About us

Enlarge Image In rehearsal at Fortismere School, April 2015 | Picture: Ros Bell
In rehearsal at Fortismere School, April 2015 | Picture: Ros Bell

Crouch End Festival Chorus is one of Britain’s top symphonic choirs. Based in north London, the choir was founded in 1984 by David Temple and John Gregson, and David has remained as music director ever since, shaping the choir’s progress as it built a fine reputation in the UK and internationally.

With some 150 singers on its books, Crouch End Festival Chorus is known for its versatility and eclectic repertoire, ranging from the traditional classical works to modern and specially-commissioned pieces.

The choir promotes its own concerts at major venues such as the Barbican Hall and Royal Festival Hall in London, while also celebrating its local roots with performances in Muswell Hill, Crouch End and Highgate (see concert calendar for upcoming performances). In addition, Crouch End Festival Chorus is in constant demand for recording work and external live promotions.

The history of the chorus is chronicled below, and for the most recent reports about CEFC concerts and engagements, please see the News and broadcasts section.

2014: celebrating 30 years of Crouch End Festival Chorus

Enlarge Image Verdi rehearsals in 1990 and 2014
Verdi rehearsals in 1990 and 2014

Three decades of CEFC means three decades of innovation and variety. So the choir decided that the best way to mark this milestone was to commission a new work for (almost) every concert in 2014.

The year began with a collaboration with Murray Gold - best known for his work on the Doctor Who soundtracks but here composing a moving tribute to his late brother Jolyon: when my brother fell into the river... 

Next came Will Todd's assured and powerful Rage against the dying of the light, which stunned the audience at the choir's March concert and was praised by David Temple as an important addition to the canon of British choral works.

Bernard Hughes's beautiful Salve Regina more than held its own in the a capella programme performed in June in Southwark Cathedral and Waltham Abbey. And there was a real buzz surrounding the premiere of James McCarthy's Malala in October - which took place shortly after the subject of the work, Malala Yousafzai, had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The year in composition ended with Crouch End Festival Chorus's first ever carol competition, which was won by Richard James Harvey's rousing Chanticleer, a highlight of the choir's Christmas concert. 

There was also one concert in 2014 which didn't feature new music; instead, it featured new singers. To celebrate the choir's local roots, a large community chorus was assembled to join CEFC for a September concert at Alexandra Palace. No auditions were required - just enthusiasm for Verdi's Requiem, the first-ever work performed by the choir in 1984. This project was a great success: not only was the final performance up to the standard of anything performed by Crouch End Festival Chorus, but the rehearsal process also proved to be enjoyable and inspirational for regular choir members and guests alike - as can be seen in the Verdi blog they wrote about their experience. 

>>Read more about Crouch End Festival Chorus's fantastic 30th anniversary year in the News and broadcasts section.

Recent highlights

Enlarge Image Coronation concert, Royal Festival Hall, 2013 | Picture: Felicity Forster
Coronation concert, Royal Festival Hall, 2013 | Picture: Felicity Forster

Who better to choose the highlights of 2012 and 2013 than the singers themselves? The tenor and bass sections are quick to nominate a low-voice showcase, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, performed at the 2012 BBC Proms. This epic concert saw Crouch End Festival Chorus form the backbone of a large choir also drawn from from the BBC Symphony Chorus, the BBC Singers and the New London Chamber Choir.

Singers are often attracted to CEFC by the variety of opportunities on offer, and in 2012-2013, some members said they had particularly enjoyed arena concerts with Andrea Bocelli and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, as well as performing Robert Fripp’s Soundscapes with Jules Buckley in the Netherlands. Recording-wise, the 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special was a fond memory for many.

But there are three things that really stick in the mind from 2012-2013. One is the Crouch End Festival Chorus concert at the Royal Festival Hall in June 2013. The choir was joined by Hertfordshire Chorus and the Dessoff Choirs of New York for a rousing performance of music from the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, followed by an unsurpassed rendition of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. The concert was a success in so many ways: highly appreciated by the large audience, enjoyed by the singers and displaying a quality of musicianship that shone through in the accompanying Classic FM broadcast.

Following this memorable CEFC promotion, the singers took part in a critically-acclaimed concert and Radio 3 broadcast that was arguably the choir's finest ever external engagement. In November 2013, Crouch End Festival Chorus joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Royal Albert Hall for a performance of Britten's War Requiem under the baton of Semyon Bychkov. David Nice of The Arts Desk said the performance “wasn’t just good; it hit the heights and plumbed the depths, with no weak link in any of the soloists, choirs, orchestra or instrumental soloists.” And Colin Anderson of The Classical Source said: “it was one of the greatest performances of anything to come my way in forty years of concert-going.” 

The other undoubted highlight of the period was the Crouch End Festival Chorus commission 17 Days, a beautiful new choral work by young British composer James McCarthy. The world premiere of 17 Days took place at the Barbican Hall in February 2012, with such a warm reception from audience, critics and singers alike that a repeat performance was added to the following season’s programme. If anything, 17 Days was even more enthusiastically received at its April 2013 reprise, and the choir soon decided to continue its collaboration with the composer, commissioning a further work for 2014.

As part of the commissioning project, 17 Days was recorded at the 2012 premiere, and you can listen to it now, here on the Crouch End Festival Chorus website.

2010 and 2011 - two years to remember

Enlarge Image Paul McGann in The Plague, 2011 |  Picture: Paul Robinson
Paul McGann in The Plague, 2011 | Picture: Paul Robinson

There have been many memorable moments in Crouch End Festival Chorus’s short history, but the years of 2010 and 2011 were arguably a turning point in the choir’s transition from respected local chorus to internationally-recognised ensemble. This period saw the culmination of decades of work to establish professional performance standards in all genres of music.

In summer 2010, the chorus appeared at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall for the third year in a row – this time to sing Mahler’s 8th symphony in the prestigious First Night concert. Not long after, CEFC singers were onstage in front of 50,000 people at the Glastonbury Festival with our patron and regular collaborator Ray Davies.

These two events were the climax of a year which had already seen a sell-out performance at the Royal Albert Hall with legendary Hollywood composer Ennio Morricone (another of our patrons), known for his scores for classic films likeThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars.

2011 turned out to be just as exciting, kicking off in January with a critically-acclaimed performance of Roberto Gerhard’s The Plague at the Barbican, starring Paul McGann as Dr Rieux. Staying at this venue, the month of April saw two more concerts: first a moving interpretation of Bach’s St John Passion, and then a rare performance of Britten’s Ballad of Heroes with the BBC Symphony Orchestra – broadcast on Radio 3.

Having proved its mettle in such a wide variety of classical works, the choir then turned to rock and pop music, joining Ray Davies at the Royal Festival Hall for the closing night of the Meltdown Festival, backing dance act Basement Jaxx at the Barbican and collaborating with former Oasis songsmith Noel Gallagher on a new solo album.

Crouch End Festival Chorus often takes part in recording sessions at Abbey Road Studios, and in the latter part of 2011, the choir was invited to help the studios celebrate their 80th anniversary. After a delightful open-air anniversary concert at Chiswick House, it was back to Abbey Road with conductor and composer Eric Whitacre to record the winning entries from the Abbey Road anniversary anthem competition, alongside the London Symphony Orchestra and the Eric Whitacre Singers. 

A history of high achievement

Enlarge Image Emma Kirkby | Picture: Bibi Basch
Emma Kirkby | Picture: Bibi Basch

Crouch End Festival Chorus has been making its mark for three decades. As early as 1994, the choir was cementing its international reputation with the first ever performance in Poland of Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time – sung at the Wratislavia Cantans Festival in Wrocław.

Another landmark concert was the 2001 premiere of David Bedford‘s The City and the Stars. Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, the performance featured the 83-year-old Clarke, on film, reading a narration between the movements.

And the following decade saw the choir join colleagues at the BBC Symphony Chorus for the VerdiRequiem and Berlioz Te Deum at the BBC Proms, as well as staging two packed-out performances of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 with celebrated early music soprano Emma Kirkby and period instruments on home turf in Muswell Hill.

The choir has long maintained a hectic schedule of recordings – notably landing a regular gig as soundtrack choir for Doctor Who on the BBC. In June 2009 Crouch End Festival Chorus reached no. 5 in the Amazon charts with the Kinks Choral Collection, recorded with Ray Davies, and subsequent albums recorded with Noel Gallagher and Lesley Garrett have hit the No.1 spot in the charts. All of our commercial recordings can be viewed and purchased in the CEFC Music Shop on this site.

Patrons

Enlarge Image Ray Davies and CEFC at the Royal Festival Hall, 2011 | Picture: Matt Biddulph
Ray Davies and CEFC at the Royal Festival Hall, 2011 | Picture: Matt Biddulph

Crouch End Festival Chorus is proud to have these distinguished musical figures as patrons:

Meirion Bowen
Sir Ray Davies CBE
Sir Mark Elder CBE
Noel Gallagher
John Gregson
Ennio Morricone
Alison Pearce
Sir Bryn Terfel CBE
Hans Zimmer

CEFC commissions

Enlarge Image James McCarthy and David Temple, 2012 | Picture: Paul Robinson
James McCarthy and David Temple, 2012 | Picture: Paul Robinson

The choir has commissioned works from Simon Bainbridge, Howard Haigh, Orlando Gough, Sally Beamish, John Woolrich, David Bedford, Joby Talbot, Paul Patterson, Matthew Ferraro, James McCarthy, Murray Gold, Will Todd, Bernard Hughes and Roland Perrin. 

Registration

Crouch End Festival Chorus
Limited by guarantee and registered in England, no: 5052052
Registered office: Flat 19 The Academy, 16 Highgate Hill, London N19 5NS 
Registered charity no: 1110790