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.
The choir's constitution was first drawn up in 1945, and most recently revised in 2022. To see a copy of the latest version, please click here.
1939-1942Dr Stanley Vann
1947-1949Dr Stanley Vann
Our choir is now in its ninth decade as part of the rich musical heritage of Royal Leamington Spa, and after the difficulties of lockdown, our return to live music-making for the 2021/22 season was welcomed by members and audiences alike.
This season we present a range of works from three centuries, including JS Bach's Mass in B minor at St Mary's Church, Warwick, and at Leamington Pump Rooms, Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle. Christmas finds us at Holy Trinity Church, Leamington Spa, returning there in February for a 'Come and Sing' celebration of the music of WA Mozart and Marianna Martines. And our season opens with music by two American women composers, Libby Larsen and Margaret Bonds, and by Leonard Bernstein, in a new venue for the choir, the main hall of King's High School, Banbury Road, Warwick, where we are delighted to be joined by King's High School Senior Chamber Choir.
Many new members joined us last season and we look forward to welcoming many more to work with Lee Dunleavy, our very talented and energetic Musical Director, bringing great music to audiences in and around Leamington. For more details of this season see the Concerts & Events pages, and to find out more about joining the choir, follow the Sing with Us link below.
I hope to see you at our next concert.
Richard Taulbut Chairman
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