Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Schola Cantorum Review of the Year 2015-16

This article will appear in the Vaughan School Magazine to be published at the start of this term. Here is a sneak preview!

The Schola Cantorum 2015-16

This has been very eventful year for the Schola and the choir has sung a vast repertoire of music in all sorts of different settings and styles. 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 a Remembrance Mass in November, for Ash Wednesday in February, for the Feast of the Holy Martyrs in May and for the Feast of St Peter and Paul in June. The Schola has continued its close relationship with Westminster Cathedral and has sung there on six occasions including Foundation Day Mass in September. We were also fortunate to sing Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral in April and also a service for Remembrance Sunday in November at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square. The annual Carol Service at Our Lady of Victories remains as popular as ever and this year saw some very fine singing, including a new carol composed for us by Mychael Danna, composer of the Oscar winning score for Life of Pi which featured the boys voices. 

The year began with the Schola competing in the finals of the London International Acapella Festival, a prestigious competition which we were delighted to have been invited to participate, the only youth choir in an otherwise all adult choir field. As part of the festival, the Schola took part in a workshop with Peter Philips, the founder of the famous Tallis Scholars and also gave a lunchtime recital, singing an hour of acapella music. We then competed in the evening, singing music by Gabriel Jackson, the resident composer of the festival, amongst other works. The choir received some very complimentary comments from the judges, not least from Peter Philips who wrote about the Schola in his column in the Spectator magazine. We did not make it through to the final but it was interesting to see that the competition has been given a different shape for next year and will contain a class for youth choirs.

This has been a busy year for opera work for the trebles and we have been involved in four professional productions. In October boys sang in La Bohéme at English National Opera and in December we provided the boys for the Royal Opera’s production of the double bill Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci.  This was filmed and broadcast later in the year on BBC Four. We returned to the Royal Opera in May for a production of Enescu’s Oedipe and ended the year on more familiar territory, singing in La Bohéme at Opera Holland Park. 

There have been some notable concert performance also during the course of the year. In October the choir sang a performance of Mozart’s Requiem at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square. The Lent Term focused on the preparation of JS Bach’s St John Passion, which was performed twice, at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square on Thursday 17 March and then again at Douai Abbey in Berkshire on Saturday 19 March. This is a monumental work and was a major achievement by the Schola to learn it, in German. As well as singing the choruses, the boys also sang the arias and smaller solo roles. We were joined by leading Evangelist Nicholas Mulroy and by Old Vaughnian Jerome Knox who sang the part of Christ. The Schola also sang a concert as part of the Brandenburg Festival in April and another concert in the Marylebone Festival in June (where they were conducted by Sue Perkins!).

The Schola recorded a new CD, of the Fauré Requiem, in November, recording for the first time with an orchestra, our friends in the Belgravia Chamber Orchestra. The results were very pleasing and the CD is now available from the School. In addition boys were involved in lots of different commercial recordings including several film soundtracks and even the music for a fashion show. There was an enquiry about the boys singing on the latest U2 album but at the time of writing that has not yet happened! One of the most exciting events of the year was not a recording but a live performance at the Royal Albert Hall in December of the music of the film Alice In Wonderland, sung with a huge orchestra whilst the film was shown on a giant screen. 

As I write, the Schola are preparing to travel to Rome for a short tour which will include singing for the Capitular Sunday Mass at St Peter’s Basilica. There will be news of this no doubt on the Music Department Blog and the Schola’s website, www.scholacantorum.co.uk. On the website you can also learn about next year’s plans for the choir. These include operas at Covent Garden and the Collesium, a performance of Handel’s Messiah and a concert with His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts at the Temple Church.

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. I would very much like to thank the School's Singing Teachers, all five of whom have given the boys wonderful guidance and instruction this year. 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. I look forward very much to seeing where our adventures take us next year!

Scott Price
Director of Music


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