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Happy New Year!

Posted on 31st January 2018

Hoping all our supporters and friends have enjoyed a happy and relaxing Christmas and managed to listen to at least one of our three Christmas recordings!

Having had our busiest year to date with over 60 concerts, Tenebrae started 2018 on an artistic high: recording with the fabulous chamber orchestra, Aurora. Music included Ralph Vaughan Williams’ achingly beautiful personal tribute to friends he lost in World War One, ‘An Oxford Elegy’, with Simon Callow as narrator. I personally was in heaven hearing the choir and orchestra come together to make such ravishing sounds. Along with Judith Bingham’s stunning new commission ‘A Walk with Ivor Gurney’, the music on this recording stands as something of a Memorial for all those who lost their lives in this most terrible of ordeals experienced by the world at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a focus towards Ivor Gurney and the disc will open with the ‘Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis’ by Vaughan Williams, the first performance of which was attended by Gurney in 1910 in Gloucester Cathedral. Hebert Howells, a close friend of Gurney, was also in the audience and the piece is said to have affected them both deeply and caused both to dedicate themselves to composing music. One of our illustrious Patrons, Dame Sarah Connolly, will record three songs by Gurney in orchestrations by Howells, Finzi and Jeremy Dibble. Can’t wait!! In the meantime, do catch us in concert with Aurora this Easter.

I’ve been spending a hugely rewarding couple of weeks in Leipzig conducting the wonderful MDR Rundfunk Choir. Amazing to hear a choir of this size (72 singers) make such a wide range of beautiful sounds and perform with such precision too! Last weekend was meant to be a rest – or a race back to the UK to spend some time at home with the family – but, as many of you know, we were recently nominated for a Grammy. Instead of the UK, I headed for New York and enjoyed the Grammy celebrations. Sadly we didn’t win, but we will do our best to fulfill that little ambition as soon as we can. Our new recording Symphonic Psalms and Prayers is about to be released and I’m hoping for great things for this disc.

Now looking forward to another outing of our Russian Treasures programme in the beautiful church at Marlow. I never tire of hearing these works, or the way our fabulous musicians perform them! Come along and be ready for some serious rumble from our low bass team of Adrian Peacock and Jimmy Holliday. Always a treat!

To finish off the month we’re spending a few days in Switzerland and will sing at two liturgical events as well as our concert performance in the stunning Cathedral of Berne. This is a very special trip for me, and those of our singers who so fondly remember our late co-founder Barbara Pollock, because the concerts are organised by Jürg and Margrit Bohnenblust, Barbara’s sister and brother-in-law. Without Barbara’s support and generosity in our first 10 years, Tenebrae simply would not exist and so I gladly take any and every opportunity to pay her thanks, especially in the town where she studied at the University.

Hope to see you soon and please don’t forget to get your hands on our new disc – Stravinsky’s ‘Symphony of Psalms’ and Bernstein’s ‘Chichester Psalms’ are both well known and were a joy to perform together with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, but there are two other lesser-known delights to savour: Schoenberg’s astonishing paean to peace ‘Friede auf Erden’ and Zemlinsky’s luscious setting of Psalm 23.

-Nigel