Development Service of Making Music
We are pleased to welcome you to the fourth major
performance by the Joint Hertfordshire Choirs. And when we say major, we mean
major – over 700 singers, a massive orchestra including 16 timpani and 4
brass bands – yes, it’s the Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts!
By any standards this piece is a huge
undertaking; not only does it fill a concert programme but the resources
required are massive. When choosing repertoire for the Joint Herts Choirs (a
grouping of some 15 choirs all based in the county), one consideration is that
they are pieces that require (or were intended for) large numbers of
performers. In the case of the Berlioz piece, any one individual choir would be
lost amongst the massive orchestral forces – with 15 choirs the effect is
So this is what you will experience in the Royal Albert Hall on 4th November
• over 700 singers from 16 different choirs
• a huge orchestra including 16 timpani (8 players), 10 cymbals and 4
• 4 brass bands spread in different locations around the Hall
• Berlioz’s individual approach to orchestration, incorporating
some stunning effects
• An incredible amount of colour and variety in the sounds produced from
this very large body of performers!
Additionally, an innovative and exciting feature of this concert will be a
world première performance. This time we have decided to take the
opportunity of having assembled all these instruments (orchestra and bands) to
commission a short Fanfare by the young Hertfordshire composer, Daniel Basford.
Berlioz was, to say the least, an unusual and colourful character. He was not
popular with the French establishment and many attempts were made to prevent
the first performance of his Requiem, which had been commissioned by M. de
Gasparin, then Minister of the Interior. Eventually the performance did take
place, in Saint-Louis des Invalides on 5th December 1837.
Berlioz suspected (rightly as it turned out!) that his enemies would try to
sabotage the performance, particularly as he was not allowed to conduct it
himself. This role fell to Monsieur Habeneck who had always been asked to
conduct large-scale musical performances of an official character and had also
conducted the première of other Berlioz works. Because of his suspicion,
Berlioz stationed himself behind Habeneck and watched carefully as the Dies
Irae came towards its conclusion. The music leads without a break into the Tuba
Mirum, with its 16 timpani and 4 brass bands, and the tempo broadens to half
its previous speed. With all these huge resources to pick up the new tempo it
is the one bar where the role of conductor is absolutely indispensable. At this
moment, Habeneck laid down his baton and started to take a pinch of
snuff! Berlioz saw this, rushed in front of Habeneck and gave the four
main beats of the new tempo. The orchestra followed and the performance was
saved from disaster. Berlioz continued to conduct to the end of the movement.
We are assured that our conductor, Derek Harrison, does not take snuff!
It promises to be a magical night. If you are not excited by the thought of
nearly 1000 performers in the Royal Albert Hall playing such a monumental
piece, you probably need to get out more…
Tenor soloist: Justin Lavender
|| Justin Lavender has since appeared as
soloist with many of the world’s great opera companies, conductors and
orchestras. He has also sung for us in the two previous concerts : Mahler Symphony
No 8 and Verdi Requiem.
|| Derek has been MD of the Hertford Choral
Society for 30 years and has also conducted all three previous performances of
the combined Hertfordshire choirs.
|He is also a singer, specialising in the
earlier years of his career in medieval music (with the St George's Canzona) -
a long way from Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts!
Herts County Youth Brass (4 Brass Bands)
Members from the following choirs will take part:
Barnet Choral Society
Bishops Stortford Choral Society
The Chiltern Choir
Hertford Choral Society
North Herts Guild of Singers
QC Chamber Choir
St. Albans Choral Society
Stevenage Choral Society
Tring Choral Society
Ware Choral Society
Welwyn Garden Music Society
This numbers around 1000 performers.
The project is run by a committee, on
which seven of the 16 participating choirs are represented. Their primary focus
is on all aspects of the musical preparation of this event, but they also work
very closely with the charity on many aspects of the concert day arrangements.
Robin Osterley (Stevenage Choral Society)
Diana Salthouse (Hertford Choral Society)
Keith Wilson (Ware Choral Society)
Gillian Gardner-Smith (Barnet Choral Society); Cynthia
Godley; Karen Goulding (Stevenage Choral Society); John Jefkins (Watford
Philharmonic Society); Hilary Laidler (Hertford Choral Society); Graham Poole
(North Herts Guild of Singers)