Sunday, 21 October 2018

Choristers and soloists are on song for spring season

Choristers and soloists are on song for spring season

A LAVISH Ellen Kent production of Verdi’s Aida and a series of
community choir concerts are among the highlights of this spring’s classical music calendar. In this second half of the Henley
’s two-part guide,
TREVOR HOWELL picks out the most unmissable performances between now and Easter


We are especially fortunate in the number and quality of choirs and choral societies we have to choose from in this area.

This spring season starts with Reading Bach Choir’s 50th anniversary concert on Saturday, February 11, at 7.30pm at Reading’s Concert Hall. This will be a repeat of their 1967 performance of J S Bach’s B Minor Mass, accompanied by Orchestra Con Amici Barocco. Soloists are Susanna Hurrell, Ciara Hendrick, Thomas Hobbs and Edward Grint. For tickets call the box office on 0118 947 8097 or go to, or

Later in the month, Reading Phoenix Choir will perform Brahm’s Requiem plus a selection of new repertoire at the same venue at 7.30pm on Saturday, February 25. Soloists are Jessica Broad (soprano), Robert Garland (baritone) and pianists Somi Kim and Corrado Valvo. Tickets are available at

On Wednesday, March 1, the grand final of the Let’s Sing Reading 2017 competition takes place at the Hexagon at 6.30pm, involving local choirs and singing groups. Profits go directly to the Mayor of Reading’s charity fund. For details of events and to book, call 0118 960 6060 or visit

Pangbourne Choral Society will hold its spring concert at 7.30pm on Saturday, March 11, in the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel at Pangbourne College. The programme, called “Sacred Music: Renaissance to Romantic”, is the choir’s first under its newly appointed musical director Ellie Calver and includes Victoria’s O Quam Gloriosum, Tallis’s Hear the Voice and Prayer, Purcell’s O God Thou art my God and Hear my Prayer, Mozart’s Missa Brevis in D and Bruckner’s Locus Iste, Virga Jesse and Os Justi. Tickets may be purchased directly from society members.

At the same time that day, the Tamesis Chamber Choir will perform a programme called “Darkness and Light” at Douai Abbey in Upper Woolhampton. Darkness is represented by Harris’s Bring us, O Lord God, Parry’s Songs of Farewell and Rheinberger’s Abendlied and light by Macmillan’s O Radiant Dawn, Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna and Grieg’s Ave Maris Stella. Tickets may be purchased from the abbey or Newbury Corn Exchange.

At 7pm on Sunday, March 19, Taplow Girls’ Choir will host another Festival of Choirs at the Courtyard Theatre at Norden Farm. This year’s guests will be the Mid Herts Girls’ Chamber Choir, Newlands Madrigal Choir and the Choristers of All Saints, Marlow. For tickets, call Norden Farm’s box office on 01628 788997.

On Saturday, March 25, there are two frustratingly conflicting events.

Firstly, Dorchester Abbey is hosting Benson Choral Society’s performance of J S Bach’s St John Passion at 7.30pm. Soloists are Ben Alden (Evangelist), Carris Jones (mezzo soprano) and Timothy Murphy (bass). For tickets call the box office on 01865 407395 or go to

At the same time, Henley Choral Society will be performing Purcell’s masterpiece Dido and Aeneas, with additional items by Vivaldio and Pachelbel, under Peter Asprey’s direction at St Mary’s Church in Henley. Tickets are available from Gorvett & Stone, Duke Street, Henley or on (01491) 572795.

A similar clash occurs on Saturday, April 8.

At 7pm, South Chiltern Choral Society will present Mozart’s Requiem in the University of Reading’s Great Hall. Soloists are yet to be confirmed. For tickets, call 07500 032840 or visit

Meanwhile, the Reading Festival Chorus will perform Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus at St Luke’s Church, Erleigh Road, Reading, at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from or 0118 983 4523.


With the exception of Garsington Opera’s semi-permanent structure at Wormsley Estate, the nearest purpose-built opera house to us is in London. However, resourceful promoters and owners of suitable facilities continue to find ways of staging popular opera performances, large and small. Here are two such examples.

Aida, the grandest of all Ellen Kent’s productions, returns to the UK in a stunning traditional production at the Hexagon in Reading at 7.30pm on Sunday, April 9. Boasting an impressive new set, it will be sung in Italian with English surtitles and will star French soprano Olga Perrier, international soprano Alyona Kistenyova and Liza Kadelnik, the celebrated mezzo-soprano from the Romanian National Opera. The Independent has praised it as “visually and vocally gripping from start to finish”. For tickets, call the box office on 0118 960 6060 or visit

At the other end of the spectrum Merry Opera, who staged a delightful La Bohème at the Kenton Theatre in Henley last year, will perform a brand new opera revue called Eat, Drink, Love! at the Corn Exchange, Wallingford. The show, which takes place on Saturday, February 25, at 7.45pm, celebrates humans’ appetite for drink, food and even for each other, performed by just four professional opera singers. Be prepared for cabaret songs, operatic arias, duets and trios, and quartets with notes of high passion, jealousy and love. To book go to or call (01491) 825000.

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