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About this release
This new arrangement for string quintet and organ was first performed on Remembrance Sunday in 2007 in the intimate setting of the choir stalls at St John’s Church, Wimbledon. By using a small number of singers, similar to the twenty or so in Fauré’s choir at the Madeleine, added to the chamber music quality of the strings, unique colours and textures are created which breathe new life into an otherwise familiar but continually evolving work.
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1926) began work on his Requiem purely ‘for the pleasure of it’, although it was quite probably composed in response to the recent death of his father. The subsequent passing of his mother shortly after its first performance gives the work an added poignancy, not least since the Requiem was an evolving work which he continued to revise from its inception in 1887 until the first published version of 1900.
Although he wrote several works involving a full orchestra, his particular talent lay within the more intimate musical forms – songs, piano music and chamber music. Fauré deliberately avoided the grander kind of orchestral music, preferring instead to embrace an elegant and subtle musical language.Read more
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) played at various churches in Paris and from 1857 held the eminent position of organist at the Église de la Madeleine, where he was succeeded in 1877 by Gabriel Fauré. Although he is not generally associated with sacred music, Saint-Saëns’ sacred compositions are numerous and include settings of several psalms and liturgical texts, and this setting of the Ave verum corpus. The poem is a meditation on the Catholic belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Tantum ergo by Déodat de Séverac (1872-1921) is a serenely beautiful setting, and one of Séverac’s best known compositions. The words are taken from the final two verses of Pange Lingua Gloriosi by St Thomas Aquinas: ‘Therefore we, before him bending, this great Sacrament revere’.
Fauré’s Ave verum corpus is written in a style that recalls his Requiem – simple and emotional. The text, attributed to Pope Innocent VI, is a prayer for the Feast of Corpus Christi and in just five lines covers the Incarnation, the Passion, the Eucharist and the Last Judgement. The Cantique de Jean Racine is an early work, winning first prize from l’Ecole de Musique Classique et Religieuse of Paris where he was a student of Camille Saint-Saëns. Scored originally with harmonium and string quartet accompaniment, recorded here in a new arrangement for string quintet, one can hear rhythmic triplets contrasting with the steady declamation of Racine’s text.
(Michael Higgins, 2012)
About the artists
Neil Ferris studied at Royal Holloway, University of London, and at the Royal College of Music. He is currently Music Director of Wimbledon Choral Society, one of London’s leading amateur choirs, and is Guest Conductor of Manchester Chamber Choir, Principal Guest Conductor of Birmingham Bach Choir.
In demand as chorus master to some of the leading symphonic choruses in the UK, Neil is Associate Chorus Director of the London Symphony Chorus, Chorus Director at the Royal College of Music and Chorus Master at the Endellion Summer Festival. He has also worked with the BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC National Chorus of Wales and the chorus of Cambridge University Music Society. In these roles he has prepared choirs for internationally acclaimed conductors including Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Carlo Rizzi, Marin Alsop, Donald Runnicles, Francois-Xavier Roth, Thierry Fischer, Jac van Steen, Martyn Brabbins and Ryan Wigglesworth.
Formerly Head of Choral Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Neil helped establish the international reputation of the choral conducting course and developed the conservatoire’s choral ensembles. This summer he prepared the chamber choir to join the BBC Proms Youth Choir with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle and conducted them on stage at the Wales Millennium Centre in a collaboration with international ballet dancer Carlos Acosta. In demand as a teacher and mentor to many young aspiring choral conductors in this country and abroad, he has led masterclasses in the USA, Ireland and Denmark and for the Association of British Choral Directors and National Youth Choir of Great Britain.
Equally at home working with orchestras, Neil has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, New Queens Hall Orchestra, Haydn Chamber Orchestra, Salomon Orchestra, Orchestra Vitae and the period instrument ensembles Florilegium and Apollo Baroque. He made his Royal Opera House debut with Will Tuckett’s ballet The Wind in the Willows.
Recordings include an album of the choral music of Jonathan Dove with Convivium Singers released on the Naxos label and Fauré’s Requiem on the Convivium Records label. He has also prepared the chorus for the LSO Live recordings of Berlioz Roméo et Juliette, Brahms Requiem and Szymanowski Stabat Mater.
Convivium Singers is an award-winning, critically acclaimed choral ensemble, providing opportunities for young singers at the early stages of performing careers, as well as for talented musicians who have chosen not to pursue careers in music. The ensemble specialises in performing and recording sacred and secular music by living European and American composers. It was recently described as ‘an extraordinarily good choir to listen to’ by BBC Radio 3’s ‘CD Review.’
Convivium Singers have released a number of recordings in recent years, collaborating with companies, including the Baltic Exchange, London, and publishers, notably the Royal School of Church Music. Composer discs include works by Jonathan Dove, Margaret Rizza, Malcolm Archer, Carson Cooman, Hugh Benham and Michael Higgins. They have also delved into early music, and their CD of motets by Peter Philips (Convivium Records) received a Choir & Organ five-star review. The choir was filmed at Portsmouth Cathedral in 2014 for a special Songs of Praise programme on BBC1, as part of the DDay70 commemorations.
The Singers often work with established conductors and composers to introduce contemporary music to wider audiences. They were prize-winners at the Tolosa International Choral Contest (2011, Spain). The ensemble has also performed at Milan’s La Fabbrica del Canto festival and in Hradec Králové at the Czech choral festival Sborové slavnosti.
Convivium Singers have a diverse repertoire from traditional choral music to folk-songs, partsongs and popular arrangements.
- Requiem in D Minor, I. Inroit et Kyrie - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
- Requiem in D Minor, II. Offertoire - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
- Requiem in D Minor, III. Sanctus - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
- Requiem in D Minor, IV. Pie Jesu - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
- Requiem in D Minor, V. Agnus Dei et Lux aeterna - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
- Requiem in D Minor, VI. Libera me - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
- Requiem in D Minor, VII. In Paradisum - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
- Ave verum corpus - Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns
- Tantum ergo - Déodat de Séverac
- Tantum ergo - Gabriel Fauré
- Ave verum corpus - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
- Cantique de Jean Racine - Gabriel Fauré, arr. Michael Higgins
Catalogue number: CR016
Choir Convivium Singers
Soprano Georgina Stalbow
Baritone Jonny Herford
Quintet Convivium Quintet
Violin Helen Davies, Rosie Tompsett
Viola Amy Stanford
Cello Leonie Adams
Double Bass Alice Kent
Organist Michael Higgins
Music Arrangement(s) Michael Higgins
Conductor Neil Ferris
Engineering Adaq Khan