West Grinstead church to host unusual concert

A Musical Tour of 17th Century Europe will provide a chance to hear some less commonly performed choral music on Saturday June 20 when Horsham Chamber Choir gives its next concert at St George’s Church, Church Lane, West Grinstead,.
Chamber Organ in St George's Church West Grinstead, built by G.P. England of London around 1890. SUS-150616-130808001Chamber Organ in St George's Church West Grinstead, built by G.P. England of London around 1890. SUS-150616-130808001
Chamber Organ in St George's Church West Grinstead, built by G.P. England of London around 1890. SUS-150616-130808001

Works by composers from different European countries will be sung in the rural setting of the 12th century Parish Church and during the concert the two historic organs at St George’s will be used.

The Chamber Choir will be directed by Jenny Hansell and will be joined by members of the St George’s Choir for two items of the programme - anthems by the English composers Blow and Purcell.

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The first of these is an uplifting piece written for the Coronation of King James II in 1685 and the second, Thou knowest Lord, is an incredibly moving anthem which Purcell composed for the Funeral of Queen Mary II in 1695 and was then sung again later the same year at his own funeral.

The chamber organ at St George’s was built around 1890 by G.P.England, a famous London builder whose father was building organs in London during the 17th Century.

The main organ dates from 1846 and is thought to be the oldest surviving instrument by the well known Hull firm of Forster and Andrews

As the concert’s title suggests, the programme contains music by composers from various European countries.

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Conductor Jenny Hansell says: “Baroque music from the 17th century is less familiar to most audiences than that of the 18th century with its famous composers Bach and Handel.

“I find it a fascinating era and have long championed the music of Charpentier, Schütz and Carissimi as well as the better known Purcell and Monteverdi. Our musical tour starts in Italy with a motet Nisi Dominus by Carissimi and a Mass setting by Monteverdi along with a solo motet by the very obscure but tantalisingly named Montalbano.

“Carissimi taught the French composer Charpentier and we start the second half of our concert with his setting of Nisi Dominus.

“Germany is represented by Heinrich Schütz who went to Italy twice to study with Gabrieli and Monteverdi and this influence can be seen in his music.

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“Schütz lived to the grand old age of 87 and wrote much very fine music including Meine Seeleer hebt den Herren, a setting of the Magnificat which we will be singing along with one of his motets.

“As well as the anthems mentioned above, the Chamber Choir will be singing more music from Restoration England.

“These works have a decidedly French feel to them, hardly surprising as Charles II returned from his exile in France with a desire to copy the wonderful music he had heard at the court of Louis IV, bringing back with him not only French ideas but also French musicians for his own court.”

The two Choirs have already had a Workshop together, led by Jenny Hansell, during which they worked on the two joint anthems as well as their singing technique and also learnt about the musicand its historical background.

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As one choir member commented: “It was good to sing with other people and we learnt a lot! We are looking forward to performing in this very old and interesting church with its historic organs.”

Report and picture contributed by Andrew Campbell.

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