Florence Lockheart, Classical Music

The competition honours past choir member Stella Jockel, who bequeathed the funds which made the competition possible.

South Yorkshire choir, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, has launched the inaugural Stella Jockel Young Composer Competition. The choir invites Sheffield composers to submit a choral work to be premiered at the 10th anniversary Classical Sheffield Weekend Festival finale next year.

The winning composer will receive £1,500 and their submission will be premiered at Sheffield City Hall in March 2023. The competition also offers a second prize of £1,000 or third prize of £500. The event was made possible by funds left to the choir by Sheffield local and previous choir member, Stella Jockel.

Chorus chair Paul Henstridge said: ‘Stella Jockel was a Sheffield teacher and vicar’s wife who sang alto with the Chorus for many years. She bequeathed a generous legacy to the Chorus following her death in 2020, and we are delighted to be using part of it to fund this new competition.’

Applicants aged 18 to 35 and were born, lived or studied in Sheffield, are invited to submit a short unaccompanied work for a mixed choir in at least four parts. Submissions will be judged by University of Sheffield emeritus professor of composition, George Nicholson; who will lead a panel including music director of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, Darius Battiwall; music director of Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra, George Morton and music director of Hallam Choral Society, Clara Rundell.

Applicants will set Sheffield Nocturne, a text written by poet and chorus alto Katharine Towers, herself a previous winner of the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize who was also shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. Talking about her commission, Towers said: ‘I’m utterly thrilled to have been given this opportunity. I’ve greatly enjoyed the challenge, and it’s been such an interesting experience to write something in the knowledge that music would be coming its way.’

Entries must be submitted before 31 December. You can find more information, including details of how to apply, at the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus website.

Read the article on the Classical Music website

Carol wins Classic FM competition

16 December 2020

The Chorus version of O Holy Night has been selected as a winner of the Classic FM / Making Music carol competition, in which 5 carols are selected to be played in the Classic FM Drive slot in the week commencing Monday 16 December 2019. 

O Holy Night, arranged by Chorus Music Director Darius Battiwalla, was recorded by Black Dyke and the Chorus in the City Hall in 2015 and released on our CD ‘Awake, Arise! A Yorkshire Christmas Carol Collection for Brass and Voices’.

The CD has a real Yorkshire flavour and includes some of the Sheffield carols, traditionally sung in local pubs over the Christmas period. Darius Battiwalla’s O Holy Night for chorus and brass band is a wonderfully uplifting arrangement which goes down a storm at our carol concerts each year. 

This is the fourth time one of the carols from our recording has been selected for the Classic FM Drive competition, and we are thrilled that this time it’s our favourite, O Holy Night. 

It will be played in the Classic FM Drive slot sometime between 5pm and 8pm on Monday 16 December 2019.

Of course the Chorus will be singing O Holy Night at the annual carol concert at the City Hall on Saturday 14 December 2019 at 2pm and 5.30pm. We are thrilled that the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Sheffield will attend the 2pm session.

Also on the programme will be Darius Battiwalla’s arrangements of three local carols – Egypt, Tyre Mill and Hail Smiling Morn – all also on the CD, along with Paul Fincham’s new carol Ring the Bells, the royalties from which will be donated to homelessness charity Crisis.

Tickets available online or from the City Hall box office. The CD will be on sale in the foyer for the special concert price of £10.

Find out further information about the carol project.  or about homelessness charity Crisis.

Read more about the Christmas CD

Find out more about the Classic FM / Making Music Drive competition.

Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus in finals of national carol competition

Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus have been shortlisted in the top ten for a national carol competition.

By Julia Armstrong

Sunday, 15th December 2019, 10:00 am

Updated Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 12:40 pm

Run by Making Music UK and Classic FM, the festive competition invited performers to submit a performance to be played on the popular classical radio. With more than 5.7 million listeners tuning in every week, Classic FM is the biggest classical music radio station in the world.

The competition is part of Classic FM’s 11-year partnership with Making Music UK, which regularly offers member groups the chance to submit recordings for live broadcast.

The shortlisted carols have been broadcast in the lead-up to the festive season on the station’s Drive programme. The winning five were then being played all this week on the show.

Resident chorus at Sheffield City Hall, the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, won through to the top 10 for the competition.

The Philharmonic Chorus teamed up with Black Dyke Band for a beautiful rendition of O Holy Night.

The duo often perform this work at their annual Christmas concerts at Sheffield City Hall, with this year’s event, which took place on December 14, proving no different.

The carol, composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847, reflects how the birth of Jesus has impacted on humanity.

Many popular artists who have covered the carol include Nat King Cole in 1960, Patti LaBelle (1990), Mariah Carey (1994), Josh Groban (2002) and Idina Menzel this year.

During the first three weeks of December, Classic FM listeners were also invited to vote for their favourite-ever Christmas carol – and O Holy Night has held the top spot since 2016.

This year’s results will be revealed on Christmas Day between 1pm and 3pm.

Link to article in Sheffield Telegraph

REVIEW: Sheffield’s Christmas concert tradition


Review by Philip Andrews Sheffield Telegraph Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 5:32 pm

Christmas music may have been playing in your supermarket since September but the season in Sheffield doesn’t really get under way until the City Hall’s annual Christmas concert.

To get us in festive mood this year, Phil director Darius Battiwalla put together an eclectic programme of familiar carols, a couple of gems from the rich store of Sheffield carols and a brand new piece written to raise money to help the homeless. He even arranged the curtain raiser – the familiar O Come, O Come Emmanual – for the trio of forces which combined so well throughout this concert – choir, brass band and the City Hall’s mighty organ, played here by Neil Taylor.

Professor Nicholas Childs, conductor of Black Dyke Band

Black Dyke’s offerings, under their musical director Nicholas Childs, ranged from the ever-popular Winter Wonderland, via a couple of familiar medleys to A Christmas Carol, by the talented young composer Matt Eden, who specialises in new pieces for brass band.

Paul Fincham’s affecting new carol Ring the Bells was commissioned a couple of years ago by the London Philharmonic Choir to raise awareness of homelessness, and delicately handled here by their Sheffield namesakes in what may have been its first performance in the city. Let’s hope it is not the last, as all the royalties from the piece are donated to the homeless charity, Crisis.

The only downside to what has now become an eagerly-anticipated Sheffield Christmas tradition was the disappointing audience figure for the evening performance, which had been brought forward this year to a tea-time start.

Link to the review in Sheffield Telegraph online

Lord Mayor to receive Bochum gift

Chorus presents gift from Bochum to city

Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus is thrilled to be able to pass on a gift from the people of Bochum to the city of Sheffield.  A large framed photograph of Bochum’s City Hall will be presented to Lord Mayor Tony Dowling at the choir’s next concert on Saturday 9 November 2019.

‘We were given the picture during our trip to sing with Bochum’s City choir in their brand new concert hall.’ explained Chorus Chair Paul Henstridge, ‘We are delighted that our Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress are able to receive the picture on behalf of the city – and that they will stay to hear us sing.’

Members of the Chorus visited Sheffield’s twin town Bochum in February to sing Handel’s Messiah with the Philharmonischer Chor Bochum, accompanied by the Bochumer Symphoniker conducted by John Lidfors. Many stayed with colleagues from the Bochum choir, re-kindling friendships made on a previous trip. They were treated to trips to Bonn and Essen, as well as a number of hostelries and a big party.

But the main event was Messiah in the award-winning concert hall funded by over 20,000 donors and completed following 15 years of fundraising. ‘We were bowled over by the concert hall, an absolutely fantastic state-of-the-art building already listed as one of the top ten concert halls in Germany’ said Graham Dawson, who organised the trip. ‘We’ve arranged a return trip of course – they are joining us to sing Messiah with the Black Dyke Band in the Victoria Hall on 20 April 2020’

Chorus members visited France last year, singing  with L’ensemble Vocal de Périgueux to celebrate the end of WW1. Keen to maintain strong links with their French and German colleagues, the Chorus have invited both choirs to experience the brass version of Messiah for the first time.

‘We are thrilled that the Mayor of Bochum acknowledged the importance of our joint venture by presenting us with this picture’ said Paul, ‘and equally thrilled to be presenting it to Sheffield’s Lord Mayor at our concert in November’

The short After Hours session follows the Halle concert in the main hall and features a programme from Scandinavia and the Baltic. ‘Audiences will be familiar with the Norwegian Romantic composer Edvard Grieg, but may not be with his countryman Ola Gjeilo, born in 1978, or Eric Ešenvalds, born in Latvia a year earlier.’ said Music Director Darius Battiwalla, ‘We’ve chosen a programme of particularly beautiful pieces to sing unaccompanied which will suit the amazing acoustic of the City Hall ballroom.’

Join the Lord Mayor to hear the choir ‘up close and personal’ on Saturday 9th November at 9.15pm. The free concert ends at 10pm; tickets from the City Hall Box Office, through the hotline 0114 2 789 789, or online via the website.

Chorus Chair with Mayor of Bochum

Composer to hear Black Dyke Band and massed voices perform his new work

8 June 2019

Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus are thrilled that the composer Philip Wilby will be in attendance at the forthcoming concert premiere of the brass band version of his oratorio The Holy Face at the City Hall at 3pm on Sunday 9 June 2019. The Chorus will be joined by the Black Dyke Band, Halifax Choral Society, the Yorkshire Youth Choir and four great soloists for this very special concert.

‘The Holy Face was written for massed voices, organ and either brass band or orchestra.’ said Chorus Chairman Paul Henstridge. ‘We are really looking forward to singing this musical retelling of the life of St John with our friends the Halifax Choral Society, who commissioned it to celebrate their 200th Anniversary in 2017.’

‘We are really committed to making classical music accessible to young people’ said Chorus administrator Anne Adams ‘So we have sent out a really generous ticket offer to all the brass training bands, our Sheffield-based youth orchestras, all the secondary schools and the Sheffield Music Hub and Music Academy. Seven members of the Black Dyke Band have agreed to meet Sheffield’s young brass players after the concert – how fantastic is that!’

The brass version of The Holy Face was recorded in June 2017, and the orchestral premiere held in Halifax later that year. The CD is available from Halifax Choral Society’s website.

Also on the programme is Paradise, a fabulous new work by Welsh-born composer Paul Mealor, who sprang to fame in 2011 when his Ubi Caritas was featured at the wedding of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge. Paradise is a beautiful piece for brass band and voices which the chorus recorded in January with the world-famous Black Dyke Band in Sheffield’s own City Hall. The recording has been published as part of the Black Dyke Gold series – and composer Paul Mealor is thrilled with it. ‘I am very impressed.’ said Paul on hearing the CD. ‘It’s a fantastic recording of the work.’

The piece features two elements sung by the Chorus alongside the Black Dyke Band, sandwiching a central section of fiendish difficulty showcasing the band’s incredible virtuosity. The Chorus first sang Paradise in January at the Brass Band Festival held each year at the Royal Northern School of Music in Manchester, a performance that was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

The concert begins with another work by Philip Wilby, his organ concerto Cinema, written for organ and brass band, and featuring Chorus Music Director and Leeds City Organist Darius Battiwalla on the magnificent City Hall organ.

Tickets are available from the City Hall box office.

Women centre stage – Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus /Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall

Philip Andrews, Sheffield Telegraph, March 14, 2019

Sheffield’s ambitious and popular Classical Weekend filled many of the city’s venues with music for three days, this year much of it by women. It was female composers who took centre stage in an eclectic programme of songs from across Europe from our own Philharmonic Chorus on Sunday.

Under conductor Darius Battiwalla they gave sensitive and carefully-balanced accounts of a range of rarely heard pieces, including two by women  – Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann – whose achievements are normally overshadowed by those of their male relatives.

They were joined by soprano Caroline Taylor, who gave impressively clear but delicate interpretations of a trio of reflective songs by the French Boulanger sisters, Lili and Nadia. And it was Lili who was responsible for the most heart-warming contribution to a cold winter Sunday night, her lively Hymne au Soleil.

Appropriately, Friday was International Women’s Day, and the RPO were in town. Although their popular programme was composed entirely by men, it was brought to us by two outstanding female musicians.

Jennifer Pike was the soloist in Mozart’s 3rd Violin Concerto, adding an exquisite delicacy to the composer’s youthful exuberance, to the delight of a packed house. The same qualities were evident in Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending as she sent the bird soaring noisily aloft, to almost disappear out of earshot.

The other leading lady was diminutive but demonstrative Estonian conductor Anu Tali, who brought out the best from her band.

That they have a whole range of admirable qualities in all departments was evident in a vibrant performance of Elgar’s Enigma Variations which made a very familiar piece sound fresh.

Philip Andrews, Sheffield Telegraph

Link to the review on the Sheffield Telegraph website