• Cantores Roborienses - The Grange School Choir
    Published: Monday 20 April 2015 09:38:AM
    Author: Andrew Millinchip
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    On Friday 25th March the 45 members of the Grange School senior choir, Cantores Roborienses, gave a concert at St Mary's in aid of church funds. The concert of sacred choral music was designed to be a preview of the programme being prepared for the choir's tour to Paris in April. It was good to see such a large audience turn out for the occasion; the very useful plug on that morning's BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Show may have helped!

    The all-sacred repertoire reflected the requirements of the French churches but comprised a wide variety of styles and both accompanied and unaccompanied music. The concert began with the famous Miserere by Gregorio Allegri, once restricted for use only in the Sistine Chapel until Mozart heard it and wrote it out from memory afterwards! The infamous top Cs were negotiated skilfully by Amelia Shackleton and St Mary's chorister Kate Blayney. There followed a set of four items in honour of the Virgin Mary: a Hymn to the Virgin by a youthful Benjamin Britten, a setting of the Ave Maria for soprano and tenor soloists and unaccompanied choir by Andrew Millinchip, Hymne a la Vierge by the 20th century French composer Pierre Villette, and back home again for the teenage Elgar's setting of Ave Maris Stella, written for St George's RC Church in Worcester where his father was organist.

    Paris was home to an important school of organist-composers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, inspired by the large number of fine organs built by the influential builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll, and our organist Andrew was keen to play an item from this repertoire - he chose the energetic Intermezzo from Widor's 6th Symphony, which sounded well on the Whitegate organ. Because the choir was to perform in the Madeleine Church where the composer Faure was director of music, the choir then performed two movements from Faure's well-known Requiem - the Pie Jesu sung by all the girls and the atmospheric In Paradisum. The remaining items in the programme were eclectic to say the least - the English cathedral tradition was represented by Stanford's Magnificat in B flat and the dramatic Evening Hymn by Balfour Gardiner, and the concert concluded appropriately enough with a blessing by John Rutter - Go forth into the world in peace.
    A couple of weeks later the choir set off at 5am on the long coach and ferry journey to Paris. Beautiful spring weather had been specially arranged, and the singers enjoyed stunning views from the top of the Tour Montparnasse before making their way to a warm welcome at the Madeleine Church - all were excited to be singing the Faure Requiem in the exact spot where it was first performed. An evening tour of the sights of Paris, culminating with arrival at the Tour Eiffell just in time for the 10pm light show completed the first day. Saturday dawned wet and windy but our spirits were not dampened as we travelled to the city of Chartres to sing in its world-famous cathedral. Once again beautiful surroundings and excellent acoustics enhanced the choir's performance. Later that evening, the choir and the school barber's shop group gave an informal performance at the hostel where we were staying, to the delight of a group of teenagers from New Zealand who were also staying there. The performance metamorphosed into an informal jam session with the two groups joining together for some memorable singing and playing. Altogether a great experience and it was good to have had the chance to sing the programme at St Mary's and to raise such a large sum for the church in the process.