It's October, and we've started rehearsing Christmas music for our December concert – our first with our award-winning new Music Director, Harry Bradford. And Harry's enthusiasm for the music and conducting means we're having fun! “I love the thrill of conducting a group of willing and responsive singers, of shaping the music and feeling the energy that’s released from communal music-making,” says Harry. This excitement and enthusiasm comes through at our weekly rehearsals, from our warm-up exercises to our performance. And having been a BBC Chorister of the Year, aged 13, Harry's a great source of tips on singing technique. “I want people to come out of rehearsal feeling they’ve had a lot of fun, as well as having a sense of achievement.” We, the Choir, love working at learning the music, but rehearsals are also relaxed and sociable.
We are making good progress with Vivaldi's uplifting setting of the Magnificat in G minor and Haydn's setting of the mass for the feast of St Nicholas. Now we've taken our first look at Vaughan Williams's stunningly evocative Fantasia on Christmas Carols, which will form the second half of our December concert together with arrangements of In Dulci Jubilo (Robert Pearsall) and Ding Dong Merrily on High (Mack Willberg).
Award-winning young musician Harry Bradford has taken on the role of Choir Music Director following the retirement of founder/director John Bate after 55 years. “Thames Philharmonic Choir is a chance for me to work with highly skilled amateurs, in awesome venues such as Cadogan Hall. I heard the Choir at their last concert there, and was very impressed. It’s a fantastic platform for me.” Although in his early 20s, Harry has an impressive career as a chorister, tenor and choral conductor. On finishing his Masters degree at the Royal Academy of Music, he won two awards for an outstanding final recital, and went on to be awarded the 2018-19 conducting scholarship with Genesis Sixteen (offshoot of Harry Christophers’ acclaimed The Sixteen), which mentors the rising generation of ensemble singers.
Harry’s choral career began at the age of four, when his dad Jim took him to an open day run by the singing organisation ‘Children’s International Voices of Enfield’. He sang with them for the next seven years, and learnt piano and violin. At 11, he successfully auditioned for the monarch’s Choir of the Chapel Royal, whose past members include composers Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Purcell and Handel. He read music at Cambridge University and was a King’s College choral scholar under the direction of the eminent organist and music director Sir Stephen Cleobury. From his mid-teens, though, after winning a conducting bursary at a summer school – “I had a blast!," he says – Harry’s ambition was to be a conductor. Eminent organist Stephen Disley tells of a teenage Harry coming to him to learn the organ, because he thought it was an essential skill for a choral conductor. “I would go to concerts and think ‘I could do this better’", said Harry. “It became a burning desire, to shape and express how I felt the music, through conducting.”
If you would like to join us at Thames Philharmonic, you will be asked to do a short, relaxed audition with Harry, to check that you can match a note and see how your voice fits in with the choir. “You don’t have to be Grade 8 and able to sight read an oratorio, as long as you can sing in tune and see whether the notes in the music go up or down,” said Harry. “People who choose an auditioned choir are interested enough in singing to want to develop their voices and perform well as a Choir,” he explains. “It also means that the Choir is at a certain musical level, and members are willing to take on a wider range of works, and big, challenging pieces.” The audition is also an opportunity for you to see if Thames Philharmonic is the Choir for you.
Find out more about @h_bradford96: www.harrybradford.co.uk