Amici Performs Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in Wells Cathedral

Messiah_2000On October 14th 2000, there were almost 250 simultaneous performances of Handel’s masterpiece all over the United Kingdom in support of the ‘Voices for Hospices’ movement. Amici’s part in this event was to sing ‘Messiah’ in Wells Cathedral in aid of St. Margaret’s Hospice, Taunton. It was a stellar performance with four outstanding soloists, Rosemary Joshua, Alison Kettlewell, Robert Tear and Willard White.

The choir was on the peak of its form, and the two clips presented here can only give an impression of what was achieved that night.

‘All We Like Sheep’ can spell disaster for choirs whose timing and articulation go even a little awry – I hope you will agree that Amici’s performance here is of the finest quality.

‘Worthy is the Lamb’ marks the start of the majestic closing pages of the work, leading to the thunderous ‘Amen’. We were quite tired by this point, but the sheer power of the music buoyed us up to the very end, and the applause seemed to go on forever.

 

‘All We Like Sheep’

 

‘Worthy is the Lamb’


Amici Performs Fauré’s Requiem in France

Amici_Faure_en_FranceAmici_Faure_en_France2

Amici has a tradition of going far afield to perform – we have travelled to Italy, Belgium, the US and in 2007, Angoulême, on the river Charentes. Seventeen miles from Angoulême is the ruined priory of Rauzet, one of only two examples of monasteries of the Grandmontine order (the other is in England, at Craswall in Herefordshire).

As part of our visit we were delighted to give a concert to help boost the fund raising efforts being made to restore the priory for visitors to enjoy. The setting was magical – the ruins are very atmospheric (quite literally – there’s no roof at the end where we performed). Taking the Fauré Requiem to France might seem a ‘coals to Newcastle’ exercise, but we had done it before; we sang Rossini in Italy!

In the event, the concert was a quite stunning success, both artistically and financially. The track you will hear is the closing pages of Faure’s beautiful masterpiece, the ‘In Paradisum’.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli;

In tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. 

Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.

May angels lead you into paradise.

Upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.

May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.

The day after the concert we piled on to a cruiser on the river Charentes for a lovely day out, including a splendid riverside restaurant for lunch and a visit to a cognac distillery!


Elijah He That Shall Endure

Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ was, and to an extent, still is a staple of the choral repertoire in Britain. And yet, it’s different from the conventional oratorios which choral societies so often present.

For a start, it is decidedly NOT a Christian oratorio – in here y2_Elijah_Amici_at Rehearsalou will find no meek Jesus, sacrificing himself for mankind. No, here is Jehovah in full cry, waging war on his enemies through his appointed prophet, Elijah.

Musically it has some decidedly dramatic sections, more akin to grand opera than the concert stage. That’s why in 2002, Amici asked Hilary Marshall, well known in local operatic and theatrical circles to help us produce a semi-staged version of Mendelssohn’s masterpiece. Her ideas were simple – enough costume items to allow us to depict the various crowds and tribes in the work, a little movement both of principals and chorus to point up what was happening in the story.

It worked – our Elijah was Guy Robinson who gave a stunning performance from memory, and the audience’s reception of our efforts was very enthusiastic.

The sound clip is one of the more reflective choruses from the second half of the work:

He that shall endure to the end shall be saved.


‘The Armed Man’ – Karl Jenkins’s Mass for Peace

Amici  Armed Man ProgrammeAmici has twice performed this work, both times at our Remembrance Sunday concerts and both times completely from memory – all 74 minutes of it!

It must be said that musically it’s a bit of a patchwork, but the overall impact never fails to convey its message of both the horror of war but also the occasional nobility and compassion which can come from human beings involved in conflict.

Also at both performances we supplemented the music with projected images, and many have said that this approach made the impact of the work even more profound and at times, harrowing.

‘The Armed Man’ mixes sections of the Latin mass with other poems and songs. The sound clip (from the first performance in 2004) is one of the former, a dramatic and at first relentless setting of the ’Sanctus’ exploding into the ‘Hosanna in Excelsis’.


Rossini – ‘Petite Messe Solennelle’

This is the earliest Amici performance to have been recorded, and took pAmici Rossini Rossinilace in Wellington Parish Church on what must have been the wettest night of the year!  The audience squelched in from the thunderous downpour, but the weather didn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm.

Amici had only been in existence for a few months, and this concert was our largest scale venture to that time. The accompaniment is scored for two pianos and harmonium. By one of these strange coincidences which pop up from time to time, one of the pianists was a young man who had just that year taken up his post in the music department of Wellington School – Andrew Trewhella!

‘Cum Sancto Spiritu in Gloria Dei Patris amen!’

‘With the Holy Spirit , to the Glory of God the Father, Amen!’Amici Rossini Wellington Church

It’s a colossal sing, running (and how!) for over 26 pages at a furious pace – we loved it, and in a typical ‘coals to Newcastle’ exercise, when we went on a concert tour of Italy years later, the Rossini was one of the works we took with us to perform.

 


Amici & Mozart

Amici Mozart ProgrammeIt is always a pleasure to sing Mozart – his writing is well matched to the human voice, and while it is never easy to sing, after diligent rehearsals it is a rewarding experience.

Easter 2012 saw us on familiar territory in St. Mary Magdalene, Taunton, accompanied by our old friends OrchestraWest. The programme featured two items, the incomparable Requiem and an earlier work, the Solemn Vespers K339.

The latter contains one of Mozart’s best known and well-loved pieces, a beautiful setting of the ‘Laudate Dominum’ for solo soprano and chorus, often performed stand-alone. Our soloist on this occasion was the South African soprano Erica Eloff. During her studies Erica was awarded several prizes and scholarships by her university and various national institutions. She is a laureate of several national and international singing competitions, and first prizes include the London Handel Competition, the UNISA National Singing Competition, the UFAM Concours Internationaux de Chant.

This sound clip presents Erica’s lovely performance of that ‘Laudate Dominum’ with Amici as chorus.

Amici Mozart Laudate Erica Eloff

Mozart’s unfinished Requiem is one of classical music’s great stories. The dying composer became convinced that the mysterious messenger who brought the commission to write the work was in fact the harbinger of Mozart’s own death and that he was writing the music for his own funeral. He died before he could finish, and the work performed today is a mixture of what Mozart left and extra composition by one of his pupils, Sussmayer.

The clip here is the beautiful ‘Lacrimosa’ movement.


BRAHMS – ‘Ein Deutsches Requiem’

Amici Brahms ProgrammeAnother work which Amici has performed twice, in 2006 and 2012.

The latter performance was a particularly poignant one, in that it represented the last appearance in public of our founder, John Cole. By this time he was severely ill, but his indomitable spirit came to the fore and we were delighted to see him there.

The sound clip is taken from the earlier performance which John conducted. That performance too was memorable in its own way – the soprano solo was sung by a young lady who had only started her career in music. She is now an international star and we are proud to have her as the choir’s patron – Elizabeth Watts.

(She also reprised her performance of the Brahms solos in the 2012 concert).

‘Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen’

‘How lovely are thy Dwellings’


Amici in Lighter Mood

Yes, we sing ‘serious’ works both large and small, but occasionally we let our hair down too. We have a repertoire of ‘classics’ – songs from musicals, jazz arrangements and other lighter stuff.

The two clips are from what we call ‘The Pink Book’ – a wonderful collection of songs arranged for four-part choir.

The choir picture was taken in the late 1990s just about the time these two tracks were recorded. Some of us now have much less hair to let down, but we still enjoy doing works like these.

‘Let’s Do It’

‘S’ Wonderful’