Tag Archives: Faure Requiem

WWI Centenary concert in pictures

On Saturday 10 November 2018, we held a performance of words and music at Southwark Cathedral​ in commemoration of 100 years since the end of World War I. City of London Sinfonia also gave this performance in memory of their founder Richard Hickox CBE, who died 10 years ago in November.

Bill Barclay, narrator
Bill Barclay in WW1 Centenary: Fauré Requiem. (c) James Berry Photography

All the words narrated by Bill Barclay and Emma Pallant were collaged specifically for our concert, by Bill, from hundreds of memoirs and letters written by survivors of the Great War, including soldiers, officers, doctors, factory workers and family members. These documents can be found in the Imperial War Museum.

Baritone Stephen Whitford delivered expressive solo lines in the Offertoire and Libera me, and Southwark Cathedral Girls’ Choir sang the Pie Jesu prayer, originally written for solo soprano. Combined with Fauré’s orchestration and chamber textures, realised in this instance by conductor Paul Brough, these passages produce the special atmosphere of the Fauré Requiem, which enables the music to serve as a prayer for the dead to receive eternal rest.

Also featured in this commemorative performance were All Saints Kingston and St John the Divine Kennington choirs.

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All images © James Berry Photography for City of London Sinfonia, 2018.


2013 – The year that was at City of London Sinfonia

It’s that time of year when we look back at the year that was and forward to the year that will be! We asked some of the City of London Sinfonia team what their own personal CLS highlight of 2013 was…


CLOSER: The New Babylon, 23 October 2013
‘A packed house for The New Babylon at CLoSer. More people than we could deal with (almost) for Shostakovich’s silent film
Matthew Swann, Chief Executive


Outreach project at St Joseph’s Hospice, May 2013
‘The Hospice Harmony project at St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney with John K Miles and a CLS quartet,  one of the most moving projects I’ve been a part of.’
Gillian Hunter-Gibbs, Educations Manager


The Fauré Requiem Tour 2013
‘Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Tallis being played in 10 cathedrals by our fantastic string players – moved me to tears every time.’
Matthew Swann, Chief Executive

Crash Bang Wallop

Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Special, December 2013
‘Pushing Claire Bloor across the Cadogan Hall stage in a custom made box whilst wearing an elf hat!’

Becca Newman, Concert Manager


Lullaby Tour, Autumn 2013
‘Watching the musicians throw themselves into the ‘Mad Professor’ tour with Claire Bloor – their outfits and hair styles got madder each day!’

Gillian Hunter-Gibbs, Education Manager


CLOSER: Tim Garland, February 2013
‘The audience vote for February’s CLOSER. It was really exciting to see which piece the audience would choose and it was definitely a close call towards the end – there were only a few votes in it. The Schnittke sounded spectacular in Village Underground and it was great that our audience was able to have an input in the programming.’
Steph Ramplin, Development and Marketing Assistant

Cathedrals October 2013 054

The Fauré Requiem Tour 2013
‘For me, it has to be our epic ten-date national cathedrals tour which saw the Orchestra and Artistic Director working and performing with the cathedral choirs and organists in Durham, Ely, Portsmouth, Derby, Coventry, Guildford, Exeter, Chester, Southwell and Liverpool. A wonderful chance to take music (including a brand new commission from Gabriel Jackson) to new audiences around the country and for cathedral musicians to work with a professional orchestra thanks to our tour supporters Friends of Cathedral Music, Arts Council England and the Foyle Foundation. Watch this space for the next instalment in 2015/16…!’
Ruth Mulvey, Development Manager

Elaine cathedral pic

Chester Cathedral, The Fauré Requiem Tour 2013
Sitting behind / underneath the organ pipes in Chester Cathedral during the Cathedrals tour. I could see the second orchestra for the RVW but got the full effectof the organ in the Poulenc – amazing !’
Elaine Baines, Chief Operating Officer

The Great Enormo credit James Berry

Arnold’s Grand, Grand Overture at Brighton Festival, May 2013
‘My favourite moment for the year has got to be a personal one. Once a year my concert management services are required and I am let out of the office. At this concert in Brighton I could finally tell people the adoption service had found us a little girl because everything had been agreed, yet despite my excitement Elaine (Chief Operating Officer) still let me loose with a gun for the Arnold Grand, Grand Overture!’
Jacqui Compton, Librarian

Coming up in 2014…
Natural / Supernatural Festival
Spring 2014

Composer Focus: Fauré

Gabriel Fauré, composer, organist and teacher, was one of the foremost French composers of his generation; his musical style was a monumental influence on many other twentieth-century composers. The headline act of our Fauré Requiem Tour, Fauré’s is the most frequently performed musical setting of the Requiem, and this masterpiece marked the pinnacle of a prolific career. As we approach the second leg of the tour, we take a closer look at the man behind the music.


“More profound than Saint-Saëns, more varied than Lalo, more spontaneous than d’Indy, more classic than Debussy, Gabriel Fauré is the master par excellence of French music, the perfect mirror of our musical genius.”    – Jean Roger-Ducasse

Name: Gabriel Urbain Fauré

Born: 12 May 1845 Died: 4 November 1924 (aged 79)

Nationality: French

Background: Fauré was born into a cultured, but not especially musical family. When his musical talent became clear, he was sent to Ecole Niedermeye, a music college in Paris, aged only nine. Here he met Camille Saint-Saëns, one of his teachers, who became a lifelong friend. After graduating from the college in 1865, Fauré earned a modest living as a teacher and as an organist, taking over from Saint-Saëns at the Eglise de la Madeleine.

Based in Paris, he integrated into the salon culture, where he was involved in the formation of the Société Nationale de Musique, a movement conceived in reaction to the tendency of French music to favour vocal and operatic music over orchestral music hosting concerts to allow young composers to present their music publicly.

In 1883, Fauré married Marie Frement  and the couple had two sons. His compositions earned him a negligible amount, earning an average of 60 francs a song with no royalties and he struggled to support his family (and mistress, whom he kept in a Paris apartment!). This hardship made him prone to bouts of depression.

Requiem: It was during this period, however, that he embarked on the iconic Requiem. Begun in 1887, it was one of the few works that he did not destroy, but revised and expanded, until it was finalised in 1901. After its first performance in 1888, at the Eglise de la Madeleine, the Priest reportedly told Fauré: “We don’t need these novelties: the Madeleine’s repertoire is quite rich enough.” However, critical reception improved, Saint-Saëns remarking: “Just as Mozart’s is the only Ave verum corpus, this is the only Pie Jesu.”

Breakthrough Moment: Finally, the 1890’s began to bring a change of fortune for Fauré. After initial opposition for being deemed dangerously modern, Fauré was at last offered the position of professor of composition at the Conservatoire de Paris, where his students included Maurice Ravel. By his last years, Fauré was recognised in France as the leading French composer of his day and was eventually made Director at the Conservatoire de Paris. Although he continued to compose, his works of the late years were affected by his hearing loss, which inevitably caused his retirement. In 1922, the President honoured him with an unprecedented public tribute; a national homage.

Fauré died from pneumonia on November 4, 1924, and was laid to rest in the Cemetiere de Passy in Paris.

Tickets for Fauré Requiem Tour: October 2013

The October leg of our Fauré Requiem tour sees us visiting Coventry, Guildford, Exeter, Chester, Southwell and Liverpool.

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

Fact File: The May Cathedrals

Next week sees the kick off of the May leg of our long-awaited Fauré Requiem Tour. As well as celebrating sacred music, this tour aims to venerate the spectacular collection of cathedrals this country has to offer. Not just known for their looks, these archaic buildings have witnessed centuries of British history and boast some weird and wonderful claims to fame; from makeshift prisons, to nesting birds, to Pink Floyd! Here are some of the interesting facts we have uncovered to share with you…


Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral
  • According to local legend, the site of the cathedral was founded by monks who were following two milk maids on their search for a dun (brown) cow. The street leading past the cathedral’s East towers is now named ‘Dun Cow Lane’.
  • In 1650, Oliver Cromwell used the cathedral as a makeshift prison to hold Scottish prisoners-of-war. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 were imprisoned here. In 1946, during work to install a new central heating system for the University, a mass grave of the Scottish soldiers was allegedly uncovered.
  • The cathedral starred as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films, with an extra spire digitally added on to one of the towers.


Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral
  • Known locally as “the ship of the Fens” because of its prominent shape that towers above the surrounding flat and watery landscape.
  • The cathedral poses as Westminster Abbey in the 2011 film, The King’s Speech.
  • On the album cover of Pink Floyd’s 1994 record, The Division Bell, it is Ely Cathedral that appears on the horizon.

    Pink Floyd's Album Cover for The Division Bell
    Pink Floyd’s Album Cover for The Division Bell


Portsmouth Cathedral
Portsmouth Cathedral
  • In 1449, the resident Bishop of Chichester was murdered by local sailors; the town’s inhabitants were excommunicated and the church, which is now the cathedral, was closed following the scandal.
  • When France fell to the Nazi occupation in June 1940 and attentions were turned elsewhere, work on an extension scheme at Portsmouth Cathedral had to abruptly stop, leaving a hastily thrown-up, temporary brick wall at the Western end of the nave.
  • An appeal was launched in the 1960s with Field Marshal Montgomery at the helm to recommence this scheme, but found insufficient funds. The ‘temporary’ wall was not amended until 1990, when it was found to be unsafe.


Derby Cathedral
Derby Cathedral
  • The hometown of our Artistic Director, Stephen Layton!
  • In late 2006, after the discovery of a pair of Peregrine falcons that had taken up residence on the cathedral tower, a nesting platform was installed. Webcams were installed to enable the birds and their chicks to be viewed at close-range without being disturbed.
  • In 2009, more than 150 members of the Derby Mountain Rescue team abseiled down the tower to raise money; this is now an annual event.

Fauré Requiem Tour
May 2013

Catching up with Gabriel Jackson

Gabriel's Angels2

In honour of our current Gabriel’s Angels crowd funding campaign, raising money towards a new commission by Gabriel Jackson, we caught up with the composer to discuss cathedrals, his new piece and all things R&B! We’ve raised £1,621.50 towards the commission so far but we’ve still got a way to go. If you like what you read, why not donate a fiver via our JustGiving page and support the creation of new music!

You were originally a chorister – what lead you to pursue a career in composition? Was there anything specific?

For a long time I wanted to be an architect – I probably didn’t realise that it was going to be far too much work. I think you have to train for years to be an architect so I lost interest in that. Then I wanted to be an organist but I’d been composing since I was very small so, in the end, that seemed to be something I thought I could do.

Did you have any specific breakthrough moments within the music industry?

No, not really. It took a very long time to become busy. Eventually, through perseverance I suppose, more and more things started happening and I became busy but there was no one piece that really got everyone talking about me.

Are there any composers that you are influenced by?

One of my biggest interests is Tudor music, particularly early Tudor music; the florid music of the early Sixteenth Century, the choir book composers, early Taverner and some of the early Tallis pieces. This repertoire is something that I’m very interested in and some of my pieces quite specifically relate to this repertoire – they are attempts to re-imagine the sound world in those pieces. That’s a hugely important area for me and goes back to whole cathedral thing where I sang as a child.

Stravinsky is quite an important composer for me in terms of two things; the use of block structures and the fact that the music is non-developmental (in a Nineteenth Century sense) and also the deliberate allusion to other music, which you see throughout Stravinsky’s work, like Pulcinella, that was specifically using Eighteenth Century material. The idea that it deliberately alludes to something else, I think is very interesting and something that I try to do in different ways in all sorts of pieces.

What is it that attracts you to choral music? Is it about working with the voice?

Well, it also seems to be attracted to me. Part of the reason I do so much work with choirs is because these are the commissions I tend to receive. I think it is a fantastic medium and my favourite sound is unaccompanied voices in a resonant acoustic.

The other thing that I think is really important, and I always say this to young composers, is if you can write music that people want to sing and listen to, you will have your work performed. In reality, choirs are much more new-music orientated than many other types of ensembles. Professional and amateur choirs perform lots and lots of new music, they commission works left, right and centre and they’re very committed to new music. With the choral community, there’s a real enthusiasm for new compositions.

On that note, you’ve written a new piece of music that City of London Sinfonia are going to perform on our Faure Requiem Tour called Countless and Wonderful are the Ways to Praise God. We have launched our crowd funding campaign Gabriel’s Angels to raise money towards it. Could you tell us a bit about the piece and where you took inspiration from? Where does the text come from?

The text is by an Estonian poet called Doris Kareva, who I’ve set before, and she’s one of Estonia’s most important literary figures from the post-war era. She’s an amazing woman, I think she’s an amazing poet and this poem is an English translation by an American/Estonian translator. I have a big folder on my computer with all sorts of texts that I’ve found over the years that I thought could be interesting for something further down the line. When I was thinking about the ideas behind this piece, and Stephen Layton’s interest in Baltic culture that I also share, I thought that this poem could be the right thing for this project, and he agreed. I was really pleased to have opportunity to find the right vehicle for the poem. It’s a very optimistic poem and it’s about the world and creation. The last line is “every day is a holy day” which seems to be not just a specifically Christian idea but also a rather nice idea about how one might approach one’s life.

The writing for strings is quite exuberant, it’s quite intricate but in a static way – it’s probably a bit Tippett-ish. It’s quite florid and ornate but not necessarily going anywhere. Particularly in the earlier parts of piece where the first line is set for the trebles only, for about a minute, and the strings are weaving this little filigree stuff around these ecstatic words.

We’re very excited about hearing it.  We’ll be premiering your new piece at Durham Cathedral and then we’ll be performing it and ten cathedrals around the UK. What are the best things about hearing your music performed in a cathedral as opposed to a concert hall?

For voices, the resonant acoustics of a church really do work better. These are amazing buildings and I think being in an extraordinary building is a special part of any project. I think the programme will sound better in a cathedral acoustic as a lot of the repertoire is designed for the space. The Poulenc organ concerto needs a decent space for the organ to resonate in, particularly given the nature of the organ writing in the Poulenc. It think it’s great and I’m really looking forward to going to Durham because I’ve never been to Durham Cathedral and everybody tells me it’s amazing.

I think a really interesting and inspiring space is a bit better than a concert hall.

We noticed that you’ve expressed an interest in R&B on your Twitter account. What kind of music do you like to listen to? Are you quite eclectic?

The only music on my iPod is Soul and R&B from the 70s through to today, partly because I don’t enjoy listening to Classical music on the bus, whereas any kind of Pop music is great in that kind of environment. I am a big R&B fan but I don’t have time to listen to these records at home so that’s how I listen to them – when I’m out and about.

Do you have any favourite R&B artists?

Well, the greatest vocal group has to be the Temptations, although I’m more interested in the 70s Temptations. All those great groups; The Temptations, The O’Jays, Gladys Knight and the Pips but also some of those self contained bands, such as Earth, Wind and Fire. I’m also really interested in a lot of the Neo-Soul artists of today, in fact, what was I listening to on my over here? Patti Austin! Think it was a record from the late 80s called Love is Gonna Getcha. She’s such a great singer.

I really like singers and that’s the reason why I’m interested in R&B music – I like singers. And I really like the voices.  I find the voices interesting, I find the echoes of the Gospel tradition eventually go back to liturgical music. The idea of the call and response relationship between a soloist and a choral group, be it Aretha Franklin and Sweet Inspirations or Gladys Knight and the Pips, and also the way that the chords are voiced, I think is something that I translate into what I do. I like the vibrant sound that you get from voicing chords in very close position. So it’s not just a pleasure – there are other things that I listen to on a more serious level.

One last question, Do you have any interesting hobbies outside of music?

No really. Just the usual things – eating, drinking, movies. I like hanging out.  I like sport, although I don’t play it, and I have to admit I haven’t been to a football match for about a year, although I used to go every week.

And I like going Eastern Europe, which is something else that Stephen Layton and I have in common!

Gabriel’s Angels
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