Forthcoming Events - Previous Concerts and Reviews
Programmes during our
60th Anniversary Year
1st December 2018 - Brahms 'German Requiem'
13th April 2019 - 'Broadway Sensation'
30th November 2019 - 'Choral Classics'
Previous Concerts and Reviews
- 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.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Saturday 26th September 2015
there is no review for this concert
CONCERT IN MEMORY OF
and former Conductor of
Aylesbury Festival Choir
A mixed programme of choral and instrumental music
Aylesbury Methodist Church,
Buckingham Street, Aylesbury HP20 2NQ
to the Lymphoma Association and
Stoke Mandeville Cancer Care & Haematology Unit)
read the tribute, which is a celebration of David's life,
please click here.
- 18 April 2015
there is no review for this concert
Festival Choir supported
by an orchestra
- Alice Gribbin
Mezzo-Soprano - Joanna Bywater
Tenor - Alex Pidgen
Bass - Gabriel Gottlieb
of Music - James Davey
St Mary's Church, Aylesbury, HP20 2JJ
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
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.
- 5 April 2014
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
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
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
- 30 November 2013
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.
- 18 May 2013
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.
used the book 'Opera Choruses edited by John Rutter' and
sang (in three different languages):
Scene from Tchaikovsky's Eugene
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
thanks to Thelma King, as always, for her superb piano accompaniment.
- 20 April 2013
Aylesbury Festival Choir was in fine
voice for a terrific concert on Saturday April 20 at 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
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
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.
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!
Festival Choir rose to the occasion with an impressive performance
throughout, under the baton of Musical Director James Davey.
Concert - 24 November 2012
A CELEBRATION OF ENGLISH MUSIC
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
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
- Workshop 12 May 2012
WORKSHOP WITH BOB CHILCOTT
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.
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!”
- 28 April 2012
Festival Choir, under their conductor James Davey, excelled
at their latest concert on Saturday April 28 at the Methodist
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.
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”.
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.
for Everyone - 14 December 2011
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
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, (www.dannyhigginsphotography.com)
for the photograph.