‘One of the top 5 choirs in the UK’ The Times
Friday 3 April, 3.00pm
Concert Hall, Brighton Dome, Church Street Brighton, BN1
Tickets: £25, £19.50, £15, £5 proms area
On Good Friday April 3 2015, Brighton Festival Chorus (BFC) returns to Brighton Dome for the 500th performance since its founding in 1968. This special ‘in the round’ Proms-style performance of JS Bach’s glorious St John Passion is a return of the highly acclaimed, semi-staged version last performed in 2008 and 2009 and takes the singers in and amongst the audience.
BFC was founded for the 1968 Brighton Festival by László Heltay. The first BFC performance, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, conducted by the composer with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), was an outstanding success. This was the start of a long and fruitful association with the RPO which continues today and has so far included 172 concerts and 19 recordings. Since this auspicious beginning BFC has gone on to gain a reputation as an amateur choir working with top professional orchestras and artists delivering consistently high quality performances. BFC is also known for its versatility, as it performs not only the standard choral repertoire but also new works and commissions, and collaborates with popular music artists. BFC performs in Brighton Festival every year and at major concert venues in London, the rest of Britain and in Europe. BFC supports Brighton Festival Youth Choir to promote and sustain interest in choral singing in young people and it also arranges choral workshops to encourage participation by the local community.
There have been many exceptional concerts amongst the 500 and here are a few of the highlights:
• May 1970: Mass in B Minor by Bach with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Karl Richter, the world’s leading expert on Bach at that time.
• September 1970: BFC made the first of its many professional recordings with Psalmus Hungaricus by Kodály under István Kertész.
• April 1972 marked the first concert (singing as the English Bach Festival Chorus) in the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) with Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky conducted by Leonard Bernstein. The occasion was the English Bach Festival, Homage to Stravinsky. This was followed by a recording at Abbey Road Studios.
• May 1973: BFC toured for the first time internationally performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Yuri Ahronovich conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Portugal.
• December 1976: The Creation by Haydn conducted by Antal Doráti with the RPO which was also recorded. BFC performed 18 concerts and made 3 recordings with this renowned conductor.
Within 10 years the chorus had accumulated an association with many of the major British orchestras and the most celebrated of conductors and soloists of recent times.
• August 1981: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Britten’s War Requiem were performed in the Amphitheatre of Herodes Atticus at the Athens Festival with the RPO conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson and with soloists soprano Heather Harper and bass John Shirley-Quirk.
• April 1983: La Gioconda by Poncielli with soloist Placido Domingo and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anton Guadagno at the Barbican.
• 1985 was a bumper year with no less than 15 engagements, performing in Sussex, London, Wales and France.
• By 1985/6 there arose engagements with André Previn which totalled 16 concerts and 3 recordings, including Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. BFC also recorded Tippett’s A Child of our Time at Abbey Road Studios with the composer present.
• July 1986: the first Promenade concert, Belshazzar’s Feast by William Walton conducted by Vernon Handley.
• November 1988: Britten’s War Requiem conducted by László Heltay, in Diksmuide, Belgium on the 70th anniversary of Armistice Day. This was particularly memorable and poignant because several elderly veterans were in the front rows. Diksmuide had been razed to the ground during WW1. Wilfred Owen, whose poems are used in the work, was killed just 50 miles away from there. The concert was televised and recorded.
• May 1989: Damnation of Faust by Berlioz conducted by Simon Rattle with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. This was preceded by two concerts under Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the Brighton Festival.
• March 1990: Belshazzar’s Feast conducted by Charles Groves for his 75th birthday concert at the Barbican.
• December 1992: 8th Symphony by Mahler conducted by Lorin Maazel at the RAH.
• Brighton Festival has continued to engage BFC annually and in May 2000 Haydn’s The Creation was performed at Glyndebourne conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.
• August 2004: The Veil of the Temple by Sir John Tavener was conducted by James Morgan and Stephen Layton and performed in the presence of the composer at the BBC Proms in the RAH. This was followed in 2006 by a performance in Brighton Dome at which the composer was also present and the performance received a 10 minute standing ovation.
• May 2007: Dream of Gerontius by Elgar conducted by Andrew Davis.
• March 2008: Bach’s St John Passion conducted by James Morgan at Brighton Dome. This was semi-staged and performed without scores, which was a first for a non-professional choir.
• May 2008: Harmonium by John Adams conducted by Grant Llewellyn for Brighton Festival.
• January 2009: in London’s O2 Arena, Orff’s Carmina Burana was performed to an audience of 20,000. BFC sang in fire-proof costumes, processing on to stage with lighted torches.
• November 2013 & January 2014: the Chorus undertook two tours of northern France, firstly performing Verdi’s Requiem, then Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 as part of a European funded project.
• BFC performs its 500th concert, Bach’s St John Passion Bach on 3rd April 2015 at Brighton Dome.
For further information, biogs, images or review tickets please contact:
Shelley Bennett, Yeti PR: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07890101841
Julian Wilkinson: email@example.com / 07864699022
Facebook: Brighton Festival Chorus | Twitter: @BrtnFstvlChorus | Web: www.bfc.org.uk