Alongside the Britten Sinfonia, the choir perform Beethoven's mighty Ninth Symphony, conducted by Thomas Adès.
At such a turbulent time in European politics, it was perhaps pertinent for the choir to become involved in headlining performances of Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Ninth Symphony, a work which was adopted as the European anthem in 1972 by the Council of Europe. These concerts were to be the gripping finale to a vibrant concert series by the Britten Sinfonia, under the baton of conductor Thomas Adès. This series, spanning 3 years, explored all nine Beethoven symphonies, whilst also interweaving into the programme audacious works by Irish composer, Gerard Barry.
The choir was joined by the Britten Sinfonia Voices, directed by Eamonn Dougan, to provide the enormous chorus required for the last movement of this symphony. Eamonn is Associate Conductor of The Sixteen and Director of the Britten Sinfonia Voices, amongst several other high profile conducting and choral roles, and thus it was exciting to be directed by him in rehearsals both in the Royal Holloway Chapel, and later in Blackheath Halls, London. Upon starting the music, the complexity and difficulty of the symphony was abundantly clear, and having the assistance of Eamonn and the Britten Sinfonia Voices was extremely helpful, enabling the choir to quickly adapt to the work. Whilst the timing of the concerts and rehearsals were not entirely compatible with the university timetable (it largely all occurred in an exam week!), everyone was still energised and ready to go for each rehearsal, meaning we arrived in Norwich for our first concert in high spirits.
It was impossible not to be blown away by the first three movements of the symphony, during which the chorus all sat on raised stage seating - Adès was ferocious and rousing, and the orchestra were thrilling. The opening of the fourth movement was no different and bass soloist Matthew Rose opened the singing in a grandiose manner, setting the stage for the other renowned soloists - Ed Lyon, Christianne Stotjin and Jennifer France. Both the volume and intensity of chorus blew the audience away and it was an experience that none, audience or performer, will forget.
High on adrenaline, the choir was full of energy the following day for the concert in The Barbican, London, despite returning from Norwich in the early hours of the morning. Stepping onto stage for the rehearsal was an exhilarating moment for all - most of the choir had only ever been audience at the Barbican, not performers! Adès was on even better form, leading the orchestra in a furore of noise that blew the critics away. The chorus sang with ‘gusto and lashings of tasty diction’ according to one critic, whilst the performance in general was ‘utterly transporting, deeply moving, and brought the audience to their feet’. This was not just true for the audience - the whole performance was an immense yet intimate affair and a fantastic experience for all involved. Following this exuberant performance, the choir were invited for a drink with Adès and the Britten Sinfonia, which brought a close to a weekend of brilliant music and excitement.