Preview: Portsmouth Baroque Choir rings the times and seasons in Chichester

Portsmouth Baroque Choir – “Times & Seasons”, Saturday 6 July, 1900, Christ Church, Chichester

The venue for our summer concert, Christ Church Methodist and United Reformed Church in Old Market Street, Chichester, has two very good pianos, one of which will be put to good use by our accompanist Peter Rhodes in the Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music and in Jonathan Dove’s The Passing of the Year.

This programme has been a particular joy to rehearse and explore. For instance, the poetic texts by early Romantics chosen by Mendelssohn for his first set of Songs to be sung outdoors extol the virtues of Nature and the benefits of seeing ourselves as part of it, while Goethe’s Nightingale (one of the folks songs he collected in Alsace in 1771) contains a simple message, almost like a nursery rhyme: “The nightingale was far away/ The Spring has called her back/ She didn’t learn anything new/ She sings the old, dear songs”. Dear old songs to us, one of the joys of Spring, but for the nightingale just the usual way to attract a mate.

This will be the third time Portsmouth Baroque Choir has tackled The Passing of the Year since 2018. Its technical challenges, rhythmic and harmonic, have kept us busy since the first rehearsal but the character of the work (“cracking” to quote Scala FM presenter Penny Smith after my request was aired last week) has terrific appeal, its dramatic portrayal of seasonal change and recovery after loss deeply moving. Like all the best composers, Jonathan Dove shows how much musical richness and energy can be derived from the simplest of means – two adjacent notes, a medieval song and a peel of bells.

We were delighted, along with every choir in the land, to see that John Rutter received a knighthood in the 2024 King’s Honours List. His Childhood Lyrics are full of grace and the second half of our summer concert begins, fortuitously, with a tribute to the composer as ‘Monday’s Child’ – Rutter was born on the 24th September 1945, which was a Monday.

We’re very much looking forward to returning to the Festival of Chichester after last year’s triumph with Handel’s Messiah and very much hope that you will join us at 7pm on July 6th, regardless of the national football team’s progress in the Euros!

Chris Clark
Portsmouth Baroque Choir

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