Feel the Spirit
The great heritage of the African-American spiritual has fired the imagination of composers, performers, and audiences for more than 100 years. Each generation has produced interpretations of many kinds, yet, curiously, few composers have combined the resources of soloist, choir, and orchestra. John Rutter was inspired by the vocal artistry of Melanie Marshall to build a set of spirituals crafted to her personal style, partnered by choir, with the orchestra to supply a further dimension of colour and emotional depth.
After their much acclaimed performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in February, Phoenix Choir is now enjoying rehearsals for Gioachino Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle in preparation for their summer concert on 9th June. Their St Matthew Passion was praised for keeping the audience fully engaged throughout and was described as a ‘wonderfully, deeply moving event’.
Although this programme has a completely different feel, there is a common thread with Rossini also bringing opera to a sacred work. Rossini wrote his mass with a serious underlying purpose in mind and yet those familiar with the Petite Messe Solennelle will know that it is neither small nor solemn but is a sacred mass in a distinctly operatic style. That said, much to the relief of the choir (but perhaps the disappointment of some) the choir will be performing in their usual summer concert dress and not as pictured last week!
It is little wonder that Rossini dominated the opera scene during the first half of the 19th century. His music ‘puts a spring in your step with its vitality, untroubled spirit and inexhaustible flow of melody’. The many benefits to mind and body of singing together with others are now widely accepted. Certainly Rossini is a good tonic. Members of the choir are thoroughly enjoying rehearsals. As one member said – “they are such a joy!”
With his masterful use of pace, rhythm, dynamics, rich harmonies and melody Rossini builds colour, drama and intensity into the piece – a display of musical joie de vivre that can’t help but have us tapping our feet and humming tunes afterwards. The instrumental Preludio Religioso and the fugal sections offer a rare glimpse of a more serious and academic Rossini.
There is still time to join the choir in singing this beautiful and hugely enjoyable work. The choir is always pleased to greet new members and is known for its fun, friendly and purposeful rehearsals. Phone Fiona Evans (Chair) on 01323 506921 for more details and to ensure you’re welcomed at the door or just come along to a rehearsal. Rehearsals: Wednesday evenings 7.30 -9.30 pm in All Saints’ Church Hall, Grange Road, Eastbourne. More details are available on the website – www.phoenixchoir-eastbourne.co.uk.
New Season 2018-19
This season promises to be an indulgent one as the choir performs two of the best –loved and contrasting requiems of the choral repertoire – those of Fauré and Mozart.
Mozart’s Requiem is widely regarded as a choral masterpiece and the finest requiem of its time. Mozart was known for working within the conventions of the day – in this case music for the Catholic Liturgy – as well as cleverly incorporating elements from others’ compositions. This requiem also introduced a shift in the genre. It was the first where melodic, rhythmic and instrumental techniques were deliberately used for emotional effect. The requiem became the genre whereby a composer could display the breadth of their rhetorical technique.
However, many will know that the requiem was shrouded in mystery – it was an anonymous commission from a ‘grey stranger’ who visited Mozart’s home after dark one night and paid for up front for the composition. Mozart was gravely ill at the time and died leaving a sizeable portion of the requiem still to write. It is now known that the piece was commissioned by Count Franz von Walsegg-Stuppach who had a reputation for claiming other’s music as his own. Mozart’s wife was worried that if the commission was not completed by Mozart the payment would have to be returned. She secretly arranged for the piece to be finished. Much mythology grew around who exactly had finished the requiem and how exactly they’d done it. It is thought that one of Mozart’s friends and students completed the piece using notes and guidance left by Mozart and his own personal observations. It was Beethoven who said: ‘If Mozart did not write the music, then the man who wrote it was a Mozart.’ It was several years after his death before the Count would credit Mozart with masterminding the piece. Parts of the requiem were played at Mozart’s own funeral and after it was performed some years later, it quickly became popular as a concert piece suitable for the memorials of the great and famous, including Beethoven and Napoleon. It has held an iconic place in history ever since.
Composed some 100 years later, Fauré’s Requiem is unlike many in that Gabriel Fauré was seen as somewhat of a religious ‘sceptic’ and so the tone is quite different to those written by his contemporaries. Instead of a sombre, morbid piece we are presented with a calm and tranquil one that focuses more on the supposedly restful and fear-free nature of death. Fauré himself said that he wanted to write something different which reflected how he viewed death - “a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience. “ The Fauré will be an extra performance – a special concert on 11th November itself to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Singers from across Eastbourne and surrounding areas are warmly welcomed to join Phoenix for this special concert. Rehearsals for the Fauré will begin in October.
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Our Bio-Detection Dogs are trained to find the odour of diseases, such as cancer, in samples such as urine, breath and swabs. Our Medical Alert Assistance Dogs are trained to detect minute changes in an individual’s personal odour triggered by their disease* and alert them to an impending medical event.'
Jon who is diabetic with his owner Ralph!
Jon and Ralph attended our performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion to highlight the vital work of the charity.
This season promises to be an indulgent one as the choir performs two of the best–loved and contrasting requiems of the choral repertoire – those of Fauré and Mozart.
Sing and Discover Day
Mass in B Minor
Johann Sebastian Bach
6th June 2020
All Saints' Church, Grange Road, Eastbourne, BN21 4HE
Details to follow.
Phoenix is a friendly choir under the expert guidance of musical director Michael Fields.
Praised by critics for its warm and balanced sound, clear diction and dynamic contrasts, the Phoenix Choir’s concerts are among the most exciting and eagerly anticipated musical events in Eastbourne's cultural life.
1st February 2020 7.30pm
George Frederic Handel
Magnificat in D
All Saints' Church, Grange Road, Eastbourne, BN21 4HE
Tickets £tba (half price for students/under18's)
Available in advance from the TIO, WeGotTickets.com, Reid & Dean Estate Agent, Cornfield Road or at the door on the night.
In advance: £12 (£6.50 forstudents/under18's)
available from the TIO, WeGotTickets.com, Reid & Dean Estate Agent, Cornfield Road or
On the door: £15 (half price for students/under18's) .
Wednesday evenings 7.30 – 9.30pm All Saints' Church Hall, Grange Road,
Eastbourne, East Sussex BN21 4HE.
NB: the church is on the crossroads of Carlisle Road and Grange Road and not where the postcode would suggest.
Join Phoenix Choir together with the Fletching Singers for an evening of soulful melodies and swinging rhythms that are sure to lift your spirit. John Rutter’s Feel the Spirit is a collection of familiar Gospel songs brought together and given new life to take you on a journey with great energy and expressive harmonies. Michael Fields’ Midsummer Mass has the traditional mass at its heart and masterfully draws upon music spanning time and genres for its inspiration. Soloists Ansy Boothroyd and Lindsay Richardson will make a welcome return after their performances earlier in the year in the Mozart Requiem. Award winning Nigel Richards, whose performances are a rare treat here in Eastbourne and not to be missed, completes the ensemble. As an added bonus and in keeping with the Phoenix tradition of nurturing young talent, Sam Ives will debut his own composition for strings.
Our aim is to grant wishes to children up to the age of eighteen, and their families, who have, or have had, cancer and who primarily live in East Sussex, Brighton and Hove. Wishes can be practical, medical or fun and made to individual families as well as supporting a group together by giving them quality family time. We can also support local hospitals and community nurses who assist in the care of the children under our remit.
We are a small charity and we know the small things in life are what matters. We leave the ‘Meet a Star’ or medical research to the charities best placed to do that. We know what can made a day to day difference to a family with a child with cancer. Buying a parking permit or replacing a school uniforms is what we help facilitate ensuring families can focus on what’s truly important – their children.
This season brings a rare opportunity for Eastbourne as the choir performs the iconic and much celebrated Monteverdi Vespers of 1610.
Claudio Monteverdi is widely regarded as the most powerful and visionary figure in music history such was his influence on opera and orchestral writing. Like many great composers he began writing whilst still a child and quickly mastered the music traditions of the day before going on to revolutionise them. Through personal tragedy music became an outlet which drove his genius to great heights. His Vespers became a ‘melting pot’ of his ideas and techniques the like of which was unprecedented and has been described as:
‘an absolute epic masterpiece………church music on an operatic scale. From fanfares, arias and trios to instrumental interludes and amazing choruses.’
In keeping with the Musical Director’s modus operandi, the work will remain faithful to Monteverdi’s original version but with the Michael Fields ‘touch’ to bring the piece to life for singers and audience alike.
Internationally renowned Evelyn Tubb, patron of Phoenix choir, is delighted to be leading the stellar cast of soloists and period musicians.
1st February 2020 7.30pm
Vespers of 1610
1st February 2020 7.30pm All Saints' Church, Grange Road, Eastbourne, BN21 4HE
Tickets £16 in advance (half price for students/under18's)
Available from the TIO, WeGotTickets.com, Reid & Dean Estate Agent, Cornfield Road
£18 on the door on the night.