Dr Vann, whose long and successful career as a choral conductor and composer continued right through to his death at the age of 100 in 2010, conducted the choir's first concert, a performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion, in the spring of 1940. This was of course during war-time, as well as towards the close of a particularly harsh winter, and we have read accounts of a conga line of people walking in each other's footsteps through the snow, during the blackout, to St Paul's church hall in order to rehearse.
The choir is especially proud of its association with Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was appointed its first Patron and President in 1940. It was therefore particularly appropriate that in March 2000, the RLSBC should celebrate its Diamond Jubilee with a concert which included his Sea Symphony, one of the great English choral works. His Mass in G minor had already featured in the choir's recording history, filling one side of their only LP, which was released in 1988.
More recent highlights have included performances of Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil (also known as his Vespers) in Douai Abbey in 2003, under the baton of Janet Lincé, and of Mendelssohn's Elijah in Peterborough Cathedral in 2015, conducted by Nigel Stark. In 2008, we were immensely privileged to share the stage of Leamington's Spa Centre with the world-famous opera star Sir John Tomlinson, in a charity gala concert organised by the mayor of Royal Leamington Spa. Sir John sang the arias, we sang the choruses, and our gifted accompanist Colin Druce somehow managed to make the Spa Centre piano sound like a full orchestra.
We were fortunate to have the locally-born tenor James Gilchrist as Gerontius in our 2005 performance of Sir Edward Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, and the soprano Emma Bell, also from Leamington Spa, was a soloist in some of our concerts long before she graced the stage of Covent Garden, La Scala or the Metropolitan Opera. We also number Jennifer Vyvyan, Jonathan Lemalu and Roderick Williams amongst our former soloists. We love working with young singers, often still at music college or at the beginning of their careers, and it is very exciting when we recognise names we know from past concerts who have now become stars!
While some of our concerts are performed a cappella or just with piano or organ accompaniment, for larger pieces we often need to work with an orchestra. For many years we regularly performed concerts with the Warwickshire Symphony Orchestra; we have a particularly long and well-established relationship with the Beauchamp Sinfonietta, and recently we have joined forces with the Musical and Amicable Society for several very successful concerts of Baroque music.
1939-1942Dr Stanley Vann
1947-1949Dr Stanley Vann
We also look forwards and leaving the lockdowns behind, RLSBC is opening the doors to season 21/22 and live singing.
In this season we shall be singing work by our first patron, Ralph Vaughan Williams, a modern composition, Jubilate Deo, by Dan Forrest, with much loved Bach and Vivaldi to follow a family Christmas concert.
If you are looking for a new choir, this diverse programme offers enjoyment and challenge to all singers so do please get in touch. If you love listening to beautiful choral music, look no further than our concert pages.
I hope to see you at a concert soon!
Melanie Forse Chairman
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