A Monteverdi triumph for our 21st anniversary

This was a special concert for us: revisiting in our 21st anniversary year the very first work that Pegasus performed!  A couple of current members of the choir were in that first concert, though the original singers were not blessed with the fantastic period-instrument orchestra we enjoyed in our peformance for the Tilford Bach Society on May 14. In fact, a few of the marvellous players – students from the Royal College of Music – may barely have been born when Pegasus first got going!

A large audience enjoyed the performance, and you can read their reactions, as well as a review of the concert from the Farnham Herald newspaper, here.

Choir and orchestra before rehearsal in Farnham

Choir and orchestra before rehearsal in Farnham

Mass in B Minor – soloists announced

We are delighted to announce the line-up of outstanding international soloists for our two upcoming performances of JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor on June 12 (Tilford Bach Festival, Surrey) and June 13 (St John’s, Smith Square, London).

British Soprano Julia Doyle and Croatian mezzo-soprano Renata Pokupic will join British tenor Charles Daniels and German bass Stephan Loges to perform the solo movements in the Mass. The London Handel Orchestra completes the starry roster of performers – along with Pegasus, of course! – under the direction of Adrian Butterfield. See the events page for more details, including a special discount ticket offer for the June 13 performance in London.

Pegasus turns 21!

2016 marks our 21st birthday, and we’re excited to announce a full and varied schedule of concerts for our anniversary year – looking back at some of our favourite works and striking out in some new directions as well!

From a “scratch” choir formed in 1995 for a one-off performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers, Pegasus has grown to be one of the UK’s leading and most active chamber choirs. We’re proud of our wide-ranging programming, our premieres of pieces by Thomas Adès, John Tavener and Francis Grier, our collaborations with choreographers, dancers and directors, and our ongoing work with prestigious musical partners such as the London Handel Festival and Tilford Bach Society. We continue to be glad to support important charities with our music-making, ranging from the Friends of Shakespeare’s Globe to Princess Alice Hospice. And we’ve enjoyed our critical acclaim in the press and our appearances on radio and television, as well as our international competition successes.

Classical and popular, sacred and secular, old and new: Pegasus has sung it all, and our concerts in 2016, taking place in London, Surrey and Sussex, will reflect that variety. There will be some of the great Baroque masterworks which our audiences love to hear as much as we enjoy performing them, including Handel’s Dixit Dominus (March 11) and J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor (June 12 & 13), all with the marvellous London Handel Orchestra. Our director, Matthew Altham, is particularly excited to be leading our concert of Monteverdi’s Vespers, commemorating our inaugural performance of the same work 21 years ago! In July we’ll sing a programme of works celebrating Shakespeare in the beautiful setting of Winchelsea in Sussex, to mark the 400th anniversary of his death. And November will take us to Grayshott in Surrey for Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, once more with the London Handel Orchestra.

We begin the year with an eclectic offering of pieces that have been among the choir’s favourites over the past few years. Pegasus singers are getting ready to vote on the selection that they’ll perform on February 7 at St George’s, Bloomsbury.  And later in the summer it’ll be your turn: we’ll give a concert of works voted for by our audiences – 21 pieces, in fact, if we can fit them all in!

Please check our Events page for more information about the concerts coming up in the first half of this exciting year. We’ll be updating it frequently as more information becomes available.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Winter Wassail at the Globe Theatre

It was a chilly morning for an early start with our “Winter Wassail” concert starting at 11am in the Globe’s indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, but afterwards the audience warmed up with some wassail punch and mince pies! We received some interesting instructions beforehand including a direction not to wear hairspray, due to all the candles and bare flames in the indoor theatre, making it a fire risk! But although it was cold outside, we received a fantastic and warm reception for our concert, and the playhouse was one of the most beautiful and intimate spaces in which we have ever performed. It was a great start to the season and we hope it is the first of many concerts we perform there. It certainly got us all into the Christmas spirit! 

Globe2    Globe1

It’s beginning to look a lot…

…like Christmas!

December is always a busy month for us, but one of the most enjoyable as we get thoroughly into the Christmas spirit with a number of concerts.

We’re thrilled to be making our debut at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe on Saturday, November 28. We’ve been part of the annual Christmas concert for the Friends of the Globe for about 10 years. Traditionally it has taken place at St Giles in the Field church, but this year it is being held in the wonderful ambience of the Jacobean indoor theatre at the Globe. As usual, there will be music from the choir alongside readings by actors from the Globe company, this year including Patrick Driver, Ryan McKen and Sheila Reid.

Our other main Christmas performance this year is another longtime engagement in support of the Prince Alice Hospice in Surrey. We’ll be part of their Candlelight Christmas concert on Saturday, December 12 in Claygate. This is always a warm and festive occasion in the charming Holy Trinity Church. As ever, Frank Renton will compere the evening, with seasonal and other readings by Michael Aspel. Our programme includes music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Mathias, Peter Warlock and John Rutter, as well as carols for the audience to sing.

We’ll be supporting another hospice – Trinity in Clapham – on December 10 at their annual Light up a Life carol concert at Trinity Church. There’ll be celebrity readers there too (do you sense a theme to these events?).But in past years, even our best musical efforts, not to mention the reciting skills of the likes of Prunella Scales and Timothy West, have been upstaged by the choir of children from local schools.No one can compete with adorable kids singing and waving streamers!

Finally, for the first time this year we’ll be singing at the Christmas carol service for Charterhouse in the City of London. Having sung in the chapel there several times, most recently with a programme of French music last September, we’re looking forward to returning with seasonal music for the residents of Charterhouse and people from the local community. And then it will be time for a well-earned Yuletide rest…

Pegasus triumphs in Tours

Held annually since 1962, the Florilège forms part of a network of choral competitions in Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria. This year’s competition involved seventeen choirs selected from around the world, including seven from France.

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Francis Poulenc, the Académie Francis Poulenc, based in Tours, initiated a special prize which was awarded to Pegasus for their performance of two works by the composer.

Twenty-three members of the choir spent more than three months preparing for the competition, polishing old repertoire and learning new pieces by heart.

“The rehearsal period was very intense compared to other projects, and memorising the music was very challenging. But everyone was extremely hardworking and focused,” said Kirstin Gillon, a member of the alto section.

The choir had to prepare two 15-minute programmes for the first two rounds of the competition, plus the two works by Poulenc to compete for the special prize named for the composer. The repertoire included Purcell, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Rautavaara, Pascanu and Gabriel Jackson, as well as Francis Grier’s A Baby Asleep after Pain, which Pegasus commissioned and premiered in 2012.

“The extra rehearsals gave us time to prepare the music to the highest standard. It was great to have time not only to memorize but to bed it down, so that we could be both relaxed and focused on the music and the performance,” said alto Natasha Woodward.

The choir travelled by Eurostar to Tours, where the singers found the town alive with anticipation for the event. Some of the countries represented in the competition included Italy, Norway, the Philippines, Sweden, and the United States.  

Mezzo-Soprano Leonora Dawson-Bowling recalls her elation upon learning that, having sung in the first two rounds of the competition, Pegasus had made it through to the Grand Prix round.

“A couple of us were waiting on tenterhooks in the theatre foyer,” she said. “I thought I’d seen our name on the tiny scrap of paper being handed over but still doubted myself until they publicly announced the finalists. And there we were!”

The news definitely gave an extra zing to the choir’s competition performance of the two Poulenc works — Tristis est anima mea and Bois meurtri — later that evening, Kirstin said. Samir Savant, a tenor and the choir’s manager, felt that it was very apposite that the choir was singing Bois meurtri, which sets a poem written by Paul Eluard  during the second world war as a coded act of resistance. As the Nazis occupied Paris , the resistance government had fled and temporarily set up office in Tours itself. Leonora describes both pieces – one religious, one secular – as “fabulously challenging and emotional”. Kirstin adds, “The sparkling wine afterwards, in the bar over the road from the theatre, was well deserved!”

Pegasus had prepared three additional pieces for the Grand Prix programme on Sunday afternoon, including Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, Vaughan Williams’s The Cloud-capp’d Towers  and the Kyrie from Josef Rheinberger’s Cantus Missae for double choir. These works joined Purcell’s Hear my prayer and the Grier commission, with Pascanu’s exuberant Sarba Dance on a Chair as a foot-stomping finale.

“The atmosphere in the theatre before the prizes were announced was wonderfully electric,” said Leonora.  “Choirs from all over the world joined together singing spontaneously – admittedly mainly cheesy pop classics!”

According to the local newspaper, standards at this competition were even higher than in previous years. Although thrilled to win in the chamber choir category, conductor Matthew Altham said he felt it was the Poulenc prize that was the greatest achievement.

“The whole choir shot up in their seats,” when the award was announced, said Leonora.  “I was really thrilled, especially when we then learnt we’d come first in four out of five of the categories they judged it on. And against eight or nine other choirs, including two French ones.”

Apart from the competition, the choir members enjoyed sampling the local cuisine and wine, while taking care to conserve their voices, of course! There was also opportunity to see some of the other choirs in performance and hear new repertoire.

“I got chatting with the choir from Madison (Wisconsin), who were lovely and great fun,” Leonora said.  “They had put in so much work, not to mention raising the finances to come all the way from the States.”

Everyone brought home good memories of the event. For Natasha, as for a number of others, it was the experience of performing to the highest standard the choir was capable of that made the trip to Tours special.

“The freedom of singing without music gave us a closer connection with other singers and with the conductor, composer and audience,” she said.

The choir of choice for Handel

We are delighted and honoured that the Handel Institute has invited Pegasus to perform with the London Handel Orchestra on Saturday, 21 November. The institute promotes the study and appreciation of the life and music of the great composer and his 18th-century contemporaries. Its annual conference takes place in London this year from 21-23 November. The concert will be conducted by Laurence Cummings, who is director of the London Handel Orchestra and a trustee of the Handel Institute.

This will be the second time this year that Pegasus has performed with the London Handel Orchestra, having sung Handel’s Chandos Anthems and Dixit Dominus in March.

November’s concert takes place on the eve of the feast day of St Cecilia, patron saint of music and musicians, and the concert reflects this with Handel’s great Ode for St Cecilia’s Day. Handel’s music will sound particularly fine in the warm acoustic of St George’s Church, an architectural gem that was built during the time that Handel was living in London, and one that he would doubtless have been familiar with.

Also on the programme on 21 November is Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia, a ravishing setting of a text by W.H. Auden which Britten composed on board a ship that was taking him back to the UK from the United States during the second world war. Auden’s text includes a sly allusion to the young composer, whose birthday fell on St Cecilia’s Day.

The concert is open to members of the public as well as conference attendees. For full programme details and to book tickets, click here.

Requiem and more!

We return to the Brandenburg Choral Festival of London with a beautiful programme of choral works, featuring Gabriel Fauré’s renowned setting of the Requiem mass, alongside music from our forthcoming CD of works written in the shadow of the First World War, For the Fallen.

Our programme includes works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Holst, Wood and Ravel. We will also sing a stunning arrangement for sixteen-part choir of Gustav Mahler’s Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen and William Walton’s anthem The Twelve, a bravura setting of words by W.H. Auden. Matthew Altham directs the choir, with organ accompaniment by Martin Toyer.

To book tickets online click here:  Tickets will also be available on the door.

faure requiem

Pegasus charms at Charterhouse

A large audience filled Charterhouse’s chapel at the end of Open House London weekend to hear Pegasus present a programme called “From Agincourt to Waterloo”, commemorating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

Beginning with the Agincourt Carol, one of the earliest surviving works written in English, which celebrates the famous victory over the French, we continued with pieces mostly written in the century following that battle by composers living in the area around Agincourt, or around Waterloo – site of another famous conflict 400 years later. The concert included the Agnus Dei from Josquin’s mass based on the “chanson” L’homme armé, preceded by a rendition of the song itself; Jean Mouton’s piercingly lovely Nesciens mater; and the stark and moving Lamentations by Antoine Brumel. For contrast, we sang Claude Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Charles D’Orléans – little to do with the time of Agincourt, one might think, but the author of the poems was in fact captured at that battle.

Relaxing in the sunshine at Charterhouse

Relaxing in the sunshine at Charterhouse

Two more songs from across the Channel punctuated the French works – William Cornysh’s Ah Robin (familiar to anyone who watched the recent TV adaptation of Wolf Hall) and Pastyme with good companye, attributed to none other than Henry VIII. We finished by gallantly handing victory to the French in Clément Janequin’s rambunctious La Guerre, which filled Charterhouse’s beautiful chapel with the (musical) sound of battle.

Audience members told us they enjoyed Pegasus’s “stunning voices in perfect harmony” and “amazing singing”. We’re grateful to the Master and Chaplain for hosting us at Charterhouse, a venue not normally open to the public, and we look forward to returning there – if you missed the opportunity to visit, watch for news of a future performance.

Rehearsing in Charterhouse Chapel

Rehearsing in Charterhouse Chapel

 

Pegasus turns 21!

From a “scratch” choir formed in 1995 for a one-off performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers, Pegasus has grown to be one of the UK’s leading and most active chamber choirs. Samir Savant, our producer, co-founded the choir and has been involved from the beginning, and several of our current members have been in Pegasus almost as long! We’re proud of our wide-ranging programming, our collaborations with choreographers, dancers and directors, our ongoing work with prestigious musical partners, such as the London Handel Festival and Tilford Bach Society, our support of important charities ranging from the Friends of Shakespeare’s Globe to Princess Alice Hospice, our premieres of pieces by Thomas Adès, John Tavener and Francis Grier, our critical acclaim in the press and our appearances on radio and television, as well as our international competition successes.

Classical and popular, sacred and secular, old and new: Pegasus has sung it all—and in about 15 languages! Can we make it 21 by the end of our anniversary year? Stay tuned: we’re finalizing our concert diary and in the autumn we’ll announce a veritable cornucopia of concerts for our 21st birthday year.