Our London Choral Days put outstanding and exciting choral ensembles in some of the most beautiful buildings in the capital. They take the form of a day-long sequence of performances, talks, lunch and refreshments, the audience moving between the venues on foot.
The days are conceived not as three discrete concerts but as an integrated, overarching musical experience in which the individual parts illumine and enlarge upon what has gone before. Usually there is some connection between the venues and the music performed in them, which may be chronological – music of the same period as the building – or associational: a specific historical link between music and building.
After the great successes of Chelsea and Marylebone, the next London Choral Day begins in the shadow of Westminster Abbey and progresses across the river to Lambeth.
Here, beside the Thames and enclosed within high brick walls, lies a clutch of highly important historic buildings: Lambeth Palace, residence, offices and library of the Archbishop of Canterbury. As both home and workplace, access is restricted; perhaps this is the least visited of London’s major architectural precincts, and we are grateful to have been accorded the privilege of presenting two concerts and a lecture in three different spaces within the complex.
St Margaret’s, Westminster
Beginning life in the twelfth century as the parish church of Westminster, St Margaret’s stands on a site which once lay within the precincts of Westminster Abbey; the formidable bulk of the abbey church rises only a few yards to the south. One of the very few pre-Reformation churches to survive in London, its current form dates largely to a rebuilding completed in 1523, though there have been frequent interventions for restoration and embellishment. The stained glass is of particular interest.
The superb professional choir of St Margaret’s is one of the finest liturgical choirs in the country. Aidan Oliver, Director of Music at St Margaret’s since 2003, is one of the UK’s leading choral directors, working across the whole spectrum of symphonic, liturgical, operatic and contemporary music.
Today’s programme juxtaposes works from the period following the church’s rebuilding in 1523, including Gibbons, Weelkes, Tomkins and Byrd. To this is added 20th-century and contemporary works showcasing the current vibrant musical tradition of St Margaret’s – Dove, Macmillan, Grier and others.
Lambeth Palace, the Chapel
The beautiful chapel, Early Gothic in style, dates to c.1230, though a combination of Puritanism and World War Two bombing has necessitated fairly extensive (if sympathetic) restoration. Its small size requires the concert here to be repeated; the other half of the audience attends a talk in the Guard Room, which has a fourteenth-century roof with braces of traceried timber.
The Gesualdo Six comprises some of the UK’s finest young consort singers, most of whom cut their chorister teeth in the cathedral or college systems. Formed in 2014, they have rapidly established themselves as an exceptional ensemble, travelling widely abroad as well as in the UK. The director is Owain Park, who is also a prominent composer.
Lambeth Palace, Great Hall
‘Londoners and strangers do not usually appreciate the fact that London possesses in the palace a complex of domestic buildings largely medieval and wholly picturesque which is of the greatest interest and merit.’ This verdict remains as true today as when Nikolaus Pevsner wrote it seventy years ago.
The magnificent Great Hall was rebuilt 1660–3, the style deliberately archaic to assert continuity after the turmoil of the Interregnum; it can plausibly be designated as the first instance of the Gothic Revival. Recently restored and emptied, this is a spectacular space for the final concert.
The Choir of Royal Holloway, under their director Rupert Gough, is considered one of the finest mixed-voice collegiate choirs in the country. The 24 choral scholars undertake a busy schedule of services, concerts and tours and have recorded for Hyperion Records. Their programme includes early Tudor music from the Lambeth Choirbook, one of the palace’s greatest treasures, through to Tallis and Byrd and on to Blow and Purcell.
11.30am at St Margaret’s Westminster. Doors open at 11.10am.
c.5.40pm at Lambeth Palace.
For those who do not choose the vehicular option, there are walks at a leisurely pace of, at most 15 minutes, (waiting at pedestrian crossings included). There is the option of signing up in advance for taxis to avoid the walks at a cost of £20 per person.
Price, per person
£215 (or £235 with transport by taxi as specified above). This includes lunch and afternoon refreshments as well as exclusive admission to the three concerts and the lecture.
Lunch and refreshments
Lunch in good restaurants; the audience is split between several. 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.