OCTOGENARIAN CONDUCTOR BATONS ON

Press release re. concert at Southwark Cathedral, 11 June 2016

 

Veteran Kingston choirmaster and composer John Bate, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, is to conduct the music he wants played at his funeral at his next concer

 

t. One could be forgiven for wondering whether Maurice Duruflé's Requiem, to be performed at Southwark Cathedral on 11 June, might be the octagenarian’s swansong, but the conductor asserts: “I intend to carry on as long as my constitution allows.” 

 

Bate certainly shows no signs of slowing down at the weekly rehearsals of the Thames Philharmonic Choir, which he founded more than 50 years ago. “I often feel fresher after a rehearsal than I did at the beginning, and a successful concert can be utterly cathartic”, he says.

 

The June concert at Southwark should prove cathartic for all, as it’s all stops out for a programme which includes a second choral work, W.A. Mozart’s Vesperae Solemnae de Confessore (not solemn, as its title suggests, but youthful and ebullient), and Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, played by a distinguished organist on one of Britain’s greatest cathedral organs. Stephen Disley is sub-organist at Southwark Cathedral but also a recitalist and accompanist with leading British orchestras, and, says Bate, “One of the select band allowed access to the Royal Albert Hall organ.” He will be making the most of the c1897 cathedral organ’s ‘sound of astonishing magnificence’ in Duruflé’s Requiem and the Poulenc Organ Concerto – which was first performed in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris – by none other than Duruflé himself.

 

Choir power is more than 130-strong, Bate’s Thames Philharmonic augmented by members of the Symphonic Choir of Konstantz (the two choirs have enjoyed many a concert exchange over the last 35 years). “This will make for a bigger, richer sound, both loud and soft, which allows the orchestra and organ more flexibility to express themselves”, explains Bate.

 

The Thames Festival Orchestra and all four professional soloists have performed with the choir on previous occasions: Katherine Crompton (soprano) and Katie Coventry (alto), from when they were advanced students at the Royal College of Music; international award-winning bass Edward Grint, and tenor Mark Dobell, who also sings with Harry Christophers’ ensemble The Sixteen.

 

Conducting such an impressive cast is demanding of physical and mental energy and agility. But Bate believes it is all good for the health, and that the creative process allays stress. For now, at least, he says: “There is no lack of inner force driving me on.”

Although he was born and grew up in St Albans, most of Bate’s musical career has been based in Roehampton, Putney and Kingston; he is former director of Collegiate Music at Kingston Polytechnic, later Kingston University, and director of the Thames Philharmonic Choir, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

 

ALL STOPS OUT AT SOUTHWARK CATHEDRAL CONCERT

One of the country’s most distinguished organists will be making the most of Southwark Cathedral organ’s ‘sound of astonishing magnificence’ at a concert on 11 June. Stephen Disley is sub-organist at the Cathedral but also a recitalist and accompanist with leading British orchestras, and, reports John Bate, the concert conductor, “One of the select band allowed access to the Royal Albert Hall organ.”  The concert programme includes Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, which has a virtuoso organ part of central importance, and Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, which, according to Bate, is one of the finest works ever written for the instrument. It was Duruflé who first performed the Concerto at its premiere in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.

 

The organist is joined by the Thames Philharmonic Choir, which has a long association with the Cathedral, stepping in to sing Sunday choral services when the official choristers are on holiday. The June concert programme might have been a fitting swansong for conductor John Bate, who recently celebrated his  80th birthday. He announced to the Thames Philharmonic Choir, which he founded 50 years ago, that he wants the Duruflé Requiem at his funeral. However, Bate showed no signs of slowing down at the weekly choir rehearsals in south-west London: “I often feel fresher after a rehearsal than I did at the beginning, and a successful concert can be utterly cathartic. And I intend to carry on as long as my constitution allows.”

 

A second choral work should add vigour to the concert, for despite its title, W.A. Mozart’s Solemn Vespers is youthful and ebullient. Singing it – and the Requiem will be Bate’s choir of more than 130-strong, supplemented by members of the Symphonic Choir of Konstanz. (The two choirs have enjoyed many a concert exchange over the last 35 years). “This will make for a bigger, richer sound, both loud and soft, which allows the orchestra and organ more flexibility to express themselves”, explains Bate.

 

The Thames Festival Orchestra and all four professional soloists have performed with the choir on previous occasions: Katherine Crompton (soprano) and Katie Coventry (alto) from when they were advanced students at the Royal College of Music; bass Edward Grint, the holder of international awards, and tenor Mark Dobell, who also sings with Harry Christophers’ ensemble The Sixteen.

 

Conducting such an impressive ensemble is demanding of physical and mental energy and agility. But Bate believes it is all good for the health, and that the creative process allays stress. For now, at least, he says,  “There is no lack of inner force driving me on.”

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload