Thursday, 21 October 2021

Season of classical treats is just around the corner

Season of classical treats is just around the corner

With autumn upon us, Henley’s classical musicians are tuning up for a stimulating season of concerts in the run-up to Christmas. TREVOR HOWELL looks ahead to see what choral and orchestral treats lie in store


Choirs and choral societies in the area have made interesting choices of repertoire, old and new, including programmes built around specific themes, such as Armistice Day or the centenary of the Russian revolution.

On Saturday, October 21, at 7.30pm in Douai Abbey, the Glass Ensemble (formerly the Tapestry Choir) present a programme titled Ave Maria which celebrates European sacred music for upper voices, including compositions by Fauré, Brahms, Holst and Poulenc.

Tickets are available from or

On Saturday, November 11, at St Luke’s Church in Erleigh Road, Reading, at 7.30pm, Reading Bach Choir will be marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution with a concert featuring works by Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Grechaninov and Kedrov. For more information and to book, call 0118 947 8097 or email

On Saturday, November 25, at 7.30pm, Dorchester Abbey is the venue for Benson Choral Society’s autumn concert. The programme includes Mirror of Perfection by Richard Blackford and the Maria Theresa Mass by Joseph Haydn. Soloists are Lorena Paz-Nieto (soprano) and Henry Neill (baritone).

For tickets call 01865 407395 or go to

In the run-up to Christmas, the Reading Phoenix Choir is pushing the boat out with as many as four concerts lined up — one of them in London.

Locally, the first is on Saturday, October 21, at 7.30pm at St Laurence’s Church in Friar Street, Reading, in aid of the mental health initiative Brighter Berkshire.

The concert is likely to include a selection from Howells’s Requiem and Rachmaninov’s Vespers, various madrigals and folk songs — not to mention “popular” pieces by Queen and David Bowie. For tickets, visit

A similar programme will feature in the choir’s Armistice Day concert at Douai Abbey on Saturday, November 11, at 7.30pm. For tickets, call 0845 5218218.

The choir’s autumn term will wrap with its annual carol concert at Reading Minster at 5pm on Saturday, December 16. For tickets, visit

Back in Henley, the Yuletide festivities will get under way on Saturday, December 9, when Henley Choral Society, directed by Peter Asprey, presents its family concert entitled “A Christmas Celebration” at 2.30pm in St Mary’s Church in Hart Street. Full details of the programme are not yet available, but tickets can usually be obtained from Gorvett and Stone in Duke Street — or by calling (01491) 572795.

Later that day over at Wesley Church in Queen’s Road, Reading, the Reading Festival Chorus will perform a double bill of Saint-Saëns’s Oratorio de Noel and parts one and three of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

Starting at 7.30pm, this will be the final concert with music director Edward Rhys-Harry following his six years at the helm. For tickets, call 0118 983 4523 or email

Pangbourne Choral Society, conducted by Ellie Calver, hold their Christmas concert of carols and seasonal readings at 7.30pm on Sunday, December 10, at the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel at Pangbourne College. Tickets are obtainable directly from members.

The following weekend will see South Chiltern Choral Society under Paul Burke perform Alan Bullard’s A Feast for Christmas and Cecilia McDowall’s Christus Natus Est at Chiltern Edge School.

There are two concerts, the first of which takes place at 7.30pm on Saturday, December 16, and the second at 2pm the following day. For tickets call 07500 032840 or visit www.southchiltern

To round off the autumn choral season The Sixteen and Harry Christophers will be at the Concert Hall in Blagrave Street, Reading, on Thursday, December 21, at 7.30pm, with a programme titled “Glory to the Christ Child”. This will include Joubert’s There is No Rose, Rutter’s There is a Flower, Poulenc’s Quatre motets pour le temps de Noel, the Somerset Carol (trad) and Chilcott’s Pilgrim Jesus. For tickets, visit


The Henley and Reading areas are usually well served by orchestral music. The Hexagon and the Concert Hall in Reading usually attract a few big-name orchestras and soloists.

However, just one professional orchestral makes an appearance in the run-up to Christmas, leaving the area’s amateur and semi-professional ensembles to fill the void.

Classical Music Alive’s 2017-2018 season in Reading marks the Hexagon’s 40th anniversary. The festivities open on Friday, November 3, at 7.30pm, when the theatre’s resident Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presents a gala concert of British favourites including Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, Vaughan Williams’s lyrical The Lark Ascending and Holst’s majestic work The Planets.

The concert opens with young musicians from the RPO’s emerging artist partner organisations playing a new work created by them in workshops with the RPO and performed with the orchestra.

The violin soloist is Duncan Riddell (pictured below) and the conductor Barry Wordsworth, supported by young musicians from Berkshire Maestros, Reading Youth Orchestra and Henley Music School.

Tickets are £22.50 and £25.50. To book, call 0118 960 6060.

If film scores are your bag, then “Movie Magic comes to Oxford” is well worth the trip when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra makes its first appearance at the New Theatre Oxford on Saturday, November 4, at 7.30pm.

Conducted by Stephen Bell and presented by Tommy Pearson they will play a series of all-time favourite film soundtracks by the legendary composer John Williams, including Superman, Harry Potter, Jaws, Indiana Jones, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Star Wars and many more.

Tickets are available from the New Theatre box office on 0844 871 3020 or via

Conducted by Paul Cox, the Langtree Sinfonia is an amateur orchestra that meets at Langtree School, Woodcote. It gives its opening concert of the season on Saturday, November 11, at 7.30pm at St Mary’s Church, Wallingford.

The programme includes Mendelssohn’s Overture Midsummer Night’s Dream, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 (piano soloist: Diana Mathews), and Haydn’s Symphony No 101 — The Clock. Tickets are available from Langtree Sinfonia on 0118 941 5498 or directly from members of the orchestra.

On Sunday, November 12, at 4pm, our very own Henley Symphony Orchestra open their 48th season at the Concert Hall in Blagrave Street, Reading.

Led by music director Ian Brown, Schubert’s charming Rosamunde Overture will be followed by Mozart’s richly expressive Sinfonia Concertante (featuring Laura Samuel on violin and Scott Dickinson on viola).

In this concerto Mozart gives prominence to his favourite instrument, the viola, in an interplay of equals with the violin.

Laura is leader of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Scott their principal viola, and both are members of the Nash Ensemble.

The concert closes with Debussy’s La Mer, his deeply moving impressionistic evocation of the sea, paired with the first two of his Three Nocturnes, inspired by the American Post-Impressionist artist James Whistler.

For tickets call 01235 859210 or visit or www.

Conducted by Stefan Hofkes, Reading Symphony Orchestra take to the stage on Sunday, November 27, at the University of Reading’s Great Hall in London Road.

The programme for the 3pm concert features Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 (soloist: Henry Bishop, the winner of the RSO/Hickies Young Musicians’ Competition 2016), and Sibelius’s Symphony No 2 in D.

Tickets are available from the RSO box office on 0118 986 0707 or by emailing

Alternatively, join the Friends of the RSO and enjoy three full orchestral concerts at a reduced rate.


Tamesis Chamber Choir and Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra collaborate in an orchestral and choral programme in the Great Hall, University of Reading, tomorrow (Saturday) at 7.30pm.

Conducted by Andrew Taylor they will perform Vaughan Williams’s Toward the Unknown Region; Richard Strauss’s Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration); Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.

For tickets, call 07534 402213, visit or email

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