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Our forthcoming events

Leith Hill Musical Festival 2020

Green Division: Saturday 18th April 2019, Dorking Halls

This year sees some major changes in the organisation of the three days of the Festival. Choirs will be able to perform more “own choice” music. Full details of the programme for the competition and evening concert will appear here in due course.

2020 summer concert

Sunday 28th June 2020, St James’ Church, Abinger Common

Get the date in the diary for this ever-popular summer event.


Recent events

News of Great Joy: Christmas Carol Concert

Thursday 13th December 2018, St Mary’s Church, Holmbury St Mary

News of Great Joy - Christmas concert flyer

Despite some minor technical issues (trying and not fully succeeding to enable the conductor to make eye contact with the organist), the concert in Holmbury church went without any obvious hitches in front of an appreciative audience. Congratulations and thanks to our guest conductor, Sarah Burston, for her skillful direction of the choir on the night and for excellent preparation work - she had clearly built a good rapport with the choir over the course of the autumn term. The guest organist, Andrew Harrap, and regular pianist, Helen Wharmby, provided secure and sensitive accompaniment throughout.

Carry Me Home: 2019 summer concert

Sunday 7th July 2019, St James' Church, Abinger Common

This was another highly successful summer concert in front of a packed audience. The choir was ably supported by baritone Tom O’Kelly and accompanist Anthony Merriweather. The main items were highlights from Alan Bullard’s Travelling Tales, which we had first performed at this year’s Leith Hill Musical Festival, and Tom O’Kelly’s performance of The Vagabond and Youth and Love from Songs of Travel by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Other items included: Irish Blessing, Buffalo Gals, Home, sweet home and Ev’ry time I feel the Spirit, all arranged by Bob Chilcott; Shenandoah arranged by James Erb; Orpheus in the Underground, Offenbach’s famous can-can arranged by Cantabile; I do like to be beside the seaside arranged by Andrew Carter; Swing low, sweet chariot arranged by Andrew Pryce Jackman; I want Jesus to walk with me arranged by Roderick Williams; I’m gonna sing ’til the spirit by Moses Hogan; and The Road Home by Stephen Paulus.

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Leith Hill Musical Festival 2019

Green Division: Friday 12th April 2019, Dorking Halls

Another competition, and yet again we felt that our winning streak must surely come to an end. Carmina Burana is an energetic work (“rhythmic shouting” is one unkind description), and we were not sure that we could do it justice with our relatively modest forces, especially in the selection for the Lower Voices class: ‘In taberna’. Alan Bullard’s Travelling Tales provided a welcome contrast, but was not without its challenges. But yet again we were surprised: wins in all classes except for the Ensemble (in which, bizarrely, we were awarded the lowest mark) and Own Choice classes. While it’s gratifying to have won yet again, it clearly is not much fun for the other choirs to see their hard work come to nought with such monotonous regularity. It is to be sincerely hoped that the deliberations of the Festival Committee will result in a competition that produces more equitable results in the future.

The evening concert went very well, although the decision to replace the usual orchestral accompaniment for Carmina Burana with two pianos and percussion nearly came unstuck, as one of the pianos drifted dangerously out of tune during the performance (no fault of the excellent pianists, Jean Douglas Tutt and Alan Brown). We were delighted that Alan Bullard was able to be present to hear the combined choirs perform his work and to acknowledge the much-deserved applause of an appreciative audience; he also gave out the prizes and make a speech that was exemplary in both content and length.

The competition schedule for Green Division was as follows:

Main works: Travelling Tales, Alan Bullard
Carmina Burana, Carl Orff
Madrigal:Lady, when I behold, John Wilbye
Part song:The River of the Water of Life, Malcolm Archer
Upper voices:Who is Sylvia?, David Willcocks
Lower voices:‘In taberna’, Carl Orff
Ensemble:Two for the price of one, Andrew Carter
Own choice:Ave Maris Stella, Edvard Grieg

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Noël! : Christmas Carol Concert

Thursday 13th December 2018, St Mary’s Church, Holmbury St Mary at 8 p.m.

The choir faced several challenges at this concert: the venue (the church, instead of the usual Village Hall) was unfamiliar; accompaniment by a brass ensemble, with only a single, short rehearsal before the concert, was equally a novelty; not least, the choir had to work a bit harder than usual to follow their conductor, Amy Bebbington, who had completely lost her voice and was therefore having to communicate by rudimentary sign language and through intermediaries. In spite of (or perhaps because of) these challenges, the choir rose to the occasion and gave a disciplined, musical performance of every item on the programme. The professional brass ensemble, Dorking-based Martineau Brass, proved a successful addition to the mix: the choir and brass ensemble were well balanced, the latter being situated in the side-chapel, elevated as if in a minstrels' gallery. Helen Wharmby provided her usual excellent accompaniment, both on the organ and on the piano. The performers were warmly applauded by a larger-than-usual audience, who joined in carols with gusto when given the opportunity. A great way to herald the Christmas season. The programme was (audience joined in those marked *):

* O come, all ye faithful

John Wade arr. David Willcocks

The angel Gabriel from heaven came

Basque traditional arr. Edgar Pettman

Adam lay ybounden

Boris Ord

Reading

 

* The first Nowell

English traditional arr. David Willcocks

O magnum mysterium

T.L. de Victoria

Blessed be that Maid Marie

Amy Bebbington

Reading

 

There is no rose

John Joubert

A maiden most gentle

French traditional arr. Andrew Carter

* God rest you merry, gentlemen

English traditional arr. David Willcocks

O magnum mysterium

Morten Lauridsen

Jingle bells

J. Pierpont arr. David Willcocks

Reading

 

* Hark! the herald-angels sing

Frederic Mendelssohn

We wish you a merry Christmas

Traditional West country carol arr. Arthur Warrell

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2018 summer concert: Carmina Iocunda - songs for the seasons

Saturday 7th July 2018, St James' Church, Abinger Common

On a very warm evening the choir performed a varied programme to an appreciative audience. The choir was joined by the harpist Gabriella dall’Olio, who accompanied much of the programme and also contributed a piece for solo harp (El Picaflor by John Marson). The main items, mostly with harp accompaniment, were: a selection of four pieces from Carmina Iocunda by Sarah Deere-Jones; Hymn to Vena, one of the third group of Gustav Holst’s Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda; and A Fancy of Folksongs by Cecilia MacDowell. Other items were: a setting by our conductor Amy Bebbington of the traditional English folksong The Cuckoo; Holst’s arrangements of the folksong I love my love and the shanty Swansea Town; and two pieces that the choir had sung so successfully in competition at this year’s Leith Hill Musical Festival: a setting by Stephen Chatman of Shakespeare’s song The Cuckoo from Love’s Labours Lost; and Wide Open Spaces by Sarah Quartel, with the harp replacing the usual piano accompaniment.

This may not have been a vintage performance – the heat was largely to blame – but it was a pleasing one nevertheless, with much fine music added to the choir’s repertoire. The sopranos and altos in particular are to be commended for a very creditable performance of Holts’s Hymn to Veda. Many of the choirs finer qualities were on display, including excellent diction.

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Leith Hill Musical Festival 2018

Green Division: Thursday 12th April 2018, Dorking Halls

We approached this year's competition with considerable trepidation. The re-organisation of the Divisions meant that there could be no certainty as to how we would match up to the other choirs (Bookham, Dorking and Mickleham). The choice of main work proved to be particularly challenging, as the chorus contributions to The Kingdom are more fragmentary than in many choral works, and Elgar's constantly shifting dynamics, keys and ideosyncratic tempo markings inevitably caused particular difficulties for those less confident in reading music.

It is therefore a considerable tribute to Amy's persistence and skill as a musical director, that we performed well by our own standards in every class, and won all classes except for the Upper voices (runners-up) and Own choice (runners-up). A score of 92 in the Madrigal class earned us two extra awards for the highest mark not only in that class but in any class.

With a successful competition behind us, we were able to enjoy the evening concert, although not everyone agreed with Jonathan Willcocks' decision to exclude the competition pieces from the programme, and (according to some in the audience) the otherwise excellent orchestra (Southern Pro Musica) sometimes drowned out the chorus in the Elgar.

The competition schedule for Green Division was as follows:

Main work:The Kingdom, Edward Elgar
Madrigal:Cuckoo, Stephen Chatman
Part song:Ride on, King Jesus, Nancy Wertsch
Upper voices:Stocking and Shirt, Alan Bullard
Lower voices:Wide open spaces, Sarah Quartel
Ensemble:O Waly, Waly, Trad. arr. Keith Willis
Own choice:Beati quorum via, Charles Villiers Stanford

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There’s a song in the air: Christmas Carol Concert

Thursday 14th December 2017, Holmbury St Mary Village Hall at 8 p.m.

For those lucky enough to get tickets the choir put on one of its best Christmas performances of recent years. The programme was (audience joined in those marked *):

* O come, all ye faithful

John Wade arr. Philip Ledger

Hodie Christus natus est

Jan Sweelinck

What child is this?

Thomas Hewitt Jones

Reading

 

A little child there is yborn

Malcolm Archer

My Lord has come

Will Todd

* O come, O come, Emmanuel

15th century French arr. Paul Leddington Wright

Reading

 

The Shepherd’s Carol

Bob Chilcott

Nova

Bob Chilcott

The Trees

Sasha Johnson Manning

* Ding dong! merrily on high

15th century French arr. Mack Wilberg

Reading

 

There’s a song in the air

John Hearne

Wassail

Jonathan Willcocks

* See amid the winter’s snow

John Goss arr. Paul Leddington Wright

Santa Claus is comin’ to town (with Rudolph)

Fred Coot, Johnny Marks arr. Chris Mallinson

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...and not so recent events

2017 summer concert: Serenity

8 pm, Saturday 1st July 2017, St James' Church, Abinger Common

2017 summer concert

The choir was on good form for its summer concert, despite misgivings about their readiness for the performance. The audience was very appreciative of this challenging programme of music, mostly by living composers. The choir was accompanied by Helen Wharmby on the piano with her usual aplomb. The ’cello accompaniment and exquisite solo interludes were provided by Léonie Adams—a real treat. As one member of the audience put it: “The overall tranquility of the music seemed so fitting for a church sitting in the middle of fields on a beautiful summer evening.”

The final programme included three sacred works by the Norwegian-American composer Ola Gjello: Ubi caritas I, Sacred Heart/Ubi caritas III and Serenity, the latter being composed around the words of the responsorial chant O magnum mysterium. These works by Gjello were complemented by two other works that are firm favourites in the choir’s repertoire: Maurice Duruflé’s Ubi caritas and Morten Lauridsen’s O magnum mysterium, which gave the choir all the excuse needed to reprise their signature work, Morten Lauridsen’s Sure on this shining night. The other choral works were by Gabriel Fauré (Cantique de Jean Racine), Matyas Seiber (Three Hungarian folk-songs, which had been performed at the 2016 Leith Hill Festival), Zoltán Kodály (Esti dal), Ēriks Ešenvalds (Only in sleep), Kim André Arnesen (Flight song), Jake Runestad (I will lift mine eyes), René Clausen (O my luve’s like a red, red rose) and Aaron Copland (Zion’s walls), the concert finishing with Moses Hogan’s I’m gonna sing ’til the spirit moves in my heart. Apart from providing accompaniment for three choral works, Léonie Adams performed two ’cello solo interludes: Fauré’s sublime Après un rêve and Aaron Minsky’s highly entertaining The train whistle (from Ten American ’cello interludes).

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Leith Hill Musical Festival 2017

Division One: Friday 7th April 2017, Dorking Halls

Mendelssohn’s Elijah is a huge work, and it dominated this year’s programme for our Division. The competition passages were deliberately selected to be challenging. We also knew that both Oxshott and Buckland & Betchworth choirs were going to give us a run for our money. In the end we did as well as we could have hoped to do, winning all classes except for the Lower Voices class and the Ensemble class, and we also won prizes for the highest score (88) in the Madrigal class across all three Divisions and (with Leatherhead) the joint highest score (89) in the Main Chorus class across all Divisions. It’s a huge tribute to our conductor, Amy Bebbington, that we were so well prepared and were able to give a really consistent performance across most of the classes.

This was the first Festival to be conducted by our new Festival Conductor, Jonathan Willcocks, so both the final afternoon rehearsal following the competition and the evening concert were eagerly anticipated. This was also the first opportunity to sing with the Southern Pro Musica orchestra. In the event the concert went very well. The length of Elijah meant that not only was this the only work performed at the evening concert, but Jonathan Willcocks took it at a brisk pace, to which the combined choir responded well; the result was much enhanced by a fine performance as Elijah by bass soloist Marcus Farnsworth.

The competition schedule was as follows:

Full chorus:Elijah, Felix Mendelssohn
Madrigal:Sing we and chant it, Thomas Morley
Part song:For He shall give His angels, Felix Mendelssohn (from Elijah)
Upper voices:Lift thine eyes, Felix Mendelssohn (from Elijah)
Lower voices:I bought me a cat, Aaron Copland
Ensemble:He that shall endure to the end, Felix Mendelssohn (from Elijah)
Own choice:I will lift mine eyes, Jake Runestad

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New Light, New Hope: Christmas Carol Concert

Thursday 15th December 2016, Holmbury St Mary Village Hall at 8 p.m.

A capacity audience greatly enjoyed the traditional evening of carols and other festive fare. The programme was (audience joined in those marked *):

* Hark the herald angels sing

arr. David Willcocks

New boy born

Carol Ann Duffy / Sasha Johnson Manning

My Lord has come

Will Todd

* Silent Night

Franz Grüber, arr. Bob Chilcott

Reading

 

* Away in a manger

James R. Murray arr. Bob Chilcott

Softly

Will Todd

A maiden most gentle

French trad. arr. Andrew Carter

* Good King Wenceslas

arr. Bob Chilcott

Reading

 

O little town of Bethlehem

Bob Chilcott

Lord of the dance

Trad. arr. David Willcocks

* Joy to the world!

Lowell Mason arr. Mack Wilberg

Reading

 

New Year

John Rutter

Scots Nativity

Alan Bullard

Mirabile dictu

Carol Ann Duffy / Sasha Johnson Manning

* We three kings of Orient are

John Henry Hopkins arr. Paul Leddington Wright

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2016 summer concert: Shakespeare in Song

Saturday 2nd July 2016, St James' Church, Abinger Common

Conducted by Amy Bebbington and joined by double bassist, Malcolm Creese and pianist, Helen Wharmby, the choir presented George Shearing’s set of Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare and three of John Rutter’s delightful set of Birthday Madrigals (It was a lover and his lass, Come live with me and When daises pied). Interspersed with appropriate Shakespeare readings, the programme also included: Will Todd’s It was a lover and his lass; Bob Chilcott’s The isle is full of noises; Full fathom five in two versions, by Charles Wood and by Jaakko Mantyjaarvi (Finland); Caliban’s Song by David Hamilton (New Zealand); and the set of three songs An Elizabethan summer (Cuckoo, Golden slumbers kiss your eyes and Come away, sweet love) by Stephen Chatman (Canada).

There was much of the choir’s performance to be pleased with, and it was clearly enjoyed by the audience, but some of the less familiar music was slightly under-rehearsed and there were (for the choir, at least) some anxious moments. Malcolm Creese was a great asset in the Shearing and Rutter (hardly surprising, given his close association with these works from their first performance), and Helen Wharmby provided excellent accompaniment that kept the choir out of serious trouble on several occasions. One or two members of the choir (including the writer!) need to remember not to sing if they're not sure of the right note or the right words...

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Leith Hill Musical Festival 2016

Division One: Thursday 14th April 2016, Dorking Halls

Despite misgivings about how well prepared we were, especially in the Haydn, we yet again performed well in competition, winning four of the main classes, including the Main Chorus class, and comfortably achieving the highest aggregate in our Division. Most of the choir sang the Madrigal and Part Song from memory, which undoubtedly helped. Particularly pleasing was our success in winning the Own Choice class with a version of Ubi caritas composed by the contemporary Norwegian-born composer Ola Gjeilo. Yet again we failed to impress the adjudicator with our single entry in the Ensemble class, so there's still room for improvement there. The evening concert went well, in Brian Kay's last Festival as Festival Conductor. We look forward to Jonathan Willcocks taking over the baton for the 2017 Festival.

The competition schedule was as follows:

Main works:Serenade to Music, Vaughan Williams
Harmonimesse, Haydn
Madrigal:All creatures now, Bennett
Part song:Three Hungarian folk songs, arr. Seiber
Upper voices:Tread softly , Bullard
Lower voices:The old superb, Stanford arr. Tomlinson
Ensemble:In these delightful, pleasant groves, Purcell
Own choice:Ubi caritas, Gjeilo

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Sing Alleluia: Christmas Carol Concert

Thursday 17th December 2015, Holmbury St Mary Village Hall at 8 p.m.

The Carol Concert was as popular as ever. The programme was chosen to be a celebration of John Rutter's 70th birthday and of the life and work of Sir David Willcocks, who had died in September (audience joined in those marked *).

* Once in Royal David’s City

Henry J. Gauntlett arr. A. H. Mann / R. Wells

O come, O come Emmanuel

Andrew Carter

Nativity Carol

John Rutter

Reading

 

* O Come all ye Faithful

18th Century words, to a tune by J.F. Wade arr. W.H. Monk / H.A. Chambers / William Llewellyn

Jesus Child

John Rutter

Wexford Carol

John Rutter

Sussex Carol

David Willcocks

Reading

 

* God rest you merry gentlemen

Traditional English arr. D. Willcocks

Star Carol

John Rutter

Softly

Will Todd

Birthday Carol

David Willcocks

Reading

 

* Away in a manger

W.J. Kirkpatrick arr. D. Willcocks

Mary's lullaby

John Rutter

Lord of the dance

David Willcocks

What child is this? (Greensleeves)

arr. Bob Chilcott

* Hark the herald angels sing

Charles Wesley / Felix Mendelssohn

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2015 summer concert: Fortyssimo

Saturday 20th June 2015, Holy Trinity church, Guildford at 7.30 p.m.

flyer

Our conductor Amy Bebbington had conceived this year's summer concert to celebrate a significant birthday, and hence the title: Fortyssimo! Four choirs performed separately in the first half of the programme, then came together after the interval with the mezzo soprano Melanie Marshall to perform John Rutter's cycle of spirituals Feel the Spirit. Holmbury Choral were, of course, one of the four choirs involved, the others being Dorking Camerata, Nota Bene (the Guildford office choir of Stevens & Bolton LLP) and Choros Amici (Choir of the Year in 2000).

Inspired by the sense of occasion, and possibly also by the challenge of performing with Melanie Marshall and a professional-standard choir (Choros Amici), Holmbury Choral gave a clean and spirited performance which delighted its supporters in the audience, especially in what has become our signature work, Morten Lauridsen's Sure on this shining night. Both the other amateur choirs gave good performances, with Dorking Camerata skillfully articulating the tricky Sing a song of sixpence from John Rutter's collection Five Childhood Lyrics, and Nota Bene giving an impressive performance of Adiemus from Karl Jenkins' Songs of Sanctuary. Choros Amici, under their conductor Chris Mallinson, concluded the first half of the concert with some stunning choral acrobatics, and were particularly sublime in Holst's Nunc dimittis.

In the second half Chris Mallinson gave Amy a short break by conducting the combined choirs in a convincing performance of Rachmaninov's Bogorodytse Devo. Finally there was Rutter's Feel the Spirit, in which we had the immense privilege of singing with Melanie Marshall, who had inspired John Rutter to write the work and had sung the solo in the first performance with John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers at Carnegie Hall, New York, in June 2001. The performance was further enhanced by a hugely talented and experienced ensemble of professional instrumentalists.

Holmbury Choral at Fortyssimo

Holmbury Choral

Combined choirs with Melanie Marshall and instrumental ensemble at Fortyssimo

Combined choirs with Melanie Marshall and instrumental ensemble

If so much satisfying music were not enough, the concert ended with birthday cake provided by Amy's aunt, Diana Beard: delicious cup-cakes for the audience and performers alike, and a spectacular chocolate cake in the form of a grand piano as a special gift for Amy. Many happy returns!

Many happy returns!

This concert was part of the Guildford Summer Festival 2015.

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Events prior to summer 2015

For information about previous events please click here.

 

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