Royal Albert Hall
Hertfordshire Choirs sing BERLIOZ’S Grande Messe des Morts at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday, 4th November 2007, 7.30 pm 
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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 stunning.

So this is what you will experience in the Royal Albert Hall on 4th November 2007:

• over 700 singers from 16 different choirs
• a huge orchestra including 16 timpani (8 players), 10 cymbals and 4 gongs
• 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…

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Tenor soloist: Justin Lavender 
Derek Harrison 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.

Musical Director
Derek Harrison
Derek Harrison 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! Derek Harrison

Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra
Herts County Youth Brass (4 Brass Bands) 

Members from the following choirs will take part:

Barnet Choral Society
Bishops Stortford Choral Society
Chiltern Chamber Choir
The Chiltern Choir
Chipperfield Choral Society
Harpenden Choral Society
Hertford Choral Society
North Herts Guild of Singers
QC Chamber Choir
St. Albans Choral Society
Stevenage Choral Society
Tring Choral Society
Ware Choral Society
Watford Philharmonic Society
Welwyn Garden Music Society

This numbers around 1000 performers. 

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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)

Committee Members
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)

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