900 Years of Choral Music by Female Composers at the Festival of Chichester

900 Years of Choral Music by Female Composers is the promise from London-based choral quartet Sonare as they perform for the Festival of Chichester at St Peter’s Place, Fishbourne on Wednesday, June 21 at 7pm.
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They comprise Victoria Stilwell soprano, Stella Bracegirdle alto, Toby Churchley tenor and George Salmon bass. And together they are turning the spotlight on a wealth of exciting, moving and even boundary-breaking music, spanning 900 years, taking in everything from German mystics to famous siblings – and going right up to the present day with music from Stella, the composer amongst them. Tickets: £17, seniors £15, students £12 from the Festival of Chichester website. “This programme is something we've wanted to do ever since we started,” Victoria says, “and it has been great fun to do. Even the piece that we begin with that was written 900 years ago, the composer was very bold and cutting edge for her time. It is really nice to be able to give these composers a bit of spotlight.”

The quartet has now been together for three and a half years, as George explains: “We met as choral scholars at the Church of St John in Hackney in October 2019, and we were supposed to be doing a one-season engagement to last until the summer 2020. We finally finished that at the end of 2021! But that was how we came together. The initial idea was Vicki's once things had started to open up again following the lockdown periods. We thought that it would be deeply uncertain as to how we might get work. And we just didn't know what the competition would be like. We thought the competition for freelance work was going to be very, very stiff and so Vicki had the idea that the four of us come together and do our own thing. It's just the four of us. We don't need any equipment. We don't even need a keyboard. Stella our alto has got perfect pitch so we don't need anything at all. We thought we would try.”

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And Vicki is delighted at the way things have developed since then: “We didn't know then what we know now and it has been a real baptism of fire but we have done a number of tours and we sing at weddings and funerals and private parties and I do think that we have really grown together. The last tour we did felt really so much more polished and so much tighter for the fact that we've been together for three and a half years and it means that we can be more ambitious. Our first tour was very eclectic but we have been able to develop some really strong themes and move forward.”


George, who is also the musical director of the Phoenix Crawley of Crawley, agrees: “I do a lot of work with Crawley and other amateur choirs which is a particular joy because you can sense them thinking ‘I don't know if I can do this’ and then they realise that they can, and that is lovely but what I love about singing with these guys is there is absolutely no limit in terms of the difficulty... just so long as it is something that can be sung by four people. We can take on really ambitious challenges musically and get to the musical grain of it. When we first started out and we were doing something difficult we would be thinking how; now we almost do it without thinking it has become so intuitive between us.”