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Classical Notes: January 23, 2009 Archive

VocalEssence in the UK: Day 6 - Cambridge

Posted at 3:29 AM on January 23, 2009 by John Birge

First Oxford, now Cambridge for the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers.

Cambridge is a famous spot for choirs, thanks to King's College of Cambridge University. The King's College Choir is loved the world over for their annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, broadcast to England by the BBC, and to America via American Public Media in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The director of the King's College Choir is Stephen Cleobury. He's also conductor of the BBC Singers, with whom VocalEssence will perform at the BBC studios this Saturday.
Meanwhile, Stephen Cleobury's wife Emma met us for a tour of the Chapel.

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We attended Evensong in the Chapel, followed by supper in the student dining hall at King's College. Somehow, I don't remember my college cafeteria looking quite like this:

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An evening rehearsal with Stephen Cleobury in the Chapel sounded marvelous. Photography inside the Chapel is only by permit, and since I didn't have one, I'll direct you to the VocalEssence photo blog to view some beautiful pictures.

More tomorrow

More on the Inaugural Music

Posted at 8:25 AM on January 23, 2009 by Rex Levang (1 Comments)

In response to a previous inaugural post, reader Richard asked, Was that piece composed based on one by Aaron Copland?

Quick explanation: composer John Williams did write the piece, but used the old tune "Simple Gifts," which became well-known when Copland used it in his own "Appalachian Spring." And Williams definitely employed some other Copland-esque touches.

But let's give credit to the man who actually wrote "Simple Gifts" in the 19th century, a member of the Shaker faith named Joseph Brackett. Judging by the exposure his melody has received, Brackett is one of the greatest one-hit wonders in music.

There's been lots of commentary on the piece; for just one smattering, check out the Performance Today blog, Today's Fredlines.

However: all of that commentary and critiquing of the piece itself is likely to be overshadowed by the latest news: because of the cold weather, the players were synching to a recording.*

*NY Times; registration required.

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VocalEssence in the UK: Day 7 - Ely

Posted at 5:30 PM on January 23, 2009 by John Birge

And I don't mean Ely, Minnesota. Unless they have a cathedral there that looks like this:

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But more about that in a moment. Today started on the radio.

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Philip Brunelle was invited to the BBC Cambridgeshire, the regional BBC radio station, to promote the concert at King's College Chapel that evening.
He spent a lively ten minutes on "Cambridgeshire Breakfast with Jeremy Sallis". I even got corralled into being interviewed for a minute or two; it seems that morning radio is unavoidable.

At 2pm, I was talking on another morning radio show -- morning in Minnesota time, that is. Had a quick chat with my colleague Steve Staruch back at MPR, and was speaking to him from here:

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Ely Cathedral, about 40 minutes drive from Cambridge, is having it's 900th anniversary party this Sunday. That makes Cambridge University a mere tot; it's celebrating it's 800th this year. Meanwhile, VocalEssence continued its 40th anniversary tour with a noon concert in the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral. Oh, and who's that chap kneeling, setting up the mic stand on the right?:

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That's the famous English composer, John Rutter! He offered to come and record the VocalEssence concert, which I hope to be able to share with you upon my return next week.

For the evening, the singers were back to Cambridge for a magnificent evening performance at King's College Chapel. Tomorrow, it's back to London for more radio, and one more performance before heading home to MN on Sunday. It's a joint concert with the BBC Singers at the storied Maida Vale studios, home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Stay tuned; meanwhile, check out the VocalEssence photo blog to view more pictures, and the tour blog for the singers POV.