newsletter 2006

St George's Church, Bloomsbury, London - 14th October 2006

A group of younger singers from the girls' and boys' choirs travelled to London to take part in a Gala Concert entitled 'In Praise of Handel and Hawksmoor' promoted by the Concordia Foundation to celebrate the substantial renovation of this beautiful church. Our singers were joined by Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi and instrumentalists Fleuri Vox (led by Bridget Cunningham) for a concert, in period dress, of Handel and Vivaldi. Richard Vendome directed.

Bloomsbury Oct 2006 - photo by Pennie Kennedy

Rehearsals in the afternoon were followed by a lot of excitement whilst getting changed into 18th costume - dresses for the girls, waistcoats and breeches for the boys. These young singers represented the children of Thomas Coram's nearby foundation for which Handel composed his Foundling Hospital Anthem.

The procession into the church, after a rousing trumpet fanfare, was particularly moving as the younger choir members sang ‘Ah, Poor Bird’ as a two-part canon. This was a suitably simple, innocent musical reminder of the plight of foundling children. Fleuri Vox and Penelope Martin-Smith performed the beginning of the Foundling Hospital Anthem clearly and expressively before being joined by the other singers (including the youngsters) during the second movement. The central part of the concert featured performances by Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi (SPAV), a group set up by Richard to recreate Vivaldi's choir at the Pietà in Venice - a Venetian counterpart to Coram Fields - who sang Vivaldi's 'Laetatus sum' and 'In exitu Israel' beautifully; their attention to detail and careful performance style contributed to a musical treat.

The concert ended with the all the singers and the audience performing an enthusiastic rendition of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ (in its role as the last movement of the Foundling Hospital Anthem).

The concert was interspersed with readings by Prunella Scales, who was heard to note afterwards how much she had enjoyed the occasion, and was sorry not have worn period dress herself!

Liz Holmes


IN PRAISE OF HANDEL, HAWKSMOOR and the CONCORDIA FOUNDATION

I wonder what Handel would; have; made of this unique concert. Handel’s heart, I suspect, would have been aglow; at; hearing music and singing so faithful to his; time. The brilliant countertenor, Christopher Ainslie, sang castrato arias with a purity of voice that will last long; in  the  memory. Equally, the natural“baroque” trumpet; of Mike Diprose and soprano, Katherine Manley, brought extra authenticity to this musical celebration, especially with their very beautiful “Eternal Source of Light Divine”. Even Handel could not have objected to the inclusion of the magnificent Vivaldi arias “Laetatus sum” and “In exitu Israel” so expressively performed by the Schola Pietatis Antonia Vivaldi, director Richard Vendome. Handel would have cried with joy at the familiar (to him) and special sound of Fleuri Vox, Harpsichord, Baroque Cello and Recorders led by Bridget Cunningham.

But what of Hawksmoor? What would he have thought? The very idea of celebrating the superb restoration of his very own St. George’s, Bloomsbury in such style would have appealed aesthetically and intellectually. How he would have loved to hear “Blessed are they that consider the poor” from the Foundling Hospital Anthem by the Oxford Girls' Choir, with the poor children, urchin style, all beautifully attired as in Hawksmoor time.

Both Handel and Hawksmoor would have approved of the three readings by the charismatic Prunella Scales. As for the audience participation of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from the Foundling Anthem, they would have said ( in their vernacular ) “ cool, really cool !” But both would have been united in their praise for the Concordia Foundation, led by the inspirational Gillian Humphreys, whose energy and enterprise brings so much joy and benefit to young musical artists, not least in this most memorable concert which a packed church rapturously acclaimed.

Richard Bradley
Honorary Life President
‘Look Good…Feel Better’ Charity



Davis High School Advanced Treble Choir

On Sunday 2 July - one of the hottest days of the year - Davis High School Advanced Treble Choir from California sang in a workshop with Richard Vendome and Penelope Martin-Smith. This was followed by a short joint concert with OGC in the Holywell Music Room. Later that week they sang in the 2006 Eisteddfod at Llangollen, and we congratulate them on reaching the finals of the Female Choirs section!

Daisy Venables - Song and Flute Recital, Holywell Music Room, 21 May 2006

Daisy was a pupil at Cherwell School and is now at Cardiff University studying music. She joined Oxford Girls’ Choir in 1995 and was Head Girl 2005-6; she studied singing with Richard Vendome and flute with Abi Strevens. [full programme]

You can listen to pieces from Daisy's recital by clicking below (please wait...).
Après un rêve - Fauré Daisy in Venice
Dove sono - Mozart
I got it bad - Duke Ellington/Colin Good
Lent lily - John Ireland
Les roses d'Ispahan - Fauré
Sonata for flute and piano (2nd mt) - York Bowen
Syrinx - Debussy
Virgam virtutis - Vivaldi "Dixit Dominus" (with members of the Jerwood/OAE Experience and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. BBC recording, 13 November 2005)

MOZART - The Expressive Voice

The kaleidoscopic range of vocal music by Mozart sung by the Oxford Girls’ Choir in the historically appropriate setting of the Holywell Music Room on 7th May was a timely tribute to the 250th anniversary of the great composer’s birth. The evening’s programme, entitled ‘The Expressive Voice’, was chosen to celebrate the expressive role of the voice in Mozart’s music, and was directed by Richard Vendome and Penelope Martin-Smith.

The programme began with the Kyrie of the Mass in C minor, with the solo voice sung confidently by Sophie Kent. This was followed by three movements from the Requiem (the Recordare, Lacrymosa and Benedictus) and Placido è il mar from Act 2 of Idomeneo. The choir, with male voices and Ensemble 1790 (playing period instruments, with Bridget Cunningham at the organ), continued to astound the audience with the versatility and great musicianship of their expression.

The next piece, Io non chiedo, eterni dei from Popoli Tessagalia! is so rarely performed that no one had been able to access the orchestral parts; accompanied by the organ, Penelope Martin-Smith gave a truly inspirational performance, singing the ‘G in alt’ quite effortlessly.

The second half of the evening’s performance began with three solos; Alleluia, from Exultate Jubilate, and Voi che sapete and Dove sono from The Marriage of Figaro. We know that Mozart composed with his singers in mind and one could almost imagine that he had indeed written these pieces for tonight’s soloists: Amy Webber, Elena Marcus and Daisy Venables sang their pieces with great expression and joy.

The programme then returned to the Mass in C minor with a performance of the eight-movement Gloria. Again the choir gave a spine-chilling rendition of this majestic work, with Emma Gullifer giving an impressively agile account of the florid Laudamus te, originally sung by Mozart's new wife Constanze.  

During the evening we were also entertained by colourful extracts from Jane Glover’s new book, Mozart’s Women: His Family, Friends, His Music, read by Nancy-Jane Rucker and Catherine Crosse. The only disappointment of the evening was that there was no encore! However, on our way out of the Holywell Music Room there was a delightful atmosphere of great excitement as the girls congratulated each other and chatted about the various performances. It was certainly an evening to be proud of. [full programme]

Merinda Wilson


VIVALDI'S WOMEN [BBC Press Release]

SPAV in south cantoriaBBC Four presents a revealing new programme telling the story of an extraordinary creative partnership between one of history’s great composers – Antonio Vivaldi – and an all-female orchestra and choir.

In the early 18th century, Father Antonio Vivaldi was a violin teacher, musical director, musical instrument procurer and in-house composer for a Venetian institution called La Pietà, a home for children who had been abandoned at birth.

The institution had its own all-female orchestra and choir who provided sacred “entertainment” in the church for the visiting “Grand Tourists”. The unique creative relationship that Vivaldi formed with these women resulted in what many believe to be one of the finest performing groups of all time.

This film tells the story of this partnership through the eyes of a modern group of female singers – the Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi – and an all-female orchestra made up of players from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and its Jerwood Young Players scheme.They travel to Venice to perform Vivaldi’s music in the Pietà; their mission is to rediscover the sound that Vivaldi would have heard.

The documentary also reveals the personal stories of this unique community of female musicians and the full extent of Vivaldi’s relationship with the institution.


BBC4 website comments on "Vivaldi's Women" and "Gloria"

BBC R3 website comments on "Easter Vespers"

did you see or hear the Vivaldi programmes? please send us your comments


newsletter 2005


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