Chichester Singers offer classic and contemporary

Conductor Jonathan Willcocks
Conductor Jonathan Willcocks

The Chichester Singers mark the centenary of the armistice which ended the First World War with a concert combining classic and contemporary in Chichester Cathedral on Saturday, November 3.

Under the title Lest We Forget, they will offer Ron Corp’s And All the Trumpets Sounded and Brahms’ Requiem.

Musical director Jonathan Willcocks said: “To mark the centenary, we are combining one of the great works of the choral repertoire with a very dramatic contemporary piece. We were planning the concert with the centenary of the armistice in mind, and the choir were very keen to perform Brahms’ Requiem again.

“The Brahms we last did about 15 years ago. It is a choral work that is almost entirely choral the whole way through. Many of the major choral works combine a lot of solo work, but for all the seven movements, the choir is very heavily involved. There are two soloists, but they very much sing with the choir.

“It is a piece that Brahms felt very deeply about. It was very important to him as part of his choral output. Brahms was a slow-burn composer. He had considered the Requiem for a long time and took a great deal of time and trouble over it. He was a very self-critical composer. He regarded it as his major church work, and it is one of the most important choral works of the 19th-century repertoire.

“Half the choir has never sung it before, and most of the other half haven’t sung it since we list did it about 15 years ago. It is always a great challenge when you introduce them to something, but one of the great pleasures of working with them weekly is that you can sense their growing certainty. You can feel that sense of their confidence growing, which is great.

“And then with the Ron Corp piece, you have got none of them who have sung it before. We are going to do the Ron Corp in the first half, and the Brahms, which is 65 minutes, in the second. It is the more substantial piece in the concert and so probably should be second. The Brahms’ Requiem would be a difficult work to follow.

“The Ron Corp is a piece that combines some of the Latin words of the Requiem mass which provides a link with the Brahms, but it also uses poetry from the World War One poets, poetry by Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, three of the most important World War One poets, two of whom were killed during the war. It is quite dramatic.

"It uses what you might describe as World War One instruments in as much as it makes heavy use of trumpets in bugle-signalling fashion. It opens and finishes with bugle fanfares. The orchestra needed to accompany the piece is not as big as the Brahms’ Requiem, but it is a very dramatic piece with very exciting music. It is very energetic, summoning up images and the energy of the battlefield – and then the more reflective side.

“It was written about 20 years ago. I have performed it before but never with my choir in Chichester. Ron Corp will attend one of our rehearsals and talk to the choir about the piece. That is one of the great things about doing a contemporary piece where the composer is still with us.

"Most composers feel that they provide the raw ingredients but it is interesting to know what he had in mind and whether what we are doing is compatible with his view of the piece. But having worked with him before, I know that he will be happy to hand it over.”

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