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Aylesbury Festival Choir
Events - Forthcoming Events - Previous Concerts and Reviews

Forthcoming Events

Programmes during our
60th Anniversary Year
will include:

1st December 2018 - Brahms 'German Requiem'

13th April 2019 - 'Broadway Sensation'

30th November 2019 - 'Choral Classics'

60th logo

Previous Concerts and Reviews
Concert - Saturday 21st April 2018  

Review of 'A Night at the Opera'

Aylesbury Festival Choir are certainly going from strength to strength under their relatively recently-appointed Music Director, Nick Austin, who took over the baton in January 2017.
Their Night at the Opera concert, held in Aylesbury Methodist Church on the 21st April 2018, conducted by Nick, was a revelation. The superb programme of famous opera choruses, interspersed by solo arias and a duet from two talented young professional sopranos, Penelope Appleyard and Hannah Frazer-Mackenzie, was an absolute delight. Sung in English, crisp diction and accurate ensemble singing from the well-trained choir made every single word clearly audible, to the obvious enjoyment of the audience. Neil Kelley, at both piano and organ, accompanied the performances with great musicality and skill.
Chorus and conductor displayed impressive command of dynamics, particularly in Puccini’s Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly, where the beautifully controlled changes from soft to loud humming emphasised the emotional content of the piece.
The two excellent soloists were a real pleasure to hear and to watch. Hannah Frazer-Mackenzie opened the concert as a thrilling and very believable Carmen and, shortly afterwards, Penelope Appleyard gave a playful and hugely enjoyable rendering of Myself I Shall Adore from Handel’s Semele, making amusing use of a hand-held mirror as she sang perhaps the most narcissistic role in opera. Penelope then demonstrated some talent as a percussionist, in Verdi’s Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore, extracting a lovely ringing tone from a real anvil placed close to the piano.  This chorus was confidently sung by the men who, although relatively few in number, stepped up to the mark as energetic gypsy blacksmiths.
The generally high standard continued throughout the whole evening, from both chorus and soloists, a particular highlight being Hannah and Penelope’s sensitively sung Flower Duet from Lakme by Delibes.
A terrific evening, and many congratulations to everyone involved.
Ruth Mackie

Comments from Our Audience:

  • A very varied programme which introduced us to some unfamiliar pieces.
  • What a fabulous concert last night.  The choir was on good form, and the two soloists such amazing talents that blended together so well in the Flower Duet – a wonderful moment.
  • Huge congratulations on last night’s lovely concert – we both loved every minute and were only sorry not to have been able to take part. Still, it was a great treat to be in the audience!
  • The performance of The Easter Hymn was stunning and deserved an encore!
  • Singing with the two talented soprano soloists and the fantastic Neil Kelly on the organ lifted the choir’s performance to new heights.
  • My husband, who doesn't praise easily, said the concert was brilliant & he is sure it is all down to Nick's leadership.
  • A well balanced and varied programme with highlights including the two sopranos singing The Flower Duet, the choir singing The Easter Hymn, Neil Kelley’s fantastic accompaniment on organ and piano, and Nick Austin’s musical direction throughout.
  • I’m not an opera fan but this concert was enough to convert me!

A Night At The Opera poster

Concert - Saturday 2nd December 2017  

Review of Rejoice!

INSTEAD of choosing a programme of Christmas music, Aylesbury Festival Choir’s concert entitled Rejoice!, featured a varied selection of music by Handel, Mozart and Mendelssohn.
Handel wrote four Coronation Anthems and here we heard three of them, Zadok the Priest, My Heart is Inditing and The King Shall Rejoice. The choir was joined by four extremely talented soloists -  Elizabeth Adams, soprano, David Whitworth, countertenor, Ryan Williams, tenor, and Timothy Emberson, bass. The contribution of all of them was excellent throughout.
Next up was Mozart’s Missa Brevis et Solemnis in C, composed when he was barely 20 and employed, not altogether happily, at the Salzburg Court. Although an early work, it is confidently written and once again both choir and soloists gave an outstanding performance.
The final piece was less familiar -  Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion Salvatorem. Unusually for someone whose family had converted from Judaism to Protestant Christianity, this is a Catholic work, with a text by St Thomas Aquinas. Sung in English, it featured both choir and soloists who once again gave exemplary performances, particularly the soprano.
The concert was accompanied on the organ by Neil Kelley with Music Director Nick Austin conducting, and once again the choir were arranged in a way that clearly defined their voices.
Aylesbury Festival Choir will be back in April with a programme of opera choruses. This friendly choir is always happy to welcome new singers -  if you would like to join, see this website for further information.
Joss O’Kelly

Rejoice Poster
Concert - Saturday 22nd April 2017  

Sprig of Thyme Review

AYLESBURY Festival Choir was back at the Methodist Church on Saturday April 22nd with a concert entitled Sprig of Thyme: An English Idyll. As with other recent concerts, the programme was made up of a selection of short pieces, this time comprising songs with a Spring/Summer feel, most also rural but some with a sea theme.
But wait! The new Music Director, Nick Austin, eschewed the usual dress code for a snazzy waistcoat (I hope we will be seeing further examples in future concerts) and even more discombobulating, the choir was rearranged with the men centre front, and the ladies arranged around them. This worked brilliantly -  the audience could hear the difference it made straight away, with all four voice types really well defined.
The evening began with a beautifully arranged and performed Sumer is Icumen In, followed by a lovely rendition of Stanford’s The Blue Bird.
For the rest of the first half the choir was joined by the excellent bass baritone David Ireland who introduced and sang several solos and other songs shared between him and the choir. These included a lovely version of O Waly Waly and Vaughan Williams’ Linden Lea. John Ireland’s Sea Fever began a section of seafaring and pirate songs, some dramatic and others humorous.
For the second half, the choir sang The Sprig of Thyme, folk songs arranged by John Rutter, comprising seven songs, three of which were sung by the whole choir, two by the ladies and two by the men.  The ladies’ Sprig of Thyme and the men’s Down by the Sally Gardens were particularly outstanding.
The most enjoyable programme came to a rousing conclusion with Widdicombe Fair.
Aylesbury Festival Choir’s next concert will be on December 2nd, with music by Handel, Mozart and Mendelssohn.

April 2017 concert poster
Concert - Saturday 26th November 2016  

Bach to Rutter Review

AYLESBURY Festival Choir’s concert on Saturday November 26th took place as usual in the Methodist Church, and, like the Spring concert was a pick and mix of short pieces, a format that works very well for them, providing variety for both the choir and audience.
Entitled ‘Bach to Rutter: Four Centuries of Sacred Music’, the programme of short choral pieces included works by five composers active in the centuries before Bach and brought us right up to date with composers still working today.
The programme was divided into four groups of four works, and care had evidently gone into their order, resulting in a pleasing mixture of music from different times and different countries, some with simple melodies and others more complex.
The choir was on great form and had no trouble at all with the variety and intricacy of the music on offer -  I particularly enjoyed Monteverdi’s Cantate Domino, the two pieces by Anton Bruckner, Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, the pieces by Tallis, Bach and Byrd and the final section which included Howard Goodall’s setting of The Lord is my Shepherd.
I was also delighted to note a counter tenor amongst the altos -  my favourite voice and the first time I’ve heard it in Aylesbury!
Some of the pieces were accompanied by the excellent Daniel Moult on the organ and he also performed two solo works, Saint-Säens’ Benédiction Nuptiale and the Imperial March, no, not that one, but composed by Sir Edward Elgar.
The guest conductor for the evening was Harry Ogg, an extremely talented young man with a flourishing professional career, who is surely destined to go far.
Aylesbury Festival Choir’s next concert, in April, will see the first appearance of the new Music Director, Nick Austin, and will feature a programme of seasonal English music.
Joss O’Kelly

Bach To Rutter poster
Concert - Saturday 16th April 2016  

Songs and Sonnets Review
This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the 90th birthday of the present Queen Elizabeth, and Aylesbury Festival Choir’s response to these events came in the form of a delightful concert at the Methodist Church on Saturday April 16th.
AFC fielded a chamber-sized choir which was just right for the predominantly 16th-17th century songs by the likes of Tallis, Byrd, Dowland and Morley, as well as allowing the listener to appreciate what fine singers they are. Particularly lovely were Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus, Dowland’s Come Again and the less well known John Bennet’s Weep, O Mine Eyes.
Bringing things more up to date with modern composers’ takes on the Renaissance repertoire, there were songs scored by Nils Lindberg, John Rutter and George Shearing, the latter adding a jazz feel to Shakespeare’s words. I must admit I have never “got” jazz, so the Shearing interpretations were my least favourite parts of the concert!
There was variety too in the accompaniment to the songs -  some unaccompanied, some accompanied by pianist Stephen Meakins, some by piano and the bass of Kate Addis and others, on recorders of various sizes and tones, by the excellent Galliard Band, who also played a number of pieces by Susato, Anthony Holborne, Praetorius and others.
The programme was completed by entertaining readings from two fine actors, Claire Winsper and Richard Henders, both of whom have appeared in productions at the Old Vic and the National Theatre.  A number of Shakespeare’s sonnets were included, along with familiar speeches from As You Like It, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a bit of sparring between Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado and a speech made by Queen Elizabeth I to placate a disgruntled Parliament.
Clearly a lot of thought had gone into the programme, so congratulations are due to whoever put it together, along with all the performers.
On a sad note this concert marked the last appearance with AFC for Musical Director James Davey owing to his many other commitments. I wish him well for the future and look forward to a new chapter for Aylesbury Festival Choir.
Joss O’Kelly

Songs And Sonnets
Concert - Saturday 28th November 2015  

Aylesbury Festival Choir presented a delightful programme of something familiar and something new for its concert on 28th November 2015 at Aylesbury Methodist Church.
The choir’s smart appearance and professional stage presentation, led to the expectation of a great performance and the audience was not disappointed.
Under conductor James Davey the concert opened with Fauré’s Requiem accompanied by organ (Daniel Moult) and harp (Jenny Broome).  This Requiem is different from others in that the emphasis is on requiem (rest) and this tenderness and calm came across really well throughout the work.   For those not familiar with the text it was helpful to have the English translation in the programme although the choir’s diction was very clear. The singers also responded well to the conductor’s requests for changes in dynamic.
The choice of harp for the accompaniment was inspired particularly in the Sanctus where it danced quietly beneath the chorus providing some very special moments. The soloists, Sara Brimer Davey (soprano) and Will Dawes (Baritone) were excellent and the soprano did full justice to the beautiful Pie Jesu solo. Congratulations to the Tenor section who did their best to provide a strong entry to the Agnus Dei despite being only 6 in number.
After the interval Thame Children’s Choir and Aylesbury Festival Ensemble joined the platform for Rutter’s Mass of the Children, a work for both adult and children’s choirs.   The adults sang the traditional Mass in Latin with the children singing the sub-theme in English.  The young singers were amazing!  Trained by Duncan Aspden and Alison Green they knew the work well and gave a confident and accomplished performance.  Giving only the briefest glance at their books, otherwise watching the conductor all the time and never missing an entry.   For such young children they did not appear to be at all fazed by the occasion and their behaviour was impeccable.
The two soloists blended particularly well in the Domine Deus duet and the final Dona Nobis Pacem with both choirs, soloists and ensemble all taking part to make an impressive end to a very enjoyable concert.
Barbara Fell

Concert Nov 28 2015
Concert - Saturday 26th September 2015  

Sorry there is no review for this concert



Founder and former Conductor of
Aylesbury Festival Choir

A mixed programme of choral and instrumental music

Venue: Aylesbury Methodist Church,
Buckingham Street, Aylesbury HP20 2NQ

(Proceeds to the Lymphoma Association and
Stoke Mandeville Cancer Care & Haematology Unit)

To read the tribute, which is a celebration of David's life, please click here.

David Aylett Memorial Concert
Concert - 18 April 2015  

Sorry there is no review for this concert

Aylesbury Festival Choir supported by an orchestra

Franz Joseph Haydn

Soprano - Alice Gribbin
Mezzo-Soprano - Joanna Bywater
Tenor - Alex Pidgen
Bass - Gabriel Gottlieb

Director of Music - James Davey

Venue: St Mary's Church, Aylesbury, HP20 2JJ

Haydn 'The Creation' concert poster
Waterside Theatre Concert - 29 November 2014  

In common with the rest of the country, Buckinghamshire has been commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War. Numerous community groups have been taking part and, as one of the main emphases has been engaging young people, schools have been learning about the war, visiting the Western Front, producing art, music and poetry reflecting the conflict and researching family members who took part.
The foyer of the Waterside Theatre on Saturday November 29th housed an exhibition of some of the excellent work done by Buckinghamshire schools, which was also featured in the magazine Aylesbury Vale Remembers. My only criticism is the haste with which this exhibition was removed by the end of the concert - many of us had little opportunity to see it all.
The concert itself was on a huge scale and featured two choirs – Aylesbury Festival Choir and Aylesbury Choral Society, the 60 piece Oxford Festival Orchestra, with a large percussion section, recruited from across Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and five soloists conducted by James Davey, together with the Aylesbury Youth Orchestra conducted by Tom Horn.
The opening work, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace) was written in 1936 when the First World War was still fresh in people’s memories and fears were mounting that there would be a repeat performance. The text is taken from various sources including the Latin mass, poetry by Walt Whitman and a speech given in opposition to the Crimean War. As befits the subject it is a powerful piece with little of the folksy lyricism of Vaughan Williams’ more familiar music but it was well performed and received.
The main forces then took a break and Aylesbury Youth Orchestra performed two short and well loved pieces of music - Walton’s Crown Imperial and Elgar’s Nimrod. The playing was excellent throughout and Nimrod was particularly moving.
The main event came after the interval with a wonderful performance of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. Aylesbury Festival Choir performed this work two years ago at the Methodist Church, which being a considerably smaller venue necessitated a “lite” version. Nevertheless it was a memorable evening and the opportunity to hear it with full forces was not to be missed.
Like Dona Nobis Pacem, The Armed Man uses various sources for its texts but ranges even wider, from the medieval L’Homme Armé, via the Call to Prayer, beautifully sung by Imam Amran Ellahi, poetry by Kipling, a piece describing the bombing of Hiroshima, an extract from the Mahabharata to a verse from Revelations.
This was a fantastic performance that had the full house riveted from start to finish and congratulations are due to all who took part.
Joss O’Kelly

Concert - 5 April 2014  
AYLESBURY Festival Choir once again delivered a most enjoyable concert at Aylesbury Methodist Church on Saturday April 5th.
The programme of baroque music was fittingly accompanied by the Lawes Baroque Players and organ and began with Biber’s Requiem in F Minor. The choir, ensemble of five soloists and instruments, including for this piece only three sackbuts, gave a fine performance of this impressive work.
Alastair Ross then played Handel’s Organ Concerto No 1 in G Minor. Both he and the band used period instruments, which was entirely appropriate for this delightful work, written for the theatre rather than church. The virtuosity and interplay between orchestra and soloist was a pleasure to hear.
After the interval the choir and soloists returned for Handel’s Dixit Dominus. The excellent soloists, sopranos Emilia Morton and Charlotte Ashley, contralto Ruth Massey, tenor Kevin Kyle and bass William Gaunt, joined with the choir in a splendid performance of this dramatic work.
Aylesbury Festival Choir, although fielding a smaller team than usual nevertheless filled the church with sound – there is no doubt that they are flourishing in the capable hands of Musical Director James Davey.
In November, instead of their regular concert, AFC will be revisiting Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man which they performed so well two years ago. On this occasion however they will be joined at the Waterside Theatre by Aylesbury Choral Society and additional forces for a special commemorative concert for the beginning of the First World War.
Joss O’Kelly
Concert - 30 November 2013  
The Christmas season got off to a cracking start at Aylesbury Methodist Church on Saturday November 30 with a programme entitled Sing Noel!! from the Aylesbury Festival Choir and a host of guest performers.
It began with a performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, conducted by James Davey and featuring The Manor House String Quartet, harpist Sarah Goss, organist Ian Shaw, sopranos Catherine Pope and Juliet Fraser, mezzo Martha McLorinan, tenor Jonathan Bungard (sporting an impressive Mo!) and bass Jimmy Holliday. Deceptively simple and comparatively short, this is an enchanting work that drew impressive performances from all the participants.
After the interval The Manor House Quartet delighted the audience with fabulous arrangements of four French Carols - who knew that Ding Dong! Merrily on High originated as a 16th century French dance?
The Choir then sang two more French carols, accompanied by the excellent Galliard Band, comprising about a dozen recorders from tiny to huge. For the ladies it was the lyrical Quelle est Cette Odeur Agréable?, while the gents sang Patapan, told from the perspective of the shepherds. The ensemble for the latter was enhanced by two talented young percussionists, Samuel and Joey Horrox.
Next up for the recorders was the Pastorale from Corelli’s Christmas Concerto and Rise Up Shepherds and Follow, a 19th century spiritual, before choir, recorders and strings joined forces for Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella.
The concert concluded with Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, which wove together three folk carols and saw the return of Jimmy Holliday, an immensely talented singer who, luckily for us, is becoming a regular with the AFC.
Apart from the performers, congratulations for this most enjoyable concert should also go to whoever planned the programme, a joy from start to finish.
Joss O’Kelly
Workshop - 18 May 2013  

Piers Maxim - President Members and non-members were invited to join this fabulous 'Workshop of various OPERA CHORUSES', led by our President Piers Maxim. We were delighted to have Piers back with us and with how well it was supported.

We used the book 'Opera Choruses edited by John Rutter' and sang (in three different languages):

Waltz Scene from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin
March of the Torreadors from Bizet's Carmen
March of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi's Nabucco
Chorus of enchanted Islanders from Handel's Alcina
Anvil Chorus from Verdi's Il Trovatore
Bridal Chorus from Wagner
's Lohengrin

Our thanks to Thelma King, as always, for her superb piano accompaniment.


Concert - 20 April 2013  

Aylesbury Festival Choir was in fine voice for a terrific concert on Saturday April 20 at the Methodist Church.

The evening began with a sweetly sung Panis Angelicus by César Franck and continued with the same composer’s Prelude, Fugue and variation for Harmonium and Piano. The pianist was AFC regular Thelma King, while on the harmonium was Anne Page, a musician at the forefront of the revival of this beautiful instrument. Both played superbly in this and the main work of the evening, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. Since the demise of the Civic Centre, AFC have been performing in a space that does not allow for an orchestra as well, but on this occasion it didn’t matter as the original was scored for piano (well, OK, two pianos) and harmonium so there wasn’t the lurking feeling that we were missing something.

Neither little, nor especially solemn, the Petite Messe is a work that abounds in great tunes, many of which are reminiscent of Rossini’s usual occupation as an operatic composer.

Joining the choir and instrumentalists was possibly the best line-up of soloists in recent years: soprano Catherine Pope, alto Anaïs Heghoyan, tenor Tom Lowe and bass Jimmy Holliday, the latter making a welcome return visit.

They sang in various combinations in virtually every section, as well as providing solos, all of which were deservedly well received. The showstopper was Tom Lowe’s highly operatic Domine Deus, which sounded like an aria in which the hero is about to ride off and rescue his girl from the clutches of the villain!

Aylesbury Festival Choir rose to the occasion with an impressive performance throughout, under the baton of Musical Director James Davey.
Joss O’Kelly

Petite Messe Solennelle - 20 April 2013
Concert - 24 November 2012  


Aylesbury Festival Choir returned to the Methodist Church on Saturday November 24 for a Celebration of English Music.
The programme, conducted as ever by Musical Director James Davey, was inspired by this year’s Diamond Jubilee and comprised rousing music associated with royal occasions along with quieter pieces by English composers including our very own David Aylett.
The concert was bookended by two of Handel’s well known Coronation Anthems, opening with The King Shall Rejoice and ending with Zadok the Priest. Aylesbury Festival Choir rose to the occasion with spirited performances of both of these well loved works.
William Walton is another composer associated with royalty and we heard two stirring pieces, Crown Imperial, written for the coronation of George VI, and Orb and Sceptre, which he wrote for our present Queen’s coronation. Walton was also well known for his film scores, including that for the film Henry V, and contrast was provided by a short piece from the film, the gentle Touch her Soft Lips and Part.
Jerusalem by Hubert Parry is arguably the National Anthem we should have and provided another opportunity for the choir to let rip. This was followed by a beautifully sung rendition of Blest Pair of Sirens, Parry’s hymn to music that featured at the recent Royal Wedding.
An instrumental interlude in the form of Finzi’s Bagatelles for clarinet and piano introduced a pastoral mood and this was continued by a fine piece by David Aylett - a thoughtful setting of Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, which celebrated not royalty but the humble and forgotten lives of ordinary people.
Musical accompaniment for the evening was provided by regular pianist Thelma King, organist Matthew Burgess and Paul Vowles on clarinet, all three of whom added to the enjoyment of the evening.
Joss O’Kelly

A Celebration of English Music - 24 November 2012
Review - Workshop 12 May 2012
Bob Chilcott


In May 2102 the choir organised a workshop with acclaimed choral conductor and composer Bob Chilcott -"a contemporary hero of British Choral Music". Also attended by singers from other choirs, this was a very rewarding experience and a chance to sample some of Bob’s varied and accessible music including The Lily and the Rose, pieces from Furusato and the Salisbury Motets.

Chairman Pat Aylett commented “We had to wait two years to book Bob but it was certainly worth it. We’ve already had requests for another workshop with him!”

AFC Workshop with Bob Chilcott
Concert - 28 April 2012  


Aylesbury Festival Choir, under their conductor James Davey, excelled at their latest concert on Saturday April 28 at the Methodist Church.

The first half comprised Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, ably sung by baritone Lawrence Broomfield, and interspersed with the same composer’s charming Six Studies on English Folk Songs for Cello and Piano.

The second was a bold choice: The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins, written only 12 years ago but now amongst the best-selling classical albums. To some extent this Mass for Peace follows the structure of other masses - it has a Kyrie, a Sanctus, an Agnus Dei etc, but it is much wider in scope, taking its title from a medieval song and including texts both from other cultures, including a horrifying extract from the Mahabharata, and from writers as diverse as Thomas Malory and Rudyard Kipling. The message throughout is that, to quote Baldrick, “War's a horrid thing”.

Accompanied by an excellent ensemble of percussion, trumpets, organ, flute and cello, the choir sang virtually every section, excepting only two fine solos from treble Aengus Lynch, and the Call to Prayers from an unseen singer. They not only coped with the wide range of musical styles and shock tactics such as the screams at the end of The Trumpet’s Loud Clangour, but fully committed to it, and the result was most impressive and much appreciated by the audience.

Joss O’Kelly

'The Armed Man' - Concert Sat 28 April 2012
Carols for Everyone - 14 December 2011  

There was a real Christmas spirit for this concert much of which was caused by the Festive Faces photography session which was held before the concert.
This annual concert was again held at Aylesbury High School on Wednesday 14th December. Aylesbury Festival Choir, conducted by James Davey led the community singing and contributed three separate items to the programme. Our MC for the evening was Alan Hamilton, a member of AFC, and a very good job he did.
Carols For Everyone - Aylesbury Festival Choir and the Bedford Junior School Choir Bedgrove Junior School Choir under the leadership of Becky Sim gave us four very different carols and they delighted us with their enthusiastic singing. The school hand bell ringers led by headmaster Graham Norris, go from strength to strength and they provided an entertaining section of the programme. We were fortunate to have our rehearsal pianist, Thelma King, to accompany many of the carols. Caduceus Brass accom-panied the audience carols as well as performing an amusing solo item based on ‘The Nutcracker Suite’.
Our thanks to Danny Higgins, ( for the photograph.
Jean Tuer

'Carols For Everyone' Concert - Wed 14 December 2011