Concert highlights

We promote five concerts each year ourselves in London. Crouch End Festival Chorus is also hired to perform concerts with leading artists. Here are some of the highlights from our recent concerts:

Putting our heart and soul into Gerontius

The Queen Elizabeth Hall was the venue for Crouch End Festival Chorus' latest rendition of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius in February. Joined by the London Mozart Players and a fantastic line-up of soloists - Kitty Whately mezzo soprano, Robert Murray tenor, and Ashley Riches baritone - the choir told the story of Gerontius ('old man') as he draws his last breaths and then is guided by the Angel to judgement. The Dream of Gerontius is based on a poem by Cardinal Newman and is Elgar's most famous and beloved choral work. Despite a premiere that did not do it justice, it was later hailed as a success and helped elevate Elgar to the forefront of European composers.

The choir received an excellent review of this concert in MusicOMH and the Ham and High. [Photo: David Winskill]

World Premiere and Bernstein Classics

Our world premiere of an exciting work by up-and-coming British composer Ryan Latimer together with two classic pieces by Leonard Bernstein was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 16 November.

The Barbican concert, which took place on 24 October, featured the Crouch End Festival Chorus commission Frigates & Folly by Latimer and American composer Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite No 2 and Chichester Psalms.

The performance saw the choir team up with the BBC Concert Orchestra, four soloists from the prestigious Royal Academy of Music – Valeria Perboni, Emily Chesterton, Kieran Parrott and Nitai Levi – and boy treble Joshua Abrams.

It opened with the BBC Concert Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture before the 28-year-old Latimer’s new work was well received in the Barbican Hall.

"With his skill, sense of fun and imagination, he has a promising future ahead of him," Crouch End Festival Chorus Music Director David Temple said. Latimer, a lecturer in music at Birmingham University, tweeted: “Thanks for such a fantastic first performance of Frigates & Folly. A truly memorable and humbling experience all round.“

Joshua Abrams, 12, won much praise for his solo in the second movement of the Chichester Psalms (Adonai Ro-i, Lo Ehsar or the Lord is my Shepherd) before Valeria, Emily, Kieran and Nitai took on the roles of Maria/Rosalia, Anita, Riff and Bernard/Tony respectively in rousing renditions of the popular I Feel Pretty, Jet Song, America and Tonight Ensemble.

The concert was broadcast on Radio 3 on 16 November at 15:30 and is available to listen to on BBC Sounds until 15 December.

Stravinsky meets Orff

CEFC at the Barbican

David Temple and the performers take a bow at the Southbank (Picture: Paul Robinson)

Our afternoon concert on 1 July 2018 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre put together Stravinsky's Les Noces and Orff's Carmina Burana with the London Orchestra da Camera Percussion Ensemble, pianists Paul Ayres, Benjamin Frost, Peter Jaekel and William Vann and soloists Marta Fontanals-Simmons, Grace Davidson, Robert Murray, and Benedict Nelson. Four pianos, four soloists and a magical afternoon.

Performing Prokofiev with Ashkenazy

"Massive ... impressive ... ominous ... extraordinary." The critics were united in their opinion of the scale and power of Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, performed under the baton of Russian-born pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy in Cardiff and London in May 2018.

At the Royal Festival Hall
A full stage of performers for Prokofiev with Ashkenazy at the Royal Festival Hall (Picture: Paul Robinson)

To stage the Cantata, Crouch End Festival Chorus joined a 150-strong Philharmonia Orchestra, the Philharmonia Voices and a brass band from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Violinist Pekka Kuusisto added to the success of the two concerts, being warmly praised by the critics and receiving adulation from the audience at both halls for his interpretation of the Prokofiev concerto. Two spectacular evenings of music under a legendary maestro, a privilege for the choir to be part of them.

Heartfelt performance

Because we often commission new pieces, it is not unusual to have a composer in the audience waiting nervously to hear his or her work for the first time.

At the “Prayer of the Heart” concert at St John Smith’s Square on 10 February 2018, part of the venue’s Americana series exploring English and American music written in the last 80 years, Crouch End Festival Chorus joined the renowned Brodsky Quartet for a special evening with two composers listening.

The choir enjoys performing at historic venues such as St John’s Smith Square.

Sitting in the audience was composer Paul Patterson who wrote Time Piece for the King’s Singers in the 1970s. He had rearranged the work for us and had attended some of the rehearsals for the concert. Music director David Temple invited Patterson to take a bow from his place in the audience.

The concert also included the thrilling Revelation Window by Bernard Hughes who has worked with us several times. He also received a special round of applause before the concert concluded with John Tavener’s Prayer of the Heart.

This was composed in 1999 for the singer Bjork and the Brodsky Quartet and was performed in this new interpretation with the permission of the Tavener estate. The lights were dimmed and, with the sound of a heart beating throughout, the choir and soloists chanted in Greek, Coptic and English to some excellent playing from the quartet.