Chichester Singers back to pre-pandemic strength for Festival of Chichester concert

The Chichester Singers return to Chichester Cathedral for the Festival of Chichester on Saturday, June 18 at 7.30pm – refreshed and invigorated by a hugely successful tour to Portugal.
Jonathan WillcocksJonathan Willcocks
Jonathan Willcocks

Conductor Jonathan Willcocks feels its success is all part of being back to full strength post pandemic.

“We usually tour every three years. This particular one was planned for May 2020 and then completely reorganised for May 2021 and then completely reorganised again for May 2022.

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“We have three basic rules that have to be in place for touring. It must be somewhere that is worthwhile visiting anyway and Lisbon certainly is.

"It has to be somewhere where there are lovely buildings to perform in and Lisbon has certainly got that.

"And it has to be somewhere where we can get some pretty decent weather in order to be able to sit around and chat and wander.

“These tours are very important for the choir to be able to bond socially. In normal life we meet every Wednesday and during rehearsal there is a short interval when people can chat but they don't really get the chance to sit down and do that properly.

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"We had about 70 singers on the tour and that's about half the choir that were able to go, and we had a lovely time.

“I do feel we are back to where we were pre-pandemic.

"I was really concerned with the lockdowns and groups of people being diluted by other things coming their way so we worked very hard during the pandemic to keep a sense of togetherness. The three concerts that we have played since then have all gone exceptionally well. The choir is back up to strength and singing well.”

For the Festival of Chichester, they will perform Will Todd’s Mass in Blue (2003). With its fusion of choral and jazz, the piece is an established part of the choral repertoire. Songs of a Rainbow Nation, from Alexander L’Estrange, completes the programme, celebrating the spirit of the African song tradition. The Will Todd Jazz Ensemble joins the night.

“Will Todd’s Mass in Blue is a work that we have done before very successfully 13 years ago in 2009. It was very well received both in terms of learning and performing and I was always wanting to do it again though I don't tend to do the same works within a ten-year span. We will be doing this particular work with W ill Todd himself. He is a wonderful jazz pianist and he will come along with his ensemble to work with us at the concert.

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" The piece is a wonderful fusion. It has the traditions of the Latin mass but it also has a jazz style. And it is also very well written as a choral work. He was a chorister and brought up in the great traditions of choral music. His preference is jazz now but he really does know about choral music. The pieces that he writes for choirs really are very, very well written.

“Alexander L’Estrange’s piece is not jazz exactly but it does occupy the same sort of territory and he was also a choral scholar and knows his choral music really well. It is a piece based on African songs.”

Tickets from the Festival of Chichester

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