection on our Lord’s Passion in words and music.

In the Summer Term the Schola gave a concert for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham at their new home, Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street. The Choir also competed in the Choir of the Year competition and was very pleased to be awarded ‘Choir of the Day’ in our category. We returned to the Royal Festival Hall in June to sing alongside the Bach Choir in a performance of the Berlioz Te Deum and a world premiere performance of a work entitled Psalms for Leo by Jonathan Dove. This was one of several occasions when the boys worked in professional contexts this year – others included the performances of Turandot and Die Frau Ohne Schatten at the Royal Opera House in September and March respectively. There has also been a fair amount of commercial work including several film soundtracks – the most prominent of which was probably for the Johnny Depp film Transcendence.  There have been some outstanding individual achievements too – Leo Blair, Alessio D’Andrea and Joseph Outtrim performed wonderfully as rather aged boy spirits in English National Opera’s The Magic Flute in November and Alessio sang the role of Shepherd Boy in the Royal Opera’s Tosca this Summer, including performances with Placido Domingo. Leo Blair performed the solo part in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in a performance with the Philharmonia at the Brighton Festival. Meanwhile, Dominic Lynch performed the major role of Miles in Opera Holland Park’s production of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, receiving outstanding reviews in all the national newspapers.

It remains only for me to thank the boys and their parents for their commitment to the Schola this year – it is no small undertaking to be in the Schola, or indeed to have a son in it! Also, I thank Mr Evans who accompanies the choir so wonderfully, Mr Jackson who is a superb assistant director, and the singing teachers for all their work with the boys. Plans for next year are very exciting and I am sure that the choir will continue to go from strength to strength.


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