Saturday, 27 March 2010

Ralph Vaughan Williams Naxos CD Launch 24 March 2010

The evening got off to a dreadful start. Well, embarrassing really: at least for me. I had arrived at the Royal College of Music early. In fact, I had been in the library looking up a few references until some twenty minutes before the event began. ‘Kill two birds with the one stone’ and all that. I was in the first wave of guests to arrive at the Parry Room. My badge was collected from the desk ‘John France- MusicWeb International’. I sallied forth to network, socialise and find the drinks table. Anyhow, halfway to the bar, I met a man. I squinted at his badge and said to him – ‘David Hill – that name sounds familiar.’ He replied very gently that he was the conductor of the Bach Choir and pointed to the giant print of the CD cover of the new R.V.W. disc – his name featured prominently. I grovelled an apology, suggested that I had got it into my head that it was David Lloyd-Jones who was waving the stick: I redirected my steps to the man pouring out the Vino Bianco.
Lessons learnt? ‘Do your homework’, as my teachers used to insist.

The Bach Choir is a venerable institution: it was mooted on 1875 when a certain Arthur Coleridge realised that there had never been a performance in England of Bach’s Mass in B minor. The following year the Choir conducted by Otto Goldschmidt performed this great work at their two inaugural concerts. Throughout the succeeding decades they have been at the forefront of choral music-making in the United Kingdom and around the world. Some of the biggest names in British music have been musical directors of the Bach Choir – Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Dr. Ralph Vaughan Williams and Sir David Wilcocks. David Hill, as I found out, has been Musical Director since 1998 (I did know that, honest guv!) and under his leadership The Bach Choir has gone from strength to strength. In these days a greater emphasis has been placed on ‘new and challenging’ works. Premieres of works by John Tavener, Diana Burrell Naji Hakim and Carl Rütti have been important additions to the repertoire. However for many folk the choir is largely associated with big works by Bach, Howells and Vaughan Williams.

The main reason that some fifty or so people had gathered in the Parry Room was to toast the launch of a stunning new CD release from NAXOS of Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis pacem and Sancta Civitas. The Bach Choir, assisted by the Winchester Cathedral Choristers and the three soloists, Christina Pier, Matthew Brook and Andrew Staples provided the superb choral and vocal parts to this CD, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra providing the accompaniment. And everyone was brought together by David Hill.

Amongst the guests at the CD launch were fair sprinkling of choir members: it was good to hear their views on both music and repertoire .Much excitement was building up concerning the forthcoming performance of the St. Matthew Passion at the Royal Festival Hall on Palm Sunday. One of the great things about these dos (apart from the wine and the nibbles) is the opportunity to mingle. I met lots of interesting people there –from organists to record producers by ways of opera singers, music publisher and critics. It is, as a famous advert once suggested – ‘Good to Talk’.
Much interest was shown in MusicWeb international: there was a general recognition amongst those I spoke that online reviews and essays are an important and successful way of publicising CDs and classical music.

Slowly but surely people began to leave. The ‘wine-waiter’ was generously topping up glasses. Little groups of people were still discussing music. I said my goodbyes and picked up my ‘goody bag’ which contained a welcome copy of the newly launched CD.

One last thought. I understand that Dr. Vaughan Williams used to have his office adjacent to the Parry Rooms. His shade must have been delighted with the quality of this new CD and with the enthusiasm of all who were gathered to celebrate its launch and his memory.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem & Sancta Civitas NAXOS 8.572424


Anonymous said...

The soprano is Christina (not Christian) Pier

John France said...

Thanks Anon,

Sorted. And sorry abouut that...