Everyone is most welcome to the service, broadcast live from the chapel. Please be in chapel by 3.15pm.
This service features music with past and present royal connections - William Boyce's anthem for the coronation of George III, and an anthem by Francis Pott (a former New College chorister) which is part of the Jubilee Choir Book for the Queen. The setting of the canticles is by a former Organist, H K Andrews.
Everyone is most welcome to the service, broadcast live from the chapel. Please be in chapel by 3.15pm.
Some years ago New College Choir made a recording for Decca called Coronation Anthems. It included several works of the 17th and 18th centuries previously not recorded, by Blow, Clarke, Croft and Boyce. Intriguingly, material for Boyce's anthems (for George III's coronation of 1761) had found its way to the Bodleian Library, so there was not far to walk to consult these sources. Now in 2012, the Choir is revisiting some of this material. For a Jubilee Concert at the St. David's Festival in Pembrokeshire, we will sing Purcell's 'My heart is inditing', Croft's 'The Lord is a sun and a shield', three of the four Handel settings for George II's coronation, and then Boyce's magnificent setting of the text 'The King shall rejoice'. That will be on 5 June. Earlier, on 30 May, we broadcast evensong from our chapel, when we will include not only Boyce's music for George III's coronation, but also contemporary British music written for the monarch, on this occasion Francis Pott's setting of the prayer, 'O Lord, grant the Queen a long life'. This anthem is included in The Queen's Choirbook, an ambitious compilation of some 40 contemporary works for church choirs by leading British composers. The project, masterminded by Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, is an eloquent record of the present richness of contemporary music within the Anglican tradition. At New College we have performed works by Burrell, Holloway and Anderson from The Queen's Choirbook, in addition to Pott's prayer for the Queen. Our BBC evensong also taps into our tradition: Pott was a former chorister, and the canticles are by H.K. Andrews, a former Organist.
Edward Higginbottom, Director
Lay clerks are professional singers. There are six in New College Choir, two altos, two tenors and two basses. Their place in the institution goes back many years; indeed they are the successors of the clerks appointed to sing in the Choir in the late 14th century. These days they are what you might call the backbone of the Choir: singers who by their experience and vocal maturity support the work of the choral scholars, and who give the ensemble a sense of continuity and many of its values. They act as mentors for the new choral scholars, and a source of advice for all sorts of information about the whys and wherefores of singing at New College. At the same time, lay clerks benefit from the special learning experience of being in New College Choir, with its demanding repertory, innovative projects, and constant search for high standards in an environment encouraging reflection and self-evaluation.
We are now looking for a tenor Lay Clerk to join the choir for the next academic year. More information is available from the Organist, and a job description is available from the Chapel Administrator.
Auditions will be held in late May/early June.
Yesterday the Choir was up early for a trip to BBC Television Centre in London, for we would be performing live on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1. Choristers and choral scholars gave a performance of John Rutter's The Lord bless you and keep you following brief interviews with director Edward Higginbottom and one of the choristers. Later on in the day it was announced that our new album Illumina: Music of Light had debuted at #6 in the UK classical charts - so a good day all round! Below are some photos from our studio visit.
Recording Illumina in Oxford
Where did it all start? Well before Luther pinched 'Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen' (a secular love song) for a German chorale, which subsequently became the linchpin for the St Matthew Passion. Gounod certainly added to the tradition by adapting Bach's keyboard prelude in C, and making of it an Ave Maria. And Barber confidently added religious words to his Adagio for Strings. What about Mahler and his Adagietto? Perhaps the first thing to say is that the original Adagietto has not somehow been smothered by making of it a choral arrangement. It is still there. The next thing to say is that when composers launch their works on the world, they begin to say goodbye to them. And 75 years after their death they can exercise no further control. Their music then enters the 'public domain'. So we are certainly allowed to view them in new ways. And this we have done in singing Mahler's Fifth Symphony Adagietto to the text 'Ave Maria'. Mahler would have been surprised, I've no doubt. But as a composer who adopted the hymn Veni creator spiritus in his Eighth Symphony, he was not unfamiliar with Christian texts, and their meanings. The question is does such a setting undermine the effect of Mahler's music? Or does it add a possible new layer of identity on the movement? For you the listener to decide. What we can be sure of is that a very present and familiar musical figure of our own time, Barrington Pheloung, has been very happy to have his music transformed, here as a setting of the Gaelic Blessing (in Latin of course to reflect Inspector Morse's leaning towards the classics!). Enjoy! If you like that sort of thing of course...
* One music critic felt ill when listening to the Mahler arrangement. Our audiences have however uniformly liked it. De gustibus non est disputandum.
Former chorister Francis Pott’s new CD, In the Heart of Things, recorded by Commotio and Matthew Berry for Naxos, has achieved great things since its release less than a month ago, entering the classical charts and climbing as high as the no.6 position. A stunning launch concert given by Commotio drew a large and extremely appreciative audience, and the CD has gone on to attract some fantastic reviews.
Edmund Finnis, another former New College chorister, is premièring his new work 'Relative Colour' for string septet at Carnegie Hall in New York City on 12 March 2012. You can read more about it on his blog.
International relationships is rather a grand term to use when describing a visit to a provincial town near Brussels. Perhaps 'cultural relationships' would be better. And what are they? How do we see ourselves as linked and yet different? How do these 'others' (to use an ethnomusicological term) sound, what are their behaviours, their conditions of work, their aspirations? All good questions, but ones I intend to duck in order to get to a more important part of the experience: a better understanding of what we do ourselves by interrogating the differences we observe. I recall very clearly the insights I gained into my own work in the UK through a prolonged period of association with French children's choirs. In the same way, a visit to Aalst, combining our voices with the Cantate Domino singers, threw things into relief. There was a level of personal commitment, a graciousness, a spirit that informed the work of this Belgium Choir that clearly told us that expertise was just one constituent of a successful ensemble.
On another note, within the geographical framework of mainland Europe, and a concert given on the weekend of Armistice, there was a consciousness of the sacrifices of war that felt very palpable. The European vision that was more about making further European conflict impossible than about creating a single currency was write large over the concert we gave, and the performance of Fauré's Requiem. Watch this video to get closer to that phenomenon, as at the same time you experience two choirs singing together. Separately they sound quite different; together they reveal themselves as a perfectly cohesive single ensemble. We thank David de Geest and his singers of Aalst for their generous welcome, and for their contribution to our own identity.
Recording for Exultent Superi, March 2011
Following BBC Radio 3's selection of our most recent release 'Exultent Superi' as their 'CD of the Week' in November 2011, New College soloists have received another outstanding review for this collection of François Couperin motets – some of which are recorded for the first time. An extract from the five star review, which appears in the March edition of BBC Music Magazine is included below:
'The performance is astonishing. Two New College trebles, aged 11 and 13, sing with a musical maturity and technical focus which I have never heard bettered. Intonation is spot on, with none of that instability (for some winsome, for others unnerving) which often characterises unbroken boys' voices. In the duet 'Lauda Sion Salvatorem' their individually distinctive voices are beautifully matched. No less exceptional is the haute-contre (light high tenor) of Guy Cutting[...] With excellent strings and sympathetic recording this is a real revelation.'
***** Performance; **** Recording
George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine
The album can be viewed here.
Update 24/02/12: Exultent Superi wins more critical acclaim from MusicWeb International, who have named the release their 'Recording of the Month'. They say:
'The crystal clear and superbly balanced sound quality is as pleasing as I have heard in a church acoustic. It would be hard to imagine a more gratifying recording of these scores. In all respects this Novum release is quite stunning!'
Read the review here.
Update 16/02/012: Unfortunately the webcast below is no longer available to listen online. You can still find more recent webcasts using the link provided or some older recordings in our Webcast Archive.
Added to our collection of webcasts from the term just finished is the Service of Readings and Music for the Season of Christmas - over an hour's worth of carols, motets and readings as performed in New College Chapel recently. This means you can now listen to pieces by Benjamin Britten, Andrew Carter, Anton Bruckner, Morten Lauridsen and many more, as well as all the readings and prayers, in the comfort of your own home. We recommend digging out some headphones though if you don't have good speakers as it'll sound at its best that way! You can also read the service booklet.
_ This week the BBC features our new Francois Couperin recording as 'CD of the week'. This is welcome recognition of the delight the recording will give to many who had never thought of themselves as afficionados of French baroque music. Couperin's style is extremely accessible, and genial. It will make excellent Christmas listening when you have tired of carols. The CD also contains works never before recorded, and which are now performable through the reconstructions made by Edward Higginbottom, an expert in the field of French baroque music. There are additional pluses to this release: the focus in the digipack on illustrations of College art treasures, and the musical focus on the young soloists of the choir, who sing this music with no less precision and style than seasoned professionals.