We were delighted to be a part of a special event celebrating Sussex composers on 7th March at Boxgrove Priory, near Chichester, curated by Nathan James. The concert featured works by Thomas Weelkes, Frank Bridge, John Ireland, Avril Coleridge-Taylor, Ruth Gipps and Nathan James, whose 9 movement cantata, On Windover Hill, received its world premiere.
It was a real honour to direct this multi-faceted concert featuring two choirs, two dancers, five readers and the fabulous forces of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. The concert featured the first UK performance in 82 years of Avril Coleridge-Taylor’s Wyndore. This tone poem "of great delicacy and beauty" is scored for wordless chorus and orchestra, and is reminiscent of Vaughan-Williams.
Ruth Gipps' little known Goblin Market, scored for upper voices and strings, was perhaps the most thrilling work for me to conduct, due to its emotional storytelling, vocal complexities and the technical demands of the score overall. It never sits still! The strings rose to the occasion superbly enabling Corra Sound's dramatic interpretation to come to life. To have the opportunity to direct this work with a fabulous vocal ensemble whose mission it is to actively promote works written by and for women was a dream come true. This concert only featured the final ten-minute section of the piece, but it certainly warrants a full performance (30 minutes in all), which I feel is long over-due!
In the second half of the concert, I had the privilege of leading the RPCO and Harlequin Chamber Choir in Nathan James' world premiere. His ability to create a well-balanced, evocative, cleverly written and luminous score, mark him out as a composer with great skill, emotional depth and sensitivity. Bringing to life On Windover Hill, with all its beauty, history and drama, was an artistic joy, and I sincerely hope it finds a place in the choral-orchestral canon for future audiences to continue to witness and enjoy.
The orchestra were wonderful to work with and negotiated some tricky moments with great skill, a sublime sound and a strong sense of unity and tone. Their performance was undeniably sensitive, lyrical, energised and consummately professional throughout. Here is some feedback to share:
“I was scarcely breathing during the whole of the performance.”
“Under the baton of Amy Bebbington, your choirs and the excellent Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra soared away to the ceilings of the Boxgrove Priory. What an inspired choice of venue!”
“Many, many congratulations for such an inspiring, life affirming multi-faceted event.”