Joanna Ward's 'The Banquet' premiered at Evensong

Posted on: 6 November 2017

Joanna Ward

On Thursday 26 October, the Choir performed the first commission of the term: 'The Banquet' by undergraduate Joanna Ward. The piece featured men's voices and a double bass, played by Joe Cowie, and it was funded with generous support from Paul & Joanna Lindsell and Jeremy & Jodie Podger. You can listen to it below:

Joanna is a 19-year-old composer from Newcastle upon Tyne, currently reading music at Jesus College, Cambridge. Her works have been commissioned and workshoped by organisations including the Royal Northern Sinfonia, the St Andrews Voices Festival, the Gesualdo Six and the Cambridge Music Festival. She is currently part of the prestigous Sound and Music Scheme 'Next Wave' and the Helios Collective's 'Formations 2017,' a platform for the creation and production of new opera.

Joanna said of the work: "The brevity and simplicity of the text I chose to set, a fragment from the Song of Solomon, allowed a static, minimal framework to be built, to which I then added textural and tonal detail to give the work its trajectory and coherence. The inclusion of the double bass complements the richness of the men's voice ensemble, whilst adding timbral and textural complexity."

Andrew Nethsingha, who conducted the piece, said "I was delighted with Joanna Ward's new work. The textures and ideas are imaginative and are unlike other contemporary choral music I know. Joanna has an original compositional voice and I look forward to getting to know more of her music.

"It was lovely that those who gave money to enable the work to be commissioned were also very pleased at the result. I enjoy having new music written for unusual combinations of choir and solo instrument. Joanna’s juxtaposition of men’s voices and double bass is very effective."

It was fantastic to see so many members of Jesus College Choir at the premiere, as Joanna is herself a singer in that choir. Richard Pinel, the Director of Music at Jesus College, was also at the Evensong: "It was a real privilege to be able to hear the premiere of Joanna Ward’s The Banquet during evensong at St John’s College. Joanna’s very imaginative and skillful mixture of men’s voices and double bass came across to great effect, demonstrating both her creative flair and the very high standards of singing that are synonymous with St John’s Chapel."

You can listen to the piece in full at the top of this page. Watch the video (with Joanna's thoughts on the work) below.

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15 March 2022
  • Responses and Preces: Radcliffe
  • Psalm 18 vv. 1-6 (tone i)
  • Readings: Ezekiel 36.22-27, Acts 19.1-10
  • Howells (Collegium Regale)
  • Elgar: Give unto the Lord
  • Voluntary: Bach  Prelude in C minor
Nethsingha is his own man and absolutely his own musician, which is why his choir continues to evolve and lead

Andrew Mellor, Gramophone