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Choir’s first live performance since December 2019

Until a few days ago, a three-day programme of magnificent English choral music at Portsmouth’s Anglican Cathedral this weekend (30 July–1 August) was but a post-lockdown dream for members of Thames Philharmonic Choir. But they rehearsed anyway, and just a week before the event, it was finally confirmed that COVID restrictions would be lifted, allowing them to sing all the choral services while the Cathedral’s resident choir has a break.

TPChas sung at summer residencies in English cathedrals every year since 1994, but this will be their first with Harry Bradford, appointed their Music Director nearly two years ago. It will also be the first time that both conductor and Choir have performed live and before an audience since Christmas 2019, shortly after Harry’s appointment. “It’s bizarre that I’ve been director for nearly two years, but this will be only my second public performance,” said Harry. “After the long lockdown, I’m so excited to be making live music again. There’s something so special for a conductor, to bathe in a sea of sound when all the voices come together. It is particularly apt that this happening at Portsmouth’s ‘Cathedral of the Sea’.”

Harry became TPC conductor shortly after graduating with distinction from the Royal Academy of Music, but he’d been making an impression on the world of choral music for many years. He was BBC young male chorister of the year in 2008, and a choral scholar at King’s College under the late Sir Stephen Cleobury. Although he still sings professionally, his vocation since 15 was to be a conductor. In 2018-19, he was appointed conducting scholar with Harry Christophers’ renowned ensemble Genesis Sixteen.

Harry works closely with TPC’s accompanist, award-winning and resident organist at Westminster Cathedral, James Orford, who will be playing the Portsmouth Cathedral’s West Great Organ throughout the weekend, including some splendid voluntaries. “We’ve planned a programme over the four choral services at Portsmouth that span an interesting variety of church music from the beautiful, transcendental simplicity of plainsong – the earliest form of musical composition in the Church – to the wonderfully euphoric anthems and canticles of the 20th-century,” said Harry. “We’ll be raising the roof after a rather dormant 18 months.”

Contributing to the ‘sea’ of Anglican church music will be works at Friday evensong by one of the “finest proponents of early 17th-century choral style,” Orlando Gibbons. He and conductor Harry share the great honour of having been choral scholars of the Chapel Royal, the monarch’s choir, albeit some 400 years apart. “Gibbons combines interesting counterpoint with devious harmonic progression, while maintaining glorious melodic lines in every vocal part,” explained Harry.

The 20th century works are by composers who contributed to a stirring revival of English church music. They inspired each other: Charles Wood taught Ralph Vaughan Williams (O Taste and See,Sunday Communion) and Herbert Howells. Vaughan Williams’ wife Ursula wrote the words to Howells’ A Hymn for St Cecilia (Saturday evensong). Herbert Brewer, whose Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in D is a rousing standard of the Church repertoire, was, like Vaughan Williams and Howells, involved in the west of England Three Choirs Festival. “Choir, organ and congregation will be able to bathe in the rich choral colours of the Anglican choral tradition,” said Harry.

Gilly Cameron-Cooper

30 JULY – 1 AUGUST 2021



Friday Evensong, 5.30pm Responses: Ayleward Psalmody

Plainsong Canticles

Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625)

Magnificat & Nunc Dimitis

Orlando Gibbons – Almighty and Everlasting God

Organ Voluntary: Orlando Gibbons - Fantasia in Gamut Flatt

Saturday Evensong, 5.30pm Responses: Radcliffe

Psalm Chant – Orford

Herbert Brewer (1865­–1928) Magnificat & Nunc Dimitis in D

Herbert Howells (1892–1983) A Hymn for St Cecilia

Organ Voluntary: Herbert Howells - Paean

Sunday Holy Communion, 11am

Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) Motet in C, Opus 115

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) O Taste and See

Organ Voluntary: Louis Vierne (1870–1937) – Final (V) from Symphony No 4 in G minor

Evensong, 5.30pm Responses: Radcliffe Canticles:

Charles Wood – Short Service no.2 in E Flat

Psalm Chant: Garrett Henry Balfour Gardiner (1877­-1950) Evening Hymn

Organ Voluntary: Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) - Prelude and Fugue in G minor, No 3

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