Will Parsons (Bass), is looking forward to our performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as well as many of the choral highlights at this year’s BBC Proms.
On Sunday 24th July, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski, we will be performing Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 in D minor, the “Choral” (or “B9” as it’s affectionately called) in front of a sold out Proms audience at the Royal Albert Hall. Performing any Prom is always a special occasion but other than standard repertoire sung on the last night, B9 is the only work that is performed every year and until relatively recently was always performed on the penultimate night. It’s therefore considered a very important night by artists, audiences and the media alike.
The London Philharmonic Choir last sang the work at the Proms with previous Principal Conductor, the late Kurt Masur, in 2005, a year which incidentally saw us sing the work no less than seven other times worldwide – including with Masur and the LPO in London and Athens as well as at the Lucerne Festival and three more times at the Dewar Filharmonik Petronas concert hall in Kuala Lumpur with Jaap van Zweden and the Malaysian Philharmonic. We finished the year off with a final performance at the Barbican – the members of the choir certainly knew the work off by heart by then!
Since the Millennium, the LPC has performed B9 more than 20 times with such diverse conductors as Christoph Eschenbach, David Hill, Christoph von Dohnányi , Paul Daniel, Pinchas Zukerman, Neeme Järvi, Vladimir Jurowski to name but a few. The LPC is invited to sing every year at the BBC Proms but due to the London Philharmonic Orchestra working in Sussex at the Glyndebourne Festival each summer, it is rare that we get to perform with our own orchestra and Principal Conductor at Proms. So 11 years on, this B9 promises to be extra special for us.
Beethoven’s other great choral opus, his Missa Solemnis will be performed by the Hallé Choir, Manchester Chamber Choir and BBC Philharmonic and their Conductor Laureate Gianandrea Noseda (Prom 5) and will be a good opportunity for LPC members to hear the work live before we sing it with Sir Mark Elder and the LPO in the autumn!
Enough of us and I now turn to a few of the other choirs and choral highlights in the 2016 Proms season. There are no less than 26 choirs singing, with over 30 choral and operatic works performed. The BBC Symphony Chorus traditionally open the Proms, this year with Prokofiev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky with the BBCSO and their Principal Conductor Sakari Oramo. As the BBC’s own chorus, they sing the lion’s share of Proms (5 this year) including Vaughan Williams’ first and rarely performed Toward the Unknown Region with words by Walt Whitman (Prom 15).
Few choirs are brought to the Proms from abroad, perhaps because of the expense but this year we have the highly regarded Collegium Vocale Gent who join forces with Iván Fischer’s Budapest Festival Orchestra to sing Mozart’s Requiem (Prom 54). Some of you will remember singing Haydn’s Die Schöpfung with the LPO and Iván Fischer’s brother Ádám in Budapest on New Year’s Day, 2009.
The next generation of choral singers are well represented with Eltham College Boys Choir, singing in Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the LSO and Bernard Haitink (Prom 18), the National Youth Choir of Scotland celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary with Berlioz’ Romeo and Juliet (Prom 20), the CBSO Youth Chorus (women’s voices) singing Holst’s The Planets (Prom 29) and the BBC Youth Choir singing Verdi’s Requiem with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Marin Aslop (Prom 74).
Of the professional choirs, highlights include the Royal Opera Chorus with Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (Prom 2), BBC Singers with Poulenc’s Sabat Mater (Prom 7), Stile Antio at Cadogan Hall with Byrd, Morley, Muhly, Gibbons (PCM 5) and The Sixteen with Harry Christophers, Bach and Arvo Pärt (Prom 42). King’s College Cambridge with whom we shared a stage for a Christmas concert last year, perform works by Gabriel Fauré including his Requiem (Prom 3).
Celebrating our rich Gospel tradition the London Adventist Chorale, London Community Gospel Choir and University Gospel Choir of the Year form in a “superchoir” Late Night Prom (Prom 6). With a Jamie Cullum Prom with the Roundhouse Choir and a mixture of rock, jazz and pop (Prom 36) there will be something for all tastes in the 2016 Proms season!
There are so many choirs taking part so I’ve only been able to name a few but take a look for yourself at the BBC Proms site