Conductor Jake Barlow is delighted to find himself in charge of a “hungry” choir as he approaches his first Festival of Chichester concert with the St Richard Singers.
Jake took over at the choir in September last year and is thrilled with the singers and their response to him.
“When we had our first rehearsal of term, they had this fantastic energy about them. It’s a hunger. They are really keen and excited about what we are doing.”
The choir’s Festival of Chichester concert will be entitled a Royal Summer and takes place at St George’s Church, Cleveland Road, Chichester, PO19 7AD on Monday, July 2 at 7.30pm. Jake is promising an “all-out celebration of two of England’s most-loved composers.” They will perform Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art. Tickets £12; students £5; children free.
“I think really the first thing you have got to do as a conductor is offer the singers something really exciting and interesting to sing. There is a certain label that choral singing has gathered unto itself, that it is stuffy and boring and that choral societies and choirs are for old people. It is an image that has built up over time. There is also that feeling that classical music is something unexciting that has been stuck in a bygone era. My job is to show that that absolutely isn’t the case, so it is a question of finding really exciting things for the choir to do.
“It is also about working towards a high standard, which is the best way of making sure that everyone is working in the same direction. So again, you have got to keep it fresh. If you are just bashing out the same old things all the time, then of course everyone is going to get bored. Having strong leadership is also important. If you want people to be excited, then the leadership has got to be excited as well. I am really pleased about the repertoire that we are moving into.
“The Coronation Anthems are pretty famous in the choral repertoire, and usually in choral performances one or two get performed. It is less frequent that all four get performed, which is what we are doing. It is a relatively-ambitious undertaking. It is a programme that will definitely have something for everyone. All four are fairly celebratory in their output, but there are contrasts within them. There are slower and more mellow sections. It is not all go all the time.
“And for this concert, we will have the first performance of our new in-house chamber orchestra, the Noviomagus Ensemble. It’s a name rooted in the old Roman name for the city, and in this first instance it will be an ad hoc group of musicians and people that I can call on. Having your own orchestra adds a great deal. I do think people like to hear a choir and orchestra together because it tends to mean a more ambitious repertoire.
“I think the last time the St Richard Singers had an ensemble was mid-2016. I am now working in such a way as to have a situation where we can perform with one at least once a year, if not twice a year. My current plan is to have a small string ensemble for our Christmas concert.
“At the moment we do three or four concerts a year, Christmas and then Lent/Easter and then in the summer for the festival. Those are the three big ones, but I have been here long enough and got enough of a foothold to seek to expand that. We are going to do a come and sing workshop in November when people will be able to come along and sing Faure’s Requiem.”