Newsletter Summer 2017


Chair’s Introduction

Director of Music’s pre-season notes


Online learning resources

Friends of GMCS



Hello and Welcome Everyone to our Summer Newsletter.

Congratulations to everyone who played a part in the April Concert of the Bach B Minor Mass.  All the effort put in by each and every one of you showed in a brilliant performance, enjoyed by a large and highly appreciative audience.  I know that many of us are grateful for the work John put in to our knowledge and understanding of the work, especially with the workshop at the Abbey early in the term, and with Michael and Rhidian, in rehearsing with us this monumental piece.  John has said already and will reiterate at the AGM how moved he was by the performance, which he considers one of the best he has ever conducted.

It was a joy to have our guest singers performing with us and we thank them and the soloists, too, for a splendid concert.  We also must thank our Concert Manager, Ron, and his magnificent team for his excellent organisation of all the myriad practical arrangements to allow all of us performers to give of our best at the performance.  I wish to give my thanks also to the committee members and those supporting us for all their hard work to make the concert possible and sustain the choir’s financial and other arrangements.

So now having a time to unwind and relax across the spring and summer it is time to start thinking of the next season.  Our next concert on Saturday, 16 December, will be entirely different with an “Utterly Italy” theme including music by Monteverdi, 450 years after his birth, Gabrieli, Marenzio, Scarlatti, Albinoni, Verdi and Vivaldi.  Many of us will have sung some of the music before and will no doubt be looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with it, whilst no doubt we shall all find something new and exciting in the programme.  John’s musical notes are below, giving us the context in which the music was written and key points about the pieces.

We start rehearsals again on Monday, 4 September, straight after our AGM which will take place at 7.30pm in the Oldham Hall, where we undertake our regular practices.  Members will already have received the paperwork relating to this and will be aware that we still would be delighted to know if anybody would wish to be a committee member or put forward another member to join the committee.  We are fortunate to have such able members of the choir who help in this way to ensure its continuing firm financial and practical status.  It is a strong team and we like to help and support each other whilst enjoying meeting together to make our future plans.  Everybody has something to contribute, so please do not feel daunted by offering to join us.

You will find more about the choir and matters relating to the coming term in the newsletter.  I hope that you will find it interesting and something to stimulate you whilst you enjoy the rest of the summer holidays.




With Bach’s great B minor Mass now so successfully behind us, I hope the memories of and pride in that achievement will remain with you all for a very long time.  But now I am looking forward eagerly to the coming new season, as I hope you are too.  The actual programmes have already been announced, but the following notes will remind you of them and will give you some more information about each one. The aim has been to choose wonderful music which will provide a cheaper season in respect of soloists and orchestral forces after the heavier expense of the Bach Mass.


Moved by the realisation that 2017 marks 450 years since the birth of Monteverdi, I recommended to the Committee that this ought to be recognised in our December concert, not with his Vespers (because everyone will probably be singing that!), but by a couple of his shorter pieces along with other short works by other Italian composers, and culminating in the ever popular Vivaldi’s Gloria. So the programme for Saturday, 16 December at Great Missenden Church looks like this:



Monteverdi:  Cantata Domino

Monteverdi:  Beatus vir

A. Gabrieli:   Angelus ad Pastores ait

Marenzio:     Hodie Christus natus est

A. Scarlatti:   Dixit Dominus in B flat


Albinoni:      Magnificat

Verdi:           Pater Noster

Vivaldi:        Gloria

Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) lived to the age of 76 and during his life acquired for himself a unique position in the history of music. ‘Cantate Domine’ (‘Sing unto the Lord’) is one of his short (about 3 minutes!), bright polyphonic motets written in his later years with echoes of his earlier madrigal style –  a good starter.  ‘Beatus vir’ (‘Blessed is the man who fears the Lord’) is a marvellous setting of Psalm 112, probably composed in 1630. It is a superb example of Monteverdi’s dramatic style with alternating soloists and chorus passages. Andrea Gabrieli (1510 – 1586), uncle of the later Giovanni Gabrieli, served at St. Mark’s, Venice as a singer and later as one of its organists. He wrote much for choir and organ, and ‘Angelus ad Pastores ait’ (An angel came to the shepherds’) is his third antiphon for Christmas Day.  Likewise, ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ (‘Today Christ is born’) by Luca Marenzio (1553 – 1599) is an unaccompanied, joyful four-part motet celebrating the birth of Christ. Marenzio held important musical positions in Rome and Warsaw and composed in a style which in many ways paved the way for the arrival of Monteverdi. Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 – 1725) was the father of Domenico and was a great opera composer and founder of the Neapolitan school of opera.

His development of harmony and form prepared the road for the great achievements of the Haydn/Mozart period. His B flat setting of the Vesper Psalm 110 ‘Dixit Dominus’ (‘The Lord said unto my Lord‘) is of about 30 minutes duration and is one of three by him which survive. It is scored for four soloists, chorus and orchestra and contains four splendid solo arias and four sparkling choruses including a mighty choral fugue at the close. The short setting of the Magnificat by Tomaso Albinoni (1671 – 1750) is a beautiful, compact version and not difficult to sing.  He was himself a Venetian singer and a violinist, and he composed over 40 operas as well as many other compositions for various combinations. Following the Magnificat, we shall move forward to the 19th century and change style for the fantastic 5-minute setting of the Lord’s Prayer by Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901), the composer of so many grand operas. Apart from the well-known Requiem, very little of Verdi’s choral music is performed in English-speaking countries, so it will be good to honour him with this very moving little gem. (Have you ever sung in Italian before?).  Finally, everyone loves singing the famous ‘Gloria’ by Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741) and, being a great favourite with audiences, it is always good box office. Vivaldi was trained in music by his father, and later took Holy Orders and became known as the ’red-headed priest’. We last performed the ‘Gloria’ at Great Missenden in 1998 as part of the Golden Jubilee concert, so it is high time we gave it another airing. As most of you will know, it is sheer joy from start to finish, and I am arranging it to include all of our four soloists rather than the usual two. All the soloists will be supported by the Josephine Baker Trust.   Now, if this programme seems like a lot of music to get through, please don’t be put off – only the Scarlatti and Vivaldi works are of any length and all the other pieces are short.

For the Spring concert on Saturday, 28 April 2018 I thought it would be good, after the Bach and Italian concerts, to move away from wholly sacred music.  So we have chosen this attractive, secular, English programme which, with its eminent suitability for the time of year, I’m sure you will enjoy.


Purcell: Welcome to all the Pleasures

Tony Hewitt-Jones: Seven Sea Poems


E.J.Moeran: Songs of Springtime

Finzi: Let us garlands bring (for baritone solo and strings)

Vaughan Williams:   Five Mystical Songs

 Purcell (1659 – 1695) wrote four St. Cecilia Odes (one to Latin words) to help crown the annual celebration of London’s new-found love of concert music.  St. Cecilia’s day is of course in November, but ‘Welcome to all the Pleasures’, written in 1683 for chorus and strings, is just as well suited to a Springtime concert. Tony Hewitt-Jones (1926 – 1989) was the County Music Organiser for Gloucestershire where he earned the reputation of being a fine musician and a man well-loved by all who knew and worked with him. Although he was modest about it, he plainly was very fond of his ‘Seven Sea Poems’ which, quite rightly, have won great appeal for choirs lucky enough to come across the work. It was written in 1958 and dedicated to Bernard Rose under whom THJ studied at Oxford.   Not surprisingly, the music has the ring of other great English composers – Vaughan Williams, Britten, Bliss and even Herbert Howells – but it does have an individual character, and I think you will be able to discern a personal tone of voice among the apparently familiar turns of phrase. The descriptive words are from poems by William Henry Davies, Shakespeare, Masefield, Robert Browning and others.  I have conducted performances of this work with other choirs who thoroughly enjoyed learning and singing it. I know you will too.  The scoring is for baritone solo, chorus, oboe and strings. E.J. Moeran (1894 – 1950) came of Irish descent but lived most of his life in Norfolk.  He studied under John Ireland at the Royal College of Music in London. During his life he wrote much chamber and vocal music, and his ’Songs of Springtime’, set to Elizabethan poems, are among his best known unaccompanied compositions and very singable.  ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’, ‘The River-God’s Song’, ‘Spring, the sweet Spring’ and ‘Good Wine’ are just four of the firm favourites with choirs and audiences.  No programme of English music would be complete without an item by Gerald Finzi (1901 – 1956), and although it is written for only baritone solo and orchestra, you will love listening to his ‘Let us garlands bring’ at the concert. It is a work of great and intense beauty. Finally, the popular ‘Five Mystical Songs’ by Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) will bring the concert to a close with the rousing last number ‘Let all the world in every corner sing’, with baritone, chorus, strings and piano. VW was a great believer in the value of music festivals, and this work was heard first at the Three Choirs Festival at Worcester in 1911.  The settings of 17th century poems by George Herbert show the more visionary elements in VW’s music, and although the last two songs have become well known in other settings as hymns and anthems, they have never been more fittingly set to music than here. What a super time we shall have with this programme!

See you on 4 September. I’ll be all ready, and eager to start!




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Naxos recordings

Many of the items which we sing, as well as much other music, is available to listen to via Naxos online. To listen to these recordings go to:

You cannot save the recording to a disk.

Cyberbass is an online resource which assists part learning.  It contains the major choral  works, and you can select your own voice part to listen and sing along to.  You can also slow the playback down!

You might also try: ,  and amongst others.



You may have friends or family who would be interested in becoming a FRIEND of GMCS.  They could enjoy great benefits: tickets to our Christmas and Spring concerts, reserved seats and a free programme.  If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Linda Collins on


August 21st, 2017