The following blog post was written by VocalEssence Managing Director Mary Ann Pulk.
Yesterday, the Ensemble Singers began their final day in England in Cambridge after a fabulous concert at King’s College. As we drove back to London, we got our final look at the beautiful countryside and incredibly green grass – something we won’t see for quite a while back in Minnesota.
We arrived in London at Notting Hill’s Portobello Road Market. There were wall to wall people on Saturday morning and every antique you could possibly imagine. While looking for Hugh Grant, just about everyone bought last minute treasures. Then, it was on to the BBC studios at Maida Vale for rehearsal with the BBC Singers—an amazing group of 24 artists who are a full time professional choir—one of the few like it in the world.
Our collaboration was on the occasion of Stephen Cleobury’s 60th birthday, who is their conductor laureate. The BBC choir sang three selections by British composers Giles Swayne, Frances Grier and Edward Cowie, followed by four premieres especially commissioned for the celebrated. Represented in this group were a number of composers VocalEssence has performed and commissioned over the years including Gabriel Jackson, Bob Chilcott, Judith Bingham and Judith Weir.
Performing Aaron Kernis, Eric Whitacre and a rousing spiritual by Moses Hogan, the Ensemble Singers wowed the usually reserved Brits who responded enthusiastically to our singers and set the stage for the final work with the combined choirs, Richard Strauss’s Deutsche Motette. With over 60 singers and four soloists performing a vocal high-wire act, the work is a veritable “wall of sound!” It was a once in a lifetime experience for most of our singers and the audience, as Strauss treats the voices like a symphony orchestra to amazing effect—and the audience loved it! Afterward, we all celebrated at a reception where it was wonderful to hear the mutual admiration between the two groups of singers. Then it was back to the hotel for food, drink and general rejoicing! It was an amazing trip for all of us and the Ensemble Singers performed six absolutely stellar concerts! (You can view photos of our final day on our photo blog.) Now, back to snowy Minnesota…