Tag Archives: choir

Retrospect: The Fruit of Silence

Our audience members created their own spiritual and spatial journeys through music, architecture and visuals in the first concert of our Modern Mystics series on 9 November. As someone on Twitter put it, we treated them to ‘a sonic full body massage’.

There were people exploring Southwark Cathedral as our musicians and Epiphoni Consort took up different positions to perform; meditating to the tranquil music on cushions, pews and chairs, and leaning against the architecture while admiring Jack James’ stunning projections.

Take a look at some of the fantastic photos from the night, taken by Kaupo Kikkas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Join us for more immersive experiences in The Book of Hours at Village Underground on 22 November, and The Protecting Veil at St John’s Smith Square on 2 December.

All images © Kaupo Kikkas.

Tell us about you Modern Mystics experience

If you’ve been to any or all of our Modern Mystics concerts, we would love to hear about how much you enjoyed them! You can write a review on our Facebook page or on Google tweet us @CityLDNsinfonia, or send us an audio recording to info@cls.co.uk which we can feature in one of our podcasts.



Fact File: The October Cathedrals

Ever been to Paddy’s Wigwam? October sees our intrepid musicians embarking upon the second leg of the Fauré Requiem Tour. We’ll be visiting yet more of our country’s most spectacular cathedrals.  Encompassing a range of different architectural styles, some of these cathedrals sport thousand-year histories. whilst others offer green-fanged spiders and have cameos in famous horror movies. Curiously, weaving her way through this fact file is a naked lady on a horse. 



• Coventry’s earliest cathedral, dedicated to St Mary, was founded as a Benedictine community by Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and his wife Godiva (of naked horseback fame) in 1043.

• On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated in a Blitz attack. The cathedral stonemason noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble along with the words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the Sanctuary wall.




• Scenes from the classic horror film The Omen were filmed at the Cathedral, most notably the scene in which Damien sees the spire come into view and attempts to bite his mother, whilst frothing at the mouth.

• In 1952 the Cathedral launched a ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign to complete the nave, and more than 200,000 people bought a brick for 2s 6d (12½p) and inscribed it with their name



• Exeter Cathedral has the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England.

• The tube web spider Segestria florentina, notable for its metallic green fangs, can be found within the Cathedral’s outer walls.

• On 4 May 1942 an air raid took place over Exeter. The cathedral sustained a direct hit on the chapel of St James, completely demolishing it.



• The Cathedral dates from between 1093 and the early 16th century, although the site itself may have been used for Christian worship since the Roman era.

• The collegiate church, as it was then, was restored in 1057 by Leofric of Mercia and Lady Godiva (apparently they were very into Cathedral maintenance).

Southwell Minster

Newark Castle

• A large Roman villa occupied much of the present-day Minster land.

• On 5 November 1711 the southwest spire was struck by lightning, and it is recorded that the eight bells melted and crashed to the Minster floor.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

liverpool met

•  The present Cathedral was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd.

• It is sometimes known locally as “Paddy’s Wigwam” or the “Mersey Funnel”.

The Fauré Requiem Tour will be coming to a cathedral near you on the following dates:

Friday 11th October – Coventry Cathedral
Saturday 12th October  – Guildford Cathedral
Wednesday 16th October  – Exeter Cathedral
Friday 18th October  – Chester Cathedral
Saturday 19th October  – Southwell Minster
Saturday 26th October – Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

We are also running two Come and Sing events  in Guildford and Liverpool. These are opportunities for members of the public to join us for a performance of Tallis’ masterpiece, Spem in Alium. For more information, please visit the links below:

Come and Sing Guildford
Come and Sing Liverpool

Fauré Requiem Tour
October 2013

Faure Requiem Tour Photo Diary

The first leg of our eagerly anticipated Faure Requiem Cathedrals Tour kicked off at the beginning of May, when we visited Durham, Ely, Portsmouth and Derby for an evening of music making with their respective Cathedral Choirs. We thought we’d share with you some of the team’s snaps from the Tour so far…

The imposing Durham Cathedral dominates the town's skyline
The imposing Durham Cathedral dominates the town’s skyline
Durham Cathedral 2 credit Alex Marshall
Durham Cathedral, the greatest Norman building in the UK, and the first venue on the Tour
Ely Cathedral choristers with our Principal Conductor Stephen Layton and composer Gabriel Jackson
Ely Cathedral choristers with our Principal Conductor Stephen Layton and composer Gabriel Jackson
Ely Cathedral, 'the Ship of the Fens', our second stop on the Tour and the venue for our BBC Radio 3 broadcast
Ely Cathedral, ‘the Ship of the Fens’, our second stop on the Tour and the venue for our BBC Radio 3 broadcast
The bijou Portsmouth Cathedral, the smallest of our Tour venues
The bijou Portsmouth Cathedral, the smallest of our Tour venues
Choir and Orchestra rehearsing in Portsmouth
Choir and Orchestra rehearsing in Portsmouth
The beautiful Nave Organ in Portsmouth
The beautiful Nave Organ in Portsmouth
Portsmouth Cathedral concert
Portsmouth Cathedral concert
Derby Cathedral, the hometown of our Principal Conductor, Stephen Layton
The Cathedral in Derby, the hometown of our Principal Conductor, Stephen Layton
In rehearsal at Derby
In rehearsal at Derby
The organ at Derby Cathedral
The organ at Derby Cathedral
Choir and Orchestra in concert at Derby Cathedral
Choir and Orchestra in concert at Derby Cathedral
Images: Sarah MacDonald, Alex Marshall, Steph Ramplin, Ruth Mulvey

Don’t miss the second leg of the Tour when it resumes in October; are we coming to a Cathedral near you? Full Tour details here

CLoSer Interview: Holst Singers

We caught up with Will Davies from the Holst Singers, our Guest Artists at our next CLoSer concert, to find out more about this extraordinary choir.

Holst Singers, what are the origins of the choir and its name?
We were founded in 1978 under Hilary Davan Wetton, but for almost two decades have been conducted by our Musical Director Stephen Layton, who has shaped and nurtured the celebrated sound we make. I believe our name was actually taken from the Holst Room at St Paul’s Girls’ School where we originally rehearsed in the early days – so I guess we are named after the composer, but not directly!

How many singers in the choir? What’s the average profile of a Holstie? (if there is such a thing!)
We have a core of about 40 singers who are the ‘regulars’, who you’ll catch performing at most concerts. I’m not sure there is an ‘average’ Holstie! I suppose most of us are graduates with a chapel choir background, so Oxford and Cambridge feature fairly heavily in the choir’s make-up. Outside of that, we’re a very varied bunch, a whole range of ages and occupations. Without wanting to sound too cheesy, the thing that unites us all is music. I think we’re in a unique position as an institution– we’re one of the nation’s top-flight choirs, but we work entirely as a self-run amateur outfit, with no subscription fees or anything like that. It means that everyone involved is there to concentrate on the music-making; it works really well for us.

What is it like working with CLS Artistic Director Stephen Layton?
In short, truly inspiring. He’s one of the world’s greatest choral conductors, and it shows. He always seems to know exactly what he wants to achieve with the music, from the broad sweep of a piece to the subtle nuances. What’s great is that he knows how to get us to produce the performance he wants; he works us hard, but it’s always worth it for the end result.


What’s the range of the choir’s repertoire? Do you enjoy performing newly-commissioned work, or prefer more established repertoire?
We love getting our teeth into a wide range of repertoire. I suppose we have a reputation for performing works in the very loose category of ‘unjustly neglected a cappella gems’ – works by Baltic composers like Tormis and Ešenvalds for instance, or the Russian Orthodox music on our Ikon recordings. We’re also actively involved in performing new commissions, from premiering Tavener’s Veil of the Temple to working with Imogen Heap on her soundtrack to The Seashell and the Clergyman.

Talk us through the pieces you’re performing for CLoSer.
We’re performing two pieces, Stravinsky’s Mass and Immortal Bach by Knut Nystedt. The Stravinsky is a great work. It’s quite severe, almost bleak at times, but beautiful with it. It’s scored for choir and a fairly small wind ensemble, and you get these wonderful moments of sparse, dissonant instrumental writing with the choir almost chanting the text, especially in the Credo. That’s probably the most challenging movement for us – not because it’s particularly difficult musically, but because he treats the text in a really counterintuitive way. Instead of setting it in the ‘usual’ way (accented and inflected as one might speak it, with expression) he produces a sort of muttering mantra; it’s this kind of ‘march of belief’, which is surprisingly tricky to get your head around at first.

Immortal Bach is really interesting – Nystedt takes the first two lines of the chorale Komm, süßer Tod and deconstructs them. You hear the unadulterated chorale first and then you hear it transformed, by dividing the choir into separate groups who sing each phrase of the chorale at different speeds, coming together at the cadence points before continuing onwards. It’s a bit tricky to explain without a choir on hand to demonstrate, but it’s very effective – the result is this fantastic smeary collage of Bach.

What do you hope the audience take away from your performance on 29 February?
I hope they get an impression of how the human voice can speak powerfully to you, in unexpected ways. I think the thing that connects the music we’ll be performing is that neither piece uses voices conventionally, to wring emotion from words or to make you say, “Oh, what a lovely tune”. The Nystedt is in a sense just the application of a simple mathematical rubric to a Bach chorale, and the Stravinsky is ascetic, austere music; and yet both produce this captivating atmosphere.

What would the Holst Singers desert island discs be and why?
Ah, now this is going be tricky. I’d have trouble enough doing my own, letting alone trying to speak for the whole choir – I’m inevitably going to get lynched when they see this! “How could you miss out Spem in alium?!” Ah well, here goes…
I think we need something early in there. Let’s have Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, because it’s pretty damn fit, especially the way the Kyrie kicks off; I could listen to that soaring-and-descending motif go round and round all day. It would be rude not to have anything Slavic on the island, let’s cram the Rachmaninov Vespers in the bag too. Last one… we need something English in there too. This’ll be a controversial one, but let’s go for the Vaughan Williams Shakespeare Songs. The middle movement is the sexiest thing ever. Wait. We get a full set of sheet music for these on the island too, right?!

CLoSer: Spirit of the Voice
Weds 29 February, 7.30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch

Poulenc Suite Francaise
JS Bach French Suite
Poulenc Le Bal Masque
Nystedt Immortal Bach
Stravinsky Mass