Christmas Concert Series with organist Thomas Trotter a success
Posted on: 22 December 2017
We recently completed a successful Christmas Concert tour to Birmingham, Budapest, and Berlin, performing alongside the renowned concert organist Thomas Trotter.
Our first engagement at Birmingham Symphony Hall very nearly didn't happen: heavy snowfall across the UK – which was particularly heavy in the West Midlands – almost forced us to cancel, but in the end our coach made it through the weather on time. We are so grateful to the audience who braved the weather to come and see us! It was fantastic for us to visit the hall with Thomas again: he is both Resident Organist of the Klais organ there as well as the Birmingham's City Organist.
Have a watch of John Rutter's 'There is a flower' which we sang at the Hall (John Rutter wrote this piece for us in 1985):
Our journey to our second venue began with an early coach trip from Cambridge to Heathrow for what was a fairly eventful wait for our flight. On arrival at check-in, one of the Gents discovered they had brought the wrong (i.e. out-of-date) passport with them. Thanks to the diligence of the Chapel Clerk, Stephen Stokes – who picked up the correct passport and made a hasty trip to the airport with only minutes to spare – our very fortunate colleague was able to join us for the flight.
It wasn't as trying an experience for some of the other Gents: as one of the Choral Scholars was by chance booked in on seat '25D' (25th December) he had the pleasure of being upgraded to First Class by British Airways, and along some of the other Gents he was able to spend the duration of our stay in the First Class Lounge. Our Director Andrew understandably felt a little left out, and in the spirit of the age he took to Twitter to make his feelings known (see inset image).
Our flight went without hitch, and concluded with a customary performance of 'Jingle Bells' from the Gents on board. On arrival at Budapest's Ferenc (Franz) Liszt International Airport, we proceeded to the Danubius Hotel, which was the same accommodation we used on our visit to Budapest ten years ago. It was fully kitted out with up-to-date amenities, including its own sauna and dentistry facilities, and we were pleased with the hearty buffet dinner that included a plethora of breaded meats.
The next morning, the Choir had the morning to explore Budapest before rehearsals. The boys were able to visit a Christmas Market, where they could do a spot of Christmas Shopping for their families. Some of the Gents visited the stunning 18th Century St Stephen's Basilica, whilst Andrew went inside the Gellért Hill Cave, a small church inside a cavern which is maintained by a group of Pauline monks.
The Müpa Budapest (formerly 'Palace of the Arts') is a relatively new venue (2004) with a variety of different performance spaces. Our concert took place in the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, which has a very fine organ – one of Europe's largest – built under the cooperation of Pécsi Orgonaépítő Manufaktúra and Mühleisen Orgelbau Stuttgart. After rehearsals the Gentlemen of St John's gave a brief concert as part of the venue's Staff Christmas Party. For the main performance the hall was packed, having been sold out for months before our arrival, and we were so grateful for the warm reception they gave us.
It was a quick (and early!) turnaround the next morning in order to get to Berlin to perform at the Berlin Konzerthaus. Located in the centre of the city, this classical masterpiece started out as a theatre and only later became a concert venue. It has rather illustrious list of premieres and performers to its name: the Berlin premiere of Beethoven 9 and the world premiere of Weber's Der Freischütz took place there, and it has played host to Paganini, Lizst, and in 1989 Bernstein, who conduced a performance of Beethoven 9 inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the Choir's first performance at the venue.
In rehearsals the Choir sang a special rendition of Happy Birthday to the Chaplain Carol, who was celebrating her 50th Birthday this week. We're so grateful for her support on tour, it was great to have her with us!
The concert was another great success with a receptive audience and incredible organ playing from Thomas (his solo pieces were captivating!).With the final concert over, we made our way back to the UK for the holidays; we'd had a fantastic time! here's some of the Choir to share some of their favourite experiences: