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Classical Notes

VocalEssence in the UK: Day 1 - Oxford

Posted at 11:10 AM on January 18, 2009 by John Birge

Greetings from England, and the VocalEssence 40th anniversary tour, which began with a performance in Oxford last night.
It was an evening marked by warm feelings - and cold toes! The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin is, like many old English churches, cold and damp, and the singers aren't accustomed to getting numb toes during a concert (more than one singer said they did!). But the lack of modern central heat is more than compensated for by its splendid acoustics, and visual beauty.


For its tour of England, VocalEssence won't take coals to Newcastle; they're singing American choral masterpieces. But the Oxford concert included one surprise addition.
Composer (and ex-King's Singer) Bob Chilcott lives near Oxford, and came to the concert to visit old Minnesota friends. What Bob did not know was that conductor Philip Brunelle added one of Bob's pieces to the concert, announcing it from the stage, and inviting Bob to the stage to read the text. The piece was one that Bob Chilcott wrote last month for Philip's choir at Plymouth Congregational Church., so this was the English premiere! Bob was thrilled, and beaming!

Apart from the concert, there were the delights of Oxford, including VocalEssence concert posters all around town, in every shop, cafe, and outside the church where the concert took place, of course:


And, of course, for Harry Potter fans -- and the crowds confirm they're here by the zillions, welcome to Hogwarts (aka Christ Church College dining hall):


For many more tour photos, check out the VocalEssence photo stream, and for the singer's inside track, the VocalEssence tour blog. And be sure to tune in to Classical Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday evening at 8pm for the special Inauguration Day concert from St. John's, Smith Square in London.