Crouch End Festival Chorus has produced what one critic called “a rousing comeback concert” after 18 months out of action because of the Covid pandemic.
Music Director David Temple led the choir through an eclectic programme of music at London’s Alexandra Palace which included works by Eric Whitacre, Morten Lauridsen, Philip Glass, young British composer Lillie Harris and American jazz pianist Duke Ellington.
The concert on Saturday 17 July 2021 was the choir’s first public appearance since February 2020 and most of the rehearsals for the concert had to be held outside on a school netball court in north London because of the Coronavirus restrictions.
Since the choir also had to be split up into smaller groups for socially-distanced indoor singing, the dress rehearsal in the afternoon of the performance was the first time all the choir had sung together in a concert hall setting since Temple conducted the singers in a recording of Britten’s Saint Nicolas in the same venue in March 2020.
One audience member enthusiastically yelled “Welcome Back” as Temple introduced the works at the start of the concert.
Critic David Winskill from London’s Ham&High newspaper also wrote: “The audience’s extended standing ovation screamed: “Welcome Back”. After 532 difficult days, it was great to have CEFC back.”
The concert began with Whitacre’s i thank You God for most this amazing day, the preparation for which involved an inspirational Zoom call with the American composer and the whole choir.
After Lauridsen’s popular O magnum mysterium, the choir gave a premiere performance of Harris’ a cappella choral work Margaret, written by the British composer as part of the Young Composers Scheme of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.
Harris was in the audience to hear the work which was inspired by Margaret Colfe, a 17th century nurse, midwife and surgeon. Fittingly, Crouch End doctor Margaret Ellerby sang the soprano solo.
The choir then performed Glass’ Three Songs before teaming up with jazz pianist Roland Perrin & The Blue Planet Orchestra for a finale of Ellington’s Sacred Concert, featuring soprano soloist Zoë Brookshaw.
The work was written in the mid-1960s after a request from the Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The word “freedom” features regularly in Ellington’s uplifting masterpiece, which seemed fitting to the singers returning to performing after the enforced break.
After the summer break, the choir returns to rehearsals in September 2021 with their next concert scheduled for Sunday 24 October 2021 at Alexandra Palace. It features a new commission called Echo from Jessica Curry, an award-winning composer whose work spans both video game scores and classical compositions.
The concert also includes Mozart’s Requiem and Brahms’ Schicksalslied.
St Nicolas on record