A day-long sequence of performances, talks and refreshments, our London Choral Days place outstanding choirs in some of the most beautiful and apposite buildings in the capital. The music on this, the fourth such day, would be a perfect way to start easing into the festive season as most is related to the Christmas story.
Festive choral music is an indispensable part of the Christmas season. Its earliest manifestation comes in hymnographic chants and litanies. St Francis of Assisi’s instigation of nativity plays in the 13th century, aimed at educating the illiterate, saw the rise of Christmas music written in the vernacular, and this spread throughout Europe. Two centuries later, the growing cult of the Virgin prompted a blossoming of festive music connected with Christmas. In the 18th century the soliciting of alms through carol singing on the street was licensed and this period saw the flourishing of the traditional Christmas carol.
The three churches are all within easy walking distance of each other, as are the restaurants for lunch.
St Clement Danes
A church is believed to have stood on this site since the ninth century but was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 by Christopher Wren. The tower and a spire were added by James Gibbs in 1719. It enjoyed Empire-wide renown through the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons. Damaged during the Blitz, it was restored in 1958 and became the central church of the Royal Air Force, and is beautifully looked after.
Sansara performed on the inaugural London Choral day and we are delighted they are joining us for our first winter event. Founded in 2013, Sansara is a dynamic and innovative chamber choir which brings together many of the UK’s finest young singers. It has received high praise from audiences and reviewers alike, and in 2015 won the London International A Cappella Choir Competition. Tom Herring is artistic director.
The programme anticipates Christmas through the juxtaposition of works by masters of the Renaissance with well-known pieces by 20th and 21st century composers. The complex polyphony of Tallis and Byrd is contrasted with more homophonic textures in pieces by Britten, MacMillan, Kerensa Briggs and Sansara associate composer, Oliver Tarney.
In the list of London’s medieval architecture, the Temple Church ranks second only to Westminster Abbey in the ecclesiastical category. The round nave, finished c. 1185, is a homage to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; this was the London base of the Templar Order. The chancel, with its cutting edge design and breathtakingly slender Purbeck pillars, was added c. 1220–40. Henry III wanted to be buried here until he decided to fund the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey.
The Temple Singers is an established professional ensemble, founded in 2006, which contributes to the liturgical and concert life of the Temple Church. The ensemble can often be heard at the regular Choral Evensong. It has participated in fully-staged productions of Dido and Aeneas and The Fairy Queen in Middle Temple Hall.
Their programme today ranges from Handel (For unto us a child is born) to Whitacre and Rutter, via Harold Darke’s In the bleak mid winter and the Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Vaughan Williams.
King’s College Chapel
King’s College Chapel is one of London’s little-known gems, a startling contrast to Robert Smirke’s Neo-Classical building (1829) into which it was inserted in the 1860s. Here George Gilbert Scott created one of his most eclectic and colourful interiors, more Byzantine and Italian Romanesque than Gothic. The unappreciative next century obliterated the vaults and applied pastel paints, but an exemplary restoration completed in 2000 has returned the chapel to much of its former glory.
As passionate as it is disciplined, the choir of King’s College London is one of England’s leading university choirs. The college has had a choral tradition since the installation of a Father Willis organ in 1866. The choir has existed in its present form since 1945 and is now directed by Joseph Fort.
Francis Poulenc’s Quatre Motets pour le temps de Noël are among the most pristine 20th-century settings of Christmas texts. They depict in sequence the mystery of Jesus in the manger, the shepherds attending, the wise men following the star and the choir of angels rejoicing. Poulenc’s motets are interspersed with other carols, and Schoenberg’s high-Romantic choral work Friede auf Erden which translates the shepherds’ rustic song into an angelic hymn for peace.
11.30am at St Clement Danes, Strand.
No walk is more than 10–15 minutes (waiting at pedestrian crossings included).
£215. This includes lunch and afternoon refreshments as well as exclusive admission to the three concerts. Lunch and refreshments: the audience is split in two for lunch at pub restaurants. Refreshments are served in the afternoon between the concerts.
We will return the full amount if you notify us 22 or more days before the event. We will retain 50% if cancellation is made within three weeks and 100% if within three days. Please put your cancellation in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. We advise taking out insurance in case of cancellation and recommend that overseas clients are also covered for possible medical and repatriation costs.
The Choral Day was the highlight of my six week trip to the UK and Europe this year.
A brilliantly well-organised and thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The churches selected for the music venues were well chosen for their architectural interest and as complements to the music programme.
Beautiful singing in the best English choral tradition. A lovely mixture of sacred & secular song.
It's a wonderful day, superbly organised, with excellent choirs, very interesting churches and a good lunch.