New territory for Chichester Singers at Festival of Chichester

Musical director Jonathan Willcocks says he likes always to include something the Chichester Singers have never done before in their programmes.

Thursday, 15th June 2017, 6:22 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:05 am

For this year’s Festival of Chichester, he will do so three times over in an American-English mix of major pieces by living choral composers.The concert in Chichester Cathedral on Saturday, June 24 at 7.30pm will feature Eric Whitacre – Motets; Bob Chilcott – A Little Jazz Mass; John Rutter – Feel the Spirit.“It’s quite a different programme for us,” says Jonathan, “major choral works by people that are still alive. Chilcott and Rutter are the two leading British choral composers, and Whitacre is the superstar of American choral composition. He has got tremendous charaistm.“I came across him while I was working in America. I heard several choral pieces of his that I thought were absolutely lovely – and would be very nice as part of this concert with a contemporary feel. Two of the works are very much jazz-orientated. With the Chilcott, you have got the word jazz in the title, and the John Rutter is all about the spirituals which also have jazz at the heart. It will be really good for the choir to sing.“The Whitacre is these three motets, three unaccompanied pieces, and the characteristic is that they are very ethereal works. They have got very interesting harmonies, very dense harmonies. He manages to set contemporary poetry and bring it a timelessness. It is like Taverner in that respect. They are lovely, slow-moving works which will absolutely suit the lovely acoustic of the cathedral. He has written quite a lot of motets, and I have chosen three that fit together as a nice group. It is very richly scored. It is up to 12 vocal parts at times, with swinging tempi and rhythmic complications.“The Chilcott also has lots of rhythmic challenges. It has got a really clear beat but jazz swinging across it. It’s particularly good that it is quite different to some of the more mainstream choral music that is the bread and butter of the choir. But there is another nice connection. I was a chorister with Bob Chilcott some 50 years ago, and we have kept in contact. We are hoping he will be at this concert, and that is rather stimulating when you can have that connection with the composer. My view is that the composer puts the notes on the page and the conductor makes the music, but we have never had a composer who has turned up and tried to interfere. All our experiences with living composers is that they make an absolutely-positive contribution when they are there. Whenever possible, we have them come to a rehearsal beforehand.”As for the Rutter, the piece is based on well-known spirituals – and again that links the evening together.“Spirituals and jazz are both part of the American cultural heritage. Quite a lot of spirituals have a jazz feel to them.”Again, that’s part of the pleasure for Jonathan – putting the whole thing together: “It’s a mixture of choosing music that the audiences are likely to enjoy, but also music that is suitable for the choir and music that the choir is likely to enjoy performing. The choir meets for eight to nine weeks to prepare, and having music that rehearses strongly and enjoyably is terribly important for the eventual concert.” And for Jonathan, completing the picture, is the pleasure of being at the very heart of the choir’s home-city festival, he said Don't miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.Here are four ways you can be sure you'll be amongst the first to know what's going on.1) Make our website your homepage 2) Like our Facebook page 3) Follow us on Twitter4) Register with us by clicking on 'sign in' (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.And do share with your family and friends - so they don't miss out!Always the first with your local news.Be part of it.