Two weeks ago we welcomed Bob Chilcott to our Monday night rehearsal at St Laurence’s. Bob took us through our paces with his Requiem, and said lots of lovely things about our singing!
It was a great evening and we all had the opportunity to chat to Bob during the break and after the rehearsal, as well as snapping a few pictures. He was also kind enough to answer a few questions about his work, his singing career, and his connection to Dan our conductor.
Tickets for next Friday’s concert can be purchased in advance through TicketSource, get them while they are hot!
Have you always had a connection with choirs?
When I was a boy, at Merchant Taylor’s School in Watford, my teacher encouraged me to go for an audition at King’s, and I was thrilled and surprised to be accepted. I sang as a chorister in King’s College Choir, Cambridge until my voice changed, and then returned as a choral scholar a few years later.
As a chorister I sang in the War Requiem, conducted by Benjamin Britten and each year on All Soul’s Day we alternated the singing of the Requiem settings by Fauré and Duruflé. I was also fortunate enough to sing the Pie Jesu soprano solo on the 1968 King’s recording of the Fauré conducted by Sir David Willcocks.
How long did you sing with the King’s Singers?
I joined the group in 1985 and sang with them for 12 years. I wrote quite a lot of arrangements for them, and am gratified that they still sing my music today.
Last April I conducted a concert with them in New York’s Carnegie Hall for DCINY for their 50th anniversary celebrations, together with 500 amateur singers from the USA, UK, and Canada.
Bob tells us about the Requiem:
My work as a composer, particularly in the writing of this piece, has been informed greatly by the experiences that I have had both as a singer and as a conductor. I have had the opportunity to conduct or prepare several very personal and strongly motivated works by Rutter, Brahms, Verdi and also the Fauré, which still speaks to me now as strongly as it did in my youth.
My setting of the Requiem was commissioned for the concert hall to be paired in the programme with the Beethoven Mass in C. This gave me the luxury of soloists and I have chosen to use a soprano and a tenor.
I have also used the same orchestration as the Beethoven – double woodwind, trumpets, timpani and strings. This helped me to imagine the sound of the work, which I wanted fundamentally to be gentle and reflective.
I also wanted to write a piece that could work equally in a liturgical setting and that could be sung by singers of all abilities. I have used the traditional Latin Mass text but have omitted the more fiery Dies Irae and the Libera me, choosing instead to include the beautiful text from the Book of Common Prayer, Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts.
What is it that brings you to Catford?
I have known your conductor, Dan Ludford-Thomas, since we met when I was the Course Leader for one of the Eton Choral Courses and Dan was one of the hard-working tutors.
More recently he has been appointed Musical Director of the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain, and as their President I enjoyed a fabulous day conducting them just before Easter this year.
I was delighted, then, to take up Dan’s very kind invitation to come and work with Lewisham Choral Society for the evening on my Requiem. I’m looking forward to it immensely.