Want to hear us? Come along to any of our future events! As well as concerts, we can occasionally be found busking or singing, so keep a look out!
Rutter, Shearing, Britten - 13th July, 2019
The Octavian Singers always enjoy the lighter feel of the music for summer concerts and this year is no exception. We are singing several madrigals, a style very much at the centre of our regular repertoire, and we’ve added some new ones to our library so look out for some more “fa-la” refrains!! We contrast the traditional 16th Century madrigals with a set written by John Rutter in the 20th Century. Although these have traditional pastoral themes, the musical style is very different and is in a jazzy vein. This is because the set was composed in 1995 to celebrate the 75th birthday of his friend the jazz pianist George Shearing, the moods vary from piece to piece, so you will hear slow moving dark chords in “Draw on Sweet Night”, as well as some “hey nonny, nonny” in “It was a Lover and his Lass”!
We welcome the pianist Jonathan Rhodes-Smith to accompany us during this concert. Jonathan can be found more frequently in an orchestra pit, playing for musical theatre companies such as WAOS, but he’s excited to take a more centre stage this time. He’ll be joined by Anna Flude on double bass, who is more frequently found in symphony orchestras but she’s looking forward to making her jazz debut! These musicians will assist our performance of the obvious companion piece, the “Songs and Sonnets” by George Shearing. This work was first performed in July 1999, having been commissioned by the Mostly Madrigal Singers of St Charles Illinois USA and was conducted by John Rutter. George Shearing was born blind (in Battersea, London) and set off down a largely self-taught musical career, firstly playing in pubs and clubs before joining an all-blind jazz band. In 1947 he moved to America and found great success, including performances in the legendary jazz club of Birdland, and winning two Grammys with Mel Torme. He never forgot his English roots, dividing his time in later life between New York and Gloucestershire, where he died in Feb 2011.
The other main work on our programme is the set of Choral Dances from Gloriana by Benjamin Britten, a firm favourite. The opera Gloriana was written in 1953, the year of the Queen’s Coronation, and the dances come from a scene portraying a Masque performed in Norwich Cathedral for a visit of Queen Elizabeth I (nicknamed Gloriana, sometimes shortened to Oriana and used in some madrigal refrains). Our concert will also feature a few of our soloists singing some of their favourite pieces.
Music for All Souls - 2nd November, 2019
November 2nd is the Feast of All Soul’s and it seemed natural to choose some music of this theme for Octavians first concert of the 2019-20 season. We will be singing some pieces by two Italian composers more famous for their operatic output, Verdi and Puccini. For the “Requiem” motet, Puccini included an obbligato viola solo and we are pleased to welcome Julia McDonough to perform with us. The Verdi pieces include “Ave Maria” of 1889 (which he had composed for his own amusement and did not wish it performed) and the Laudi alla Vergine of 1890 which is in Italian, setting text from Dante’s “Paradiso”. We will also sing the ever-popular “Beatus Vir” by Monteverdi, also an opera composer but in a rather different style! The concert contrasts these Italian works with some English works, including Purcell’s “Funeral Sentences for Queen Mary” which were also sung at his own funeral later in the same year 1695. We will also perform “Lux Aeterna” arranged from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and “Lachrymosa” by Jonathan Willcocks.
Carols and Songs for Christmas - 7th December, 2019
On 7th December we will make a long-overdue return visit to the lovely church of St Saviour’s in Brookwood. The venue is ideal for an intimate, informal festive concert including something for everyone - traditional and new, sacred and secular, solo and sing-along. Please join us and get into the spirit of Christmas!
Women Composers: A Celebration - 28th March, 2020
March is the month of International Women’s Day and on 28th March 2020, Octavians will be flying the flag for neglected female composers. Unsurprisingly, a couple of these women happen to be connected to a more famous male of the same name - Clara Schumann was married to Robert, and Fanny Mendelssohn was the sister of Felix, but both have great merit as composers in their own right, and were respected by their peers and contemporaries. We will also sing some music from the 11th Century composed by Saint Hildegard of Bingen and also from 16th and 17th Century Italian singers and composers. The 20th and 21st centuries hold a treasure trove of music by women, including the American Amy Beach. To represent the 19th Century, it was natural to draw on repertoire by famous Woking resident Dame Ethel Smyth!
Nidaros Jazz Mass - 11th July, 2020
Our summer concert is traditionally a lighter affair, and we are looking forward to learning the “Nidaros Jazz Mass” by Bob Chilcott, commissioned by the girls choir of Nidaros Cathedral in Norway. The accompanist for this concert will again be Jonathan Rhodes-Smith on piano, possibly joined by a bass and drum kit! The remainder of the programme will include light-hearted partsongs and jazz arrangements such as “Java Jive” and “Goodnight Sweetheart” plus solo items.