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  • Home. Hope. Song.
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  •  Date Posted: Wed, 9 Dec 2020
    At the end  of a challenging year, when choirs and orchestras were unable to physically meet due to coronavirus restrictions, the Parliament Choir was delighted to be able to partner with Shelter to produce an online Christmas concert - Home. Hope. Song.

    The concert was prerecorded in private, with the choir and orchestra socially distanced. Online stream available between 9 December 2020 and  6 January 2021.

    An excerpt, including our own Three Kings of Orient - Lord German, Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, and David Lammy MP - gives a flavour of the occasion - https://twitter.com/i/status/1339638742852616193
  • Long-held Dream (of Gerontius)
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  •  Date Posted: Fri, 15 Nov 2019
    Nicholas O'Neill, Chorus Master and Composer in Residence

    The performance of ‘Dream of Gerontius’ in Westminster Cathedral in November 2019 will surely remain as one of the high water marks of the Parliament Choir's near 20-year existence. Twelve months or so since the first rehearsal on the work we were joined by friends from various choirs, Southbank Sinfonia, and a stellar line up of soloists to perform Elgar's monumental work under the direction of our Music Director Simon Over. Simon has long held a desire to tackle this piece, so important to him and to the composer, so this represented the culmination of many years of planning and an ambitious aim.

    From the mysterious opening of the overture, played to a hushed but packed Cathedral, it was clear that the audience were ready to commit emotionally to the work, and the tones of the orchestra – gossamer-thin at times, imposing at others – brought to life the textures of Elgar's writing and the purposes of his various themes. The first choir entry set the scene for what was to come, being confident yet dynamically shaded to reflect the composer's desires, and this attention to detail continued throughout even at the ends of the two parts with their quiet and delicate writing, so difficult to sustain. Elgar's “great blaze” of ‘Praise To The Holiest’, was confidently delivered in some of the most difficult writing that the Parliament Choir has yet encountered, and the unaccompanied three-part writing of ‘Lord, Thou has been our refuge’ was in time and in tune, a rare thing, and certainly more than the first performance of this work ever achieved.

    If I hesitate to describe the performance of ‘Gerontius’ as the Parliament Choir's finest hour, it is only because there have been so many fine hours in the Choir's past that have continually raised the standard of what we produced and which have proved to us that we can tackle large-scale repertoire that may seem impossibly daunting upon first acquaintance. This is the second of Elgar's large choral works that we have performed, and we have also taken on Britten's ‘War Requiem’ , but maybe this, in terms of confidence, preparation and delivery, was the best of all, although we always aspire to do better.

  • Haydn and O'Neill at the Guards' Chapel
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  •  Date Posted: Fri, 5 Apr 2019
    Nicholas O'Neill, Chorus Master and Composer in Residence

    The Guards' Chapel was a new venue for the Parliament Choir, which I felt worked very well for us. The acoustic is resonant without being overwhelming, and our placement allowed the sound to project vividly and clearly into the building itself.  It was a little worrying to find leaflets in the chapel which described the organ as “at the end of its useful life”, but I soon found out that this description was wide of the mark, as the instrument seemed to be some way beyond that point...

    Haydn’s ‘Missa Sancti Nicolai’ really sprang to life once the Choir was aware of the verve and colour present in its orchestral accompaniment, and we responded well to the elegance of its writing, while those rare moments of darkness in the piece, such as in the opening section of the Agnus Dei, were communicated with intensity.

    My only regret about the première of my work ‘A Certain Everlasting Polyphony’ was that my seat at the organ was behind the Choir and players, so I was only able to experience in part what was described to me afterwards as a “spine-tingling performance”. The audience seemed to respond enthusiastically to the unusual subject matter, and it is clear that the Choir was fully committed to the performance; I was delighted with the result. The horn players were confidently awry at one point, but otherwise this was a wonderful first appearance for this piece, which many people seemed to enjoy.

    More enjoyment was to come in the Trumpet Concerto’, though, which positively fizzed with energy as Erika Curbelo handled its demands with ease, and with a richness of tone that, at times, was positively jazzy. This was an effervescent performance, the details of Haydn's writing emerging from the orchestra with real clarity, and all supporting a soloist playing with conviction and verve.

    After the restrained elegance of the Mass, the ‘Te Deum’ is all about show, a typical piece of Haydn in his assured maturity. We managed light and shade, loud and soft, and it is a pleasure to be able to report that even the tricky fugue at the end stayed on the rails. No doubt our sight lines to Simon's excellent direction were helped by the staging, but this really was a testament to what an attentive and committed Choir can do.

    The Parliament Choir continues to perform to a commendably high standard, certainly at least on the level of many choral societies and possibly above. There is always room for improvement, but we should be proud of what we have achieved, and we sent the audience away bubbling with delight.

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