St George and the Dragon

This Saturday is St George’s Day and Bel Canto will be celebrating the day in style.

There are two main items in the concert: Puccini’s Messa di Gloria and my new Dramatic Cantata – St George and the Dragon.

cover 2The Messa di Gloria was written when Puccini (1858-1924) was still very young, this piece shows the exuberance of youth, with a fair amount of skill, and is just plain fun. Puccini composed the Mass as his graduation exercise from the Istituto Musicale Pacini and It had its first performance in Lucca on July 12, 1880. Apparently it is not a true “Messa di Gloria” as these only had Kyrie and Gloria, but Puccini had already written a Credo (performed in 1878) and so perhaps, having written a new Kyrie and Gloria, decided to use the existing Credo, add a quick Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei (and these movements are really quite short) to complete the mass. The music is unashamedly operatic in nature, and those who know Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle will immediately recognise some of the styles. It is a great piece to perform and even better to listen to.

Alongside this work, you’ll be able to hear the first outing of my new dramatic cantata St George and the Dragon, written specially for the occasion. This witty telling of the story of our Patron Saint’s encounter with a Dragon features the choir as the concerned villagers, a heroic tenor (David Watkin-Holmes) as St George, a baritone solo (Peter Taylor) as the King of the town plagued by the Dragon, and a soprano soloist (Clare Wheat) as his slightly ditzy daughter, destined to be fed to the Dragon.

The words have been written by my ever-supportive parents, and the Cantata is accompanied by piano (the marvellous Jonathan Gooing) and percussion. The choir and soloists have enjoyed learning it, and the performance promises to be a great success.



Not the Eurovision

The Sterndale Singers innovative concert this Saturday, 16th May is an original alternative to the Eurovision Song Contest with music from 20 of the Countries which compete in Eurovision, presenting our own version of the competition. The programme, which as you will imagine is a real smorgasbord of musical delights – as varied a programme as you could wish to imagine – includes genres as varied as Renaissance polyphony from Italy and Spain, Folk Songs from all sorts of obscure places, exciting arrangements of texts by Shakespeare by a variety of composers, and, to use a slightly hackneyed phrase, in this plethora of musical styles, there really should be something for everyone. In addition there is the added excitement of watching and listening to the choir get to grips with at least nine different languages. “Why not twenty different languages?” we hear you cry. “that would really be fun!”. Fortunately many of our European composers write in English or Latin.

As well as supping on wine, cocktails or soft drinks, whilst listening to the music, audience members will be given the chance to vote for their favourite numbers during the evening – so if you have always wanted to shout “nul points” this will be your chance.

Here is a preview from Classical Sheffield

Further information is available from the choir’s website and on their facebook page and tickets can be ordered in advance through these.

Possibly the best concert programme ever?

Possibly the best concert programme ever?

Arguably not, but it is one of the best I have ever put together.

Tonight (Saturday 20th) at 7.30pm at St Maries’ Cathedral.

Tickets on the door.

Our programme is inspired by the well-loved ‘Miserere’ of Gregorio Allegri,and completed with works showing the beauty and power of sound, texture and timbre and revealing how a number of much more recent composers have incorporated Renaissance devices such as chanting, repetition, textural variation, polyphony, and antiphony (separate choirs in conversation) into their individual musical styles.

Allegri: Miserere mei; Britten: Hymn to the Virgin; Holst: Nunc Dimittis; Macmillan: In Splendoribus Sanctorum (Strathclyde Motets); Mealor: Stabat Mater; Rachmaninov: Bogoroditse Devo (Ave Maria); Tavener: Funeral Ikos and Magnificat (Collegium Regale)

Macmillan: Kiss On Wood and Part: Fratres (Violin – Dr David Milsom and piano Jonatha Gooing)

As Summer Fades – the Proms Loom

As memories of the summer holiday and its highlights (York Minster, St Jean de Cole in the South of France, an outing to Chester Zoo) fade, my attention turns to forthcoming concerts, or which there are two right at the beginning of term.

On Saturday 30th August I will be accompanying an extraordinary young lad as he raises money for a new cello. Talented eleven-year old Callum Hilton will be performing on piano and cello at 7.00pm at the Upper Chapel, Surrey Street. For more details see this article in Classical Sheffield.


Then, there is the exciting Proms in the Peaks on Sunday 7th September in Losehill Hall YHA, Castleton raising money for Weston Park Cancer Charity – a cause for which the word “worthwhile” seems somewhat inadequate. This concert, for which I am Artistic Director, features Bel Canto, international Soprano Deborah Norman, international tenor John Hudson, Junction33 Dance Band, and Dancedaze – an amazing group of young Street Dancers, many of whom have just become champions in the United Dance Organisation World Street Dance Championships which took place in Glasgow during August.

The concert features music as wide ranging as Hallelujah Chorus and Carmina Burana, Les Miserables and La Boheme, Glen Miller and Street Dance, so there really is something for everyone.

The concert starts at 2.30pm, with the ground open for picnic lunches from 1.00pm.

Tickets are available here. Numbers are limited, so get yours now to avoid disappointment!



Final Concert of the Season

At last, the Summer holiday looms tomorrow, but first, today, the final concert of the season, and what a gig to finish.
Sheffield City Opera‘s picnic concert in the Gardens of Wentworth Castle. A mega programme of choruses, solos, duets and trios from a wide range of fantastic musicals. And the weather is good – always a bonus for an outdoor concert. The chorus is sounding as good as I have heard them – exciting and dramatic when they need to be, quiet and emotional when that’s required, and as disciplined as you like. We also have some great guest soloists with us.
The garden opens for picnics at 5.30 and then the concert starts at 6.30pm.
Should be a good one!

A South American Odyssey

Sheffield Sterndale Singers “A South American Odyssey” Saturday 17th May 2014, 7.30pm Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses

The Sterndale Singers “South American Odyssey” on Saturday 17th May at Holy Trinity Millhouses certainly promises to be an interesting and exciting musical evening. An exciting programme of South American music from the 15th Century to the present day, including Ramirez Missa Criolla, solos from internationally acclaimed soprano, Cristin Wismann, fun percussion and guitar accompaniment – much enjoyment to be had!

The first part of the concert is music from the 15th Century to the present day, including composers such as Juan Arañés (1580-1649), Bocanegra (c. 1631), Gaspar Fernandez (1570-1629), Juan Garcia de Zéspedes (1619-1678) and Juan Gutierrez de Padilla (1590-1664). In the second half of the concert, moving to the 20th and 21st Centuries, we will be singing motets by Fernando Moruju and Dante Andreo, finishing the concert with the acclaimed Missa Criolla by Ariel Ramirez. The South American music of the 15th and 16th centuries has a distinct flavour, perhaps more lively than European music from this period, and the selection being sung on Saturday is varied and exciting.

To complete the evening, and provide suitable accompaniment for these works, the Sterndale Singers are being joined by a select band of guests: the percussion section is led by local percussionist Dominic Ridler, and local guitarist Danny Naylor is providing a further South American flavour. The tenor soloist for the Ramirez is Argentinian Ernesto Correa, and the programme will be completed by a selection of Argentinian, Cuban and Venezuelan songs sung by Soprano Christin Wismann accompanied by Helen Glaisher-Hernández.

American soprano Christin Wismann is a graduate of the Julliard School of Music, and has performed worldwide on the recital, concert and operatic stage. She has been acclaimed as an ‘eloquent soprano’ (New York Times) with a ‘strong gleaming voice’ (Opera News) and a ‘compelling presence’ (Denver Post), and has garnered awards in prestigious competitions such as the National Opera Association, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, Gerda Lissner, the Jose Iturbi Foundation Competition and was a national semifinalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions representing the New York region.  It was during her time at the Met competition that she was filmed for the documentary The Audition, which was broadcast internationally.

Helen Glaisher-Hernández is an Anglo-Spanish concert pianist, musicologist, pedagogue and curator who combines her two great loves music and hispanicity as a specialist in Iberican (Iberian & Latin American) repertoire. She studied tango piano at the Conservatorio Nacional Superior in Buenos Aires and then completed an MMus in Piano at Trinity College of Music. Helen is known for the authenticity and cultural grounding of her interpretations. She has given the UK premiere of numerous pieces by Latin American composers such as Villa-Lobos, Guastavino, Vitier, Hernández, Camargo Guarnieri and Carreño, including a special commission by Ricardo Lorenz for Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room and has performed across other major UK venues including the Barbican, Fairfield Halls, St James’s Piccadilly, St John’s Smith Square and St Martin-in-the-Fields.

With such a star-studded cast, this concert will be well worth hearing.


Sheffield Sterndale Singers “A South American Odyssey”

Saturday 17th May 2014, 7.30pm

Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses

Tickets £12.00; Concessions £10.00; Students: £5.00; U 12s free available on the door.


Songs of Lust Love and Heartbreak

Crimes Against Taste appear tonight at the S1 Artspace in Sheffield (120 Trafalgar Street, S1 4JT – Nr Devonshire Green)

A lovely intimate venue for our hilarious musical comedy cabaret act.

Music by Tom Lehrer, Flanders and Swann, Victoria Wood, Tim Minchin, Flight of the Conchords and many more.

Tickets here

More details here