Stanford University Chorale visited St John's College in June for a well-received weekend's residency, including two Evensongs, on Friday and Saturday 17 & 18 June, and a concert in Chapel on Sunday 19.
Hailing from Palo Alto, California, the Chorale is an acclaimed mixed voice ensemble, whose organist is former St John's Organ Scholar Robert Huw Morgan. As well as a homecoming visit for him, the residency was also a chance for the singers to renew acquaintances with the College Choir after the two groups' joint concert in California earlier this year.
The Choir's new recording, 'Deo' has received an Editor's Choice recommendation in Gramophone, after an excellent review.
The disc, which came out in May, has already earned much critical acclaim, including a five-star review in The Observer and CD of the Month in Choir and Organ, and forms the first recording for the College's new recording label, an imprint on Signum Classics.
Benjamin Comeau, recent Organ Scholar of Girton College, has been commissioned to write a new work for men's voices. This piece, entitled 'Vanity of Vanities' received its first performance at Evensong on Wednesday 8 June.
The commission, by the Master and Fellows of St John's College, has been generously supported by Paul and Joanna Lindsell and Jeremy Podger.
The Choir was proud to give the first performance of the 'St John's Service' by Nico Muhly on Sunday 29 May.
Described by The Guardian as “one of the most celebrated and sought-after classical composers of the last decade” Muhly has written for the Metropolitan Opera and Wigmore Hall and for the Hillard Ensemble and Tallis Scholars.
This new work for St John's represents the continuation of the Choir's dedicated commitment to new music and to enriching the liturgical choral repertoire.
The Choir's newest recording was released on Friday, with a special Evensong and Reception.
'Deo' features music by Jonathan Harvey, who died in 2012, including 'The Annunciation' which was written especially for the College's Qunincentenary celebrations and was heard as the introit at Friday's service.
Jonathan Harvey’s experience of church music began as a chorister at St Michael’s College, Tenbury, where he sang 13 services each week. He recalled one particular loud chord in a post-service organ improvisation as being a moment of great epiphany in which he knew he would be a composer. I myself was also brought up in the idyllic surroundings of St Michael’s, where my father was Organist in the 1960s. Harvey was later an undergraduate here at St John’s.
The College's traditional Ascension Day service took place on 5 May. Attended by pupils and staff of St John's College School, the service begins in Chapel, then moves outside to First Court, where the assembled congregation hears the Ascension Day Carol sung from the Chapel tower at noon. There was beautiful sunshine this year and we were pleased to welcome many visitors to enjoy the spectacle the service and the singing!
Observer reviewer Fiona Maddocks has awarded the Choir's new CD 'Deo', choral music by Jonathan Harvey, five stars in a review published on Sunday.
Calling the disc 'ecstatic' and 'richly challenging', Maddocks draws attention to the close links between Harvey and the College, and also the parallels between the lives of the composer and Director of Music Andrew Nethsingha.
BBC Radio 3 has once again visited St John's College to broadcast Choral Evensong live from the chapel.
The service, which took place on Wednesday 27 April, featured an introit by former Director of Music, Christopher Robinson, as he celebrates his 80th birthday. There were also Canticles by Sumsion and the Harris anthem Faire is the Heaven as well as a collection of Psalms.
You can listen to the service on the BBC website for a month by clicking here
After a rest day the Choir was called upon, on Friday, to entertain old Johnians and their friends at the Stanford University Club in San Francisco. We wondered about the strength of the bus’s brakes as it parked with its front several feet higher than its rear on one of the city’s many precipitous inclines.
After some wine and canapés we sang three pieces and the boys returned to the hotel. The Gents stayed for supper and afterwards sang some lighter numbers by ourselves.
The choir arrived in California four days ago. The first day, a rest day, was spent - rather exhaustingly - exploring much of San Francisco on foot or by bicycle.
On the second day we travelled to Stanford University, a very verdant campus so enormous as to seem a city in its own right. We rehearsed with the Stanford Chorale and Stanford University Symphony Orchestra in preparation for a joint concert featuring chiefly American music; Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.
A recent former Choral Scholar and current Organ Scholar of St John's have both won prestigious prizes in their own disciplines.
Current Herbert Howells Organ Scholar, Joseph Wicks, has been awarded the Limpus Prize by the Royal College of Organists. The prize, considered one of the highest achievements in the instrument, is awarded to an outstanding candidate for Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists.
Hong Kong University have released a short film from the Choir's visit last April. It features footage of the Choir rehearsing and performing Rossini's 'O Salutaris Hostia' and Parry's 'Hear my words, ye people', the latter of which was sung together with the HKU Chamber Singers at the end of the concert.
The Choir would like to thank the HKU Chamber Singers for their wonderful hospitality and singing last year. It was one of many highlights from what was altogether a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable trip.
Sam Furness (Tenor Choral Scholar and Layclerk 2005-09) has won the 'Breakthrough Artist in UK Opera' award in the 2016 WhatsOnStage Opera Poll, beating five other shortlisted candidates.
Sam's success can be attributed to performances in Richard Strauss's Intermezzo (Garsington Opera; as Baron Lummer) and Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld (English Touring Opera; as Hoffmann), with his performance in the latter described by reviewer Mark Valencia as "lyrical, fearless and tireless".
We wish Sam all the best for any forthcoming engagements.