Barbican: ’The Birds’ – Gibbons The Silver Swan, Todd Ode to a Nightingale, Britten Spring Symphony, 20 January 13
“A battle through the snow to reach the Barbican was rewarded with a terrific performance of an imaginative programme.
“Kicking off with a miniature masterpiece, Orlando Gibbons’s ‘The Silver Swan’, the choir were immediately into their stride, with precise entries and lovely tuning. Will Todd’s setting of Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale is a substantial choral symphony for choir and orchestra, and very impressive. … The choir gave a wonderfully committed performance in what is a big sing, sounding great in the big, filmic climaxes, and their diction always careful.
“The second half comprised Britten’s Spring Symphony, clearly well loved by the CEFC’s charismatic conductor David Temple. The interpretation was enjoyable – and exhilarating in places. … There was a glorious tutti in the final section which made a wonderful noise, Britten wielding all his forces in a drunken waltz which is overtaken by the children’s chorus singing ‘Sumer is icumen in’ (the Finchley Children’s Music Group in good voice). This was a persuasive performance of a fine work, and a warming experience on a very cold night.”
Queen Elizabeth Hall: Haydn Nelson Mass, Arvo Pärt Adam’s Lament, David Bedford A Charm of Joy, 26 April 12
“[The] opening of Adam’s Lament was terrifying; ethereal discords swept across the concert hall at Fortissimo, Sopranos crying out. The sound was immense.
” … Later, Haydn’s Nelson Mass was superb – precise. David Temple was in complete control, keeping the tempi steady-as-she-went. Bravo Crouch End Festival Chorus.”
Richard Melkonian in Melkonian News
Barbican: Glass Three Songs and The Grid, McCarthy 17 Days, 5 February 12
This concert attracted widespread attention due to the world premiere of 17 Days, by British composer James McCarthy – a Crouch End Festival Chorus commission about the Chilean miners trapped underground in 2010.
“Rejecting entirely ‘Chilean Miners, the Opera’, McCarthy turned to poetry to provide a framework on which to hang his explorations of separation, resurrection, love, and defying death. Verses from the King James Bible bookend poems by, among others, Rupert Brooke and Emily Dickinson. The sound world is tuneful, discernibly grown from English soil – Finzi by way of Britten, bang up to syncopated modernity by the end.
“This was powerfully realised by the London Orchestra da Camera’s brass ensemble, piano and percussion. Two children’s choirs augmented the Festival Chorus, who sang with utter commitment and beautiful enunciation. The overall effect was remarkably engaging: plenty of interest all the way through with lovely word setting which built, in an organic and integrated way, to a genuinely moving climax.”
Cara Chanteau in the Independent
Read the full review
“The real strength of this concert laid in this commission by McCarthy that showed the best of what CEFC can do: close harmony singing with a robust homogenous tone, and clear diction. The Crouch End Festival Chorus is a chorus well worth hearing: their range of work is inspiring and I look forward to discovering even more of their work.”
Steven Berryman in I Care If You Listen
St Michael’s Highgate: Sing Christmas, 10 December 11
The Ham & High newspaper featured Crouch End Festival Chorus’s Sing Christmas concerts in a news report, praising the choir for its fundraising collaboration with Ambitious About Autism.
St James Muswell Hill: summer concert, 2 July 11
” There were two main pieces; the well-known (Allegri’s Miserere) and the more obscure (Kodaly’s Missa Brevis). The former was breath-taking: The Chorus divided into sections – the main part remaining in front of the altar, two small monk-like groups intoning the psalm at the rear of the church and a third in the Side Chapel producing ethereal, disembodied sound. The effect was overwhelmingly beautiful.
” … CEFC were at their best in this programme; although they are in their comfort zone with sacred music but they never became complacent. Everyone seemed to relish the challenge of adapting to differing styles – early European polyphony, Russian Orthodox, then the freshness of the work of a young contemporary composer. A wonderful concert.”
David Winskill in the Ham & High
Royal Festival Hall: Ray Davies’s Meltdown, 19 June 11
Crouch End Festival Chorus joined Ray Davies, his band and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a sell-out concert featuring the first full live performance of the Village Green Preservation Society album and all the Kinks’ greatest hits.
“To combine a rock band, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and a 92-voice choir – the exceptional Crouch End Festival Chorus – and produce something greater than the sum of the parts was a remarkable achievement.”
Mark Braund in Zimbio
See reviews from the Guardian and the London Evening Standard, plus concert videos and vox pops, in our special Ray Davies and CEFC at Meltdown page.
Barbican: Britten Ballad of Heroes, 29 April 11
Crouch End Festival Chorus performed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ilan Volkov in a concert broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
“[Ballad of Heroes] is a virile, energetic and refreshingly direct piece, sung on this occasion with bracing commitment, vigour and skill by the Crouch End Festival Chorus”
Guy Dammann in The Guardian (with a 5-star rating for the concert)
“The 26-year-old ferociously precocious Britten composed Ballad of Heroes in short score in a mere four days to poems by W. H. Auden and the communist writer Randall Swingler to honour the men of the International Brigade who had been killed fighting the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. It’s a big, public statement, very much the work of a young composer, and wears its heart on its sleeve. The Crouch End Festival Chorus had no reservations about its shocked emotionalism, with Toby Spence the forthright tenor in the recitative passage ‘Still though the scene of possible summer recedes’.”
Peter Reed in The Classical Source
“The chorus performed with superb clarity and an awe-inspiring dynamic range.”
Helen Fraser in Bachtrack
“Britten’s 1939 tribute to the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War [was] boldly delivered, with offstage trumpets, an eloquent tenor in Toby Spence, and the lusty Crouch End Festival Chorus. It was good to hear this rarity live”
Geoff Brown in The Times
Barbican: Bach St John Passion, 16 April 11
“[At the beginning] the Chorus, under David Temple’s sensitive but controlling lead, set exactly the right mood of sorrow, rage, desolation and foreboding of what is to come. Refreshed after the interval, the entire chorus played the terrifying role of the mob, screaming “if he were not a malefactor we would not have delivered him up unto thee.
“… With stunning performances by all the soloists and the London Orchestra da Camera, the Crouch Enders delivered a marvellous, intimate evening for the large and appreciative audience. It was achieved not simply in their technical mastery of the work, but also in the deep understanding of where Bach was leading them and us. Unforgettable.”
David Winskill in the Ham and High
Barbican: Adams Harmonium and Gerhard The Plague, 15 January 11
Actor Paul McGann and the London Orchestra da Camera joined David Temple and Crouch End Festival Chorus for performances of two powerful 20th-century works. Critics praised the choir’s “harmonic brilliance” and “astonishing vocal techniques” – one adding that the evening “put professional outfits to shame”.