Cathedral concert for London school choir

Nicholas Robson brings the choir of London's Holland Park School for an afternoon concert in his home city of Chichester.

The choir
The choir

They will perform in Chichester Cathedral – where Nicholas was himself a chorister –on Saturday, January 28 at 2pm (free concert, no tickets required).

Nicholas, deputy head at the comprehensive, said: “The choir was conceived in 2012. It was a small group of six or seven students to start with. There was not a lot of music happening, certainly not classical or choral, and in 2012, we did a first performance. We did a bit of Faure’s Requiem and sang a small section. People were very supportive indeed. There had been some pop singing in the school, three or four girls and a piano, and I didn’t want to entirely depart from that, but having sung in the cathedral as a seven-year-old, my background has been the choral tradition. Holland Park School is a very aspirational school trying to ensure that the students from all sorts of backgrounds have access to western culture and western music.

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“It prides itself on trying to get people to do things that they would not otherwise be doing at home. For some of the students, it will be the first time they have travelled outside the M25.”

The choir stretches to 40, but will be around 25 for their Chichester date. In age, they range from 11 to 17.

“The choir has developed very well. We have established a repertoire. We had a big influx at the start of the school year, and we are trying to make sure they all know the music that the others know. We toured to Paris two years ago, and we sang in Durham Cathedral last year. We thought we would be closer to home this year, but next year we are planning to go to Italy. Hopefully we will do Rome and Florence.

“My interest has always been in Renaissance choral music, and in the programme, there will be quite a lot by English composers of the 16th and 17th centuries, Tallis and Byrd and Gibbons, and in addition to the sacred music, we will have some secular music. We will also branch out into some Victorian music with some Parry and also some Elgar, and we also do a variety of modern music as well.

“It’s great. We have got a burgeoning group of 40 students that are desperate to sing. It has been wonderful to see how they have gone from just being a group of reluctant girls.

“We have been singing in assembly all the way through, but the first time we had to have them behind a screen, the shameful realisation that they are teenagers that sing! But we have moved on and they have gained in confidence. We sang in the round, and now they are singing directly to the audience. In the past couple of years, we have done some large choral works. We sang Mozart’s Requiem this December and Handel’s Messiah the year before. There have been some significant landmarks for them. Both works are hugely challenging and take a lot of time to teach.

“But the students get a wonderful sense of camaraderie.”

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