Diocesan Area Festival 2012

St Albans Abbey, Saturday 28th April

Saturday 28th April saw some 147 singers from 23 affiliated choirs taking part in the biennial Diocesan Area Festival at St. Albans Abbey. The format mirrored that of 2010 as a Eucharist, at which choirs could share in corporate thanksgiving, but this year our own RSCM Chamber Choir led the singing, with Chris Muhley directing.

The music had been chiefly chosen to reflect Eastertide, opening in recognition of the Queen’s Jubilee with a rousing performance of Parry’s I was glad, following Tom Winpenny’s spirited reading of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D which evoked much admiration from the organists present. Anthony Caesar’s setting formed the core of the Ordinary, coupled to John Bell’s lively Gloria; both items which proved attractively accessible and will surely be of use to all churches. The middle anthem was June Nixon’s arrangement of the Easter hymn Love’s redeeming work is done, with outer verses designed for congregational participation, another pieces new to many of the choirs and likely to find a long-term place in their repertoire.

Presenting Bronze, Silver and Gold awards to successful candidates of the past two years who were present, the Dean of St. Alban’s, Dr Jeffery John, paid tribute to the ministry which choristers exercise in their weekly work in the parishes, and stressed the contribution of music in worship.
Music at the Communion comprised members of the Youth Singers with younger award-holders singing Honeyball’s setting of Surely the Lord is in this place, a simple yet effective piece cast in the form of a four-part round, followed by Tallis’s Verily, verily I say unto you with its delicate false relations, and the hymn Come let us with our Lord arise. The service concluded with Stanford’s little-known anthem If ye then be risen with Christ, an extended item containing allusions to well-known seasonal hymns, before Tom Winpenny launched into the Finale of Widor’s Symphony no. 6 in G.

The whole event was attended by a strongly positive spirit, set in motion by Marie Price’s semi-gymnastic warm-up and infected by Chris Muhley’s enthusiastic and often witty direction during rehearsal. We are grateful to all the members of the Committee for their contributions in ensuring seamless organisation. Here was a pattern on which we hope to build for the next occasion, when we hope that even more singers will be encouraged to take part.

*** Event reviewed by Nicholas King ***

For a more visual review of the event, click on the YouTube video below. Photos © Tony Price.

N.B. There is no sound!