Preview: The Brandenburg Spring Choral Festival

SARAH ELLEN HUGHES previews the 43-event Brandenburg Spring Choral Festival 2012. 2nd Jan – 28th April at various venues across the capital, with significant jazz content, notably the London Vocal Project – above with Bobby McFerrin in May 2010): .

The Brandenburg Spring Choral Festival 2012, named after two instrumental ensembles performing in it – the Brandenburg Sinfonia and Brandenburg Baroque Soloists – is a major season of choral concerts, focussing mainly on the choral tradition of St Martin-in-the-Fields (the ‘geographical, artistic and spiritual heart’ of the festival, says Director Bob Porter), with a series of nine main concerts including performances of Mozart’s Requiem, Rachmaninov’s Vespers and Allegri’s Miserere.

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This annual voice celebration has its focus on concerts at SMITF but, owing to the growing popularity of vocal music, has fairly exploded in size in its third year. At inception in 2010 it was a festival of 7 concerts, designed to give performance opportunities to visiting choirs with whom the Brandenburg groups play.

This year, 43 concerts have been scheduled encompassing all sorts of vocal styles – jazz featuring the most heavily, save classical. In addition to St Martin’s it has six “satellite venues”: the National Portrait Gallery, St Clement Danes church, the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy, the chapels at King’s College London and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and St John’s Waterloo.

The jazz portion kicks off with The Guildhall Jazz Singers led by Scott Stroman on 10th Jan, followed by the Royal Academy of Music Jazz Singers led by Pete Churchill (two performances: one at SMITF on 1st Feb and one at the National Portrait Gallery on 6th April).

The Addison Jazz Choir and Capital Chorus will be delivering a programme of gospel and big band inspired music, in a programme entitled “Barbershoppers v Jazzers.” This is at St John’s Waterloo on Saturday 14th April. There is also a performance of Ellington’s Sacred Concert on April 27th.

I have seen the Guildhall Jazz Singers once before, performing “A Soulful Celebration,” – the jazz interpretation of Handel’s Messiah. There were some exciting moments and, although I thought it was very ambitious for such a small group, there were some great voices on show, and I’m looking forward to seeing them performing a different set.

For me the highlight of the jazz offering will be the London Vocal Project, led by Pete Churchill at St John’s Waterloo on Friday 16th March. Delivering not only immaculate vocals, the LVP are an inspiring choir, with a groove-based gospel-style repertoire. Seeing is believing with this group – I’ve been overwhelmed at their live performances.

Pete Churchill wrote a major feature for us about the London Vocal Project in November


Tickets from www.smitf.org or 020 7766 1100

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