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.