We have a wonderful archive of newspaper articles and old Coventry Philharmonic programmes and the latest ferret in the vaults unearthed this lovely concert from 1958. The soloists became household names in their lifetimes and, although Janet Baker was at the start of her career, the other soloists were established performers. And that got me thinking it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.
In 1958, the President of the Coventry Philharmonic Society was none other than Ralph Vaughan Williams. Was he instrumental in attracting such high calibre soloists?
Ilse Wolf was born in 1921 in Düren, Germany, but came to England just before the Second World War, fleeing Nazi persecution. Her soprano singing career really launched in 1945 and alongside her concerts she was very involved in teaching in the RAM, Trinity College and Morley College. She died in 1999 having built an international reputation performing Lieder and oratorios.
Janet Baker was born in 1933 in Hatfield, Yorkshire. As a young member of Leeds Philharmonic Choir, she sang as a soloist in Haydn’s Nelson Mass in Leeds in 1953 with Ilse Wolf as the soprano soloist. Persuaded by Wolf, Baker transferred to London and began a very successful singing career.
Michael Kennedy, the renowned music critic, wrote about Baker’s career saying “It was about this time (1957/8) that I first heard her, having been tipped off that it would be worth attending the concert as a critic just to hear her in the St Matthew Passion. It was.” Was he talking about the February 1958 performance of the St Matthew Passion?
Janet Baker was made a Dame in 1976 some 18 years after her appearance with the Coventry Philharmonic.
Wilfred Brown was born in 1921 in Horsham, Sussex. He taught at Bedales School before becoming a full time singer in 1951, going on to become an accomplished English tenor much favoured by Finzi and Vaughan Williams. He specialised in Oratorio and Folk Songs. Sadly he died in 1971 at the height of his career.
John Carol Case was born in 1923 in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and became one of England's leading baritones in oratorio and lieder. In the mid-1950s he became associated with all the great choral societies and festivals and was best known for his many performances of the part of Christ in Bach's St Matthew Passion. In 1948 a teaching colleague put him forward as the soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, with the composer himself conducting. Other performances directed by the grand old man of British music followed, not only of his own compositions, but also of the St Matthew Passion, in his home town of Dorking, Surrey. Carol Case died in 2012.
|It’s always quite sad to think you might not sing a particular choral piece again, especially when it is such an exhilarating work as Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass which we performed on Saturday. Hopefully the audience in St Mary’s, Warwick, enjoyed listening to the Coventry Philharmonic Choir and the Oriflamme Orchestral Ensemble as much as we all enjoyed performing. But now we bid au revoir to Gounod and start to rehearse the thrilling Mozart Requiem and Haydn Nelson Mass, which we will be singing on 18th May, again in St Mary’s.|
|Well done to Sandra Van Toller who was the winner of our fiendish but fun Christmas Quiz. Only seven correct entries were received and Sandra’s name was drawn from the very small hat! If you want to see the questions and answers, click here.|
|We have had an early return to the rehearsal room this year as we only have two and a bit weeks until our performance of Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass on Saturday 19th January. It’s a lovely piece to sing with quite a lot of unison and homophonic sections. At the moment we rehearse with a piano, but when your Musical Director promises “glorious orchestration” and “shimmering strings”, you just know that the concert itself will be unmissable.|
|The New Year has started with the publication of our latest newsletter which you can read by clicking here.|
|We video recorded our complete “Back Home for Christmas” concert when 30 of our members performed for a small audience at Stoneleigh Abbey Family Chapel. Individual carols have been posted on our new YouTube channel (click here) and we’ll post some more videos of our rehearsals and concerts when available.|
|Our full choir enjoying singing gorgeous music in our Carol Concert on 15th December 2018 at King Henry VIII School in Coventry.|
|The Coventry Philharmonic Choir singing Carol of the Bells at their Christmas Concert on 15th December 2018.|
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|Last night’s Christmas with the Phil concert was superb. Was it because we love singing absolute gems like Bogoroditse Devo and Carol of the Bells? Was it because of our lovely new friends, the Midland Brass Ensemble? Or maybe our music director, Steven Russell, in his snappy velvet jacket leading us so clearly and with such enthusiasm? Possibly our audience who were appreciative and willing to get involved? Or our fantastic band of fairies doing the ushering and stewarding? Like any good Christmas pudding, last night was the right blend of all these things. So on a cold and wet December evening, we all went away with warm and cosy hearts.|
|Our penultimate rehearsal before the concert on Saturday 15th December and all went well. I’m sure I detected that Margaret (our pitch setter) and Antoine (accompanist) were attempting to sound like a brass ensemble with some degree of success. I am particularly loving Carol of the Bells and God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen. I’m also really hoping our audience will be in good voice.|
|Less than a week to go until our Christmas concert when we will be performing Christmas carols and other seasonal music, accompanied by the Midland Brass Ensemble. Come along and listen / sing along to some festive favourites. |
Tickets are on sale for ”Christmas with the Phil” - Saturday 15th December 2018 at 7:30 pm in King Henry VIII School Concert Hall, Warwick Road, Coventry. Tickets are £10 and are available online from www.wegottickets.com or by telephone on 07728 887349.
WE ARE ABLE TO OFFER CONCESSIONARY TICKETS AS FOLLOWS - 16 YEARS & UNDER ADMITTED FREE OF CHARGE PROVIDED EACH CONCESSIONARY IS ACCOMPANIED BY A FULL PRICE TICKET HOLDER
|Rehearsals went very well yesterday evening - again. It’s never too early to get into the Christmas spirit (in my humble opinion). Carol of the Bells is a particular favourite because while the sopranos get the “tune”, the rest of the parts get to sound like bells (and yes I know that’s the point). We mixed in some of the Gounod, which we’re performing in January, just to add a bit of gravitas.|
|Rehearsals yesterday evening for our Christmas with the Phil concert on 15th December and the Amnesty International Concert on 19th January went extremely well. It was especially good to revisit the glorious Rachmaninoff “Bogoroditse Devo” which we will be singing in December. This wonderfully uplifting and stirring prayer to the Virgin Mary is part of the “All Night Vigil” which was premiered in March 1915 in Moscow, partly to aid the Russian war effort. It is particularly appropriate that we are performing this piece in the year which sees the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day and the end of the Great War.|
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|Last month we bade farewell to our outgoing Chair, John Atkins, and welcomed his replacement, Rachael Bermingham. Click here to read more.|
|We were very proud to have been invited back to lead the hymns during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Coventry War Memorial Park on Sunday 11th November 2018. A small group of choir members were accompanied by the City of Coventry Brass Band and the occasion was exceptionally moving, marking as it did the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI.|