'We loved performing Ian Venables' Requiem in beautiful Great Malvern Priory with Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir as part of the Elgar Festival. The Requiem has become an instant classic and it was a particular privilege to sing it in a powerful new orchestral version accompanied by the English Symphony Orchestra. Our rehearsal and performance were held in the presence of the composer Ian Venables himself!
Seen and Heard International reviewed the concert, calling it a 'masterly and moving Requiem performed with conviction at the Elgar Festival'
What a weekend of amazing music making in our home cathedral at Gloucester!
With the cathedral choir having a well-earned half term break, the Saint Cecilia Singers stepped into action for evensong on Saturday and Sunday, and the cathedral Eucharist on Sunday morning. You can watch the cathedral livestream below.
We're not sure who enjoyed the music more - the singers, the congregation or the clergy!
We are proud and delighted to be singing William Armiger's beautiful Shakespeare Songs at our next concert.
As well as being a wonderful singer and composer and a stalwart of the Saint Cecilia singers, Bill is also the Secretary of the Sanders Society. Here he tells us something of his history with Gloucester Cathedral and how John Sanders and others have influenced his compositions.
When I joined the Gloucester Cathedral Choir in 1971, I came from Southwark Cathedral with an already-developing extra-curricular love of solo concert and recital performance - especially a growing love of the German Lieder Schools of Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Brahms and Mahler. John Sanders encouraged this interest and enabled me to present several recitals throughout the county and further afield, as well as in the cathedral itself (the Chapter House is fine but what a recital venue the North Transept is!)
When I sang "Severn Meadows" at the dedication of the Ivor Gurney Memorial at the foot of the organ steps, it was John’s encouragement that pushed me even further into an exploration of Gloucestershire’s contribution to English Song - most especially the work of Vaughan Williams, Ivor Gurney and Gerald Finzi. It was perhaps the acquisition of some insight gained through the performance of his Song Cycles that I became keenly aware of the consummate skill in setting the words of English poetry that Finzi so wonderfully demonstrates.
That love of English poetry - and the way in which it can be further enhanced through music - has since prompted me to revive early lessons in harmony and counterpoint. Largely for my own pleasure, I have become fascinated by the act of choral composition itself, and when my work is given actual voice in a live performance, that pleasure knows no bounds. My earlier recital work and my long experience of choral singing in the wonderful acoustic of Gloucester Cathedral all combine with a long-held love of English poetry. But I must acknowledge that the achievement of this sense of fulfilment owes so very much to the personal influence of two people: Christian Wilson, long-time friend, inspiring teacher, superlative accompanist and godfather to our children - to whom the third of the Five Songs from Shakespeare is dedicated; and to my other constant benefactor and encourager - John Derek Sanders.
It's easy to socially distance an a building as large as Gloucester Cathedral, but we were all pleased that the sun shone for our rehearsal this evening.
While it can be a challenge to sing outdoors and two metres apart from each other, it was still such a treat to sing together in the beautiful cloister garth, while the setting sun bathed us in golden light...
The Saint Cecilia Singers would like to wish everyone a safe and happy 2021 - let's see what this year has in store for us!
Our Christmas concert is usually the highlight of our year, and - although it may not have had quite the buzz of a full cathedral, this year turned out to be no exception.
We missed our live audience, and the festive excitement of the normally full Cathedral, but it was still an immense joy and privilege to bring you our Christmas concert, via the Cathedral's livestream.
It was a wonderful reminder that our Cathedral has stood through the ages, through famine, war and plague - and it was calming and joyous to be making music in this amazing space.
You can click here to watch the concert on Gloucester Cathedral's facebook page. (Please be patient... the concert starts after around five minutes.)
Former Director of the St Cecilia Singers and current Master of Music at Norwich Cathedral, Ashley Grote, arranged the Robert Prizeman song 'Sing Forever' for this extraordinary project to raise money for the Cathedral Choirs' Emergency Fund.
Of all the online singing projects that we have seen throughout the lockdown period, it would be hard to find one more poignant or beautifully executed than this one. Over 260 choristers across the country were involved including our own Gloucester Cathedral boys and girls.
Gloucester choristers - and sons of Saint Cecilia Singers Bairbre and Sarah - recording 'Sing Forever'
Among the many casualties of COVID-19 have been our nation’s cathedral choirs. Since public worship in the Church was suspended in mid-March, choirs and organists have been out of action. Choristers’ lives are shaped by the daily singing of Choral Evensong but, in lockdown, this structurehas been missing. At the time of writing, worship has resumed, but without choral music. The future of jobs for adult singers (Lay Clerks) in cathedral worship is uncertain. The Friends of Cathedral Music (part of the newly formed Cathedral Music Trust has launched an Emergency Fund, aiming to provide £1 million of support for Cathedral Choirs at this time of crisis.
An initiative from Norwich Cathedral, the 'Sing Forever' project has drawn choristers together from 41 cathedrals and choral foundations, who recorded their parts in their own homes. They were joined by soloists Anna Haestrup and William Miles-Kingston, BBC Young Choristers of the Year, and by celebrities Aled Jones and Elizabeth Watts. The organ accompaniment was recorded by David Dunnett, Organist at Norwich Cathedral.
We caught up with our former Director, Ashley Grote, who said: “Sing Forever has been a powerful way for choristers from across the country to unite in support of their choirs, which are such a fundamental part of all their lives. Not only has the project raised a fantastic sum already for the Cathedral Choirs Emergency Fund, it has also done a lot to boost the morale of choristers, many of whom have been unable to sing for a long time. It is so important to them to realise that they are not alone, and that there are hundreds of other boys and girls from cathedrals right across the country who are missing singing just as much as they are”.
Please click through to the fundraising page to donate - if you're reading this page then it will be a subject close to your heart, and your contribution will make a difference.
It is with deep regret that we must postpone our Timeless Reflections concert on 28 March due to COVID-19 concerns. The new concert date will be announced soon and tickets will be transferable, but please message us if you need a refund. Thank you to everyone who bought tickets. We look forward to performing this wonderful concert for you as soon as we have an opportunity.
29th November. The choir was superbly supported by a professional orchestra, which also included College's most advanced instrumentalists. The programme note described the concert as 'a true team effort, and involves performers in both the choir and orchestra from all areas of College over a wide age range.' It was indeed impressive to see such talent on display from both singers and orchestra, including Gloucestershire's current Young Musician of the Year in the viola section.
David McKee, Director of Music at Cheltenham College, said "It was wonderful to have members of the St Cecilia Singers joining us for this occasion. As a student I learned so much from performing next to singers and players of a professional standard and it's my privilege to offer this opportunity to the students at College. Thank you to the St Cecilia singers for their support."
Bairbre Lloyd talks about that perfect performance moment and why we keep singing.
I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve experienced it, but deep down, it’s probably the ultimate reason I keep singing in dozens of concerts and turning up for hundreds of choir rehearsals.
Singing in a choir is fun. An hour or two’s workout of the lungs and vocal chords gets the endorphins buzzing round your system. It’s good to spend time with a group of friends all engaged in a common purpose. And it’s emotionally satisfying, if you love the music you are singing. Even better is performing in front of an appreciative audience, who are letting you know how much they’ve enjoyed it.
But very occasionally something happens in performance which is unforgettable. Like a divining rod or a radio signal, the conductor tunes into something magical which captures the soul of each and every performer. As the atmosphere shifts, each person’s thoughts and ideas take a back seat and they become solely a channel of the conductor’s will. The choir locks on to every gesture, every facial expression, as if each individual singer has been melded into one giant instrument.
To be part of that sublimation, to let go, be completely in the moment and at one with your fellow musicians is an incredible experience. And when the audience gets caught up in the music, the whole room seems to vibrate with an energy unlike anything else.
So while every concert is a special experience, always involving anticipation and maybe even nerves – there is always the possibility of a transcendent experience...