Lockdown performance of new arrangement for Handel’s Messiah

Julia Armstrong, Sheffield Telegraph

Tuesday 21 July 2020

A Sheffield choir music director has been busy over lockdown, writing a new brass arrangement for Handel’s Messiah which world-famed musicians performed in their homes.

The arrangement by Darius Battiwalla of the soprano aria How Beautiful Are the Feet is actually one of three from the Messiah that he put together for Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus.

“Darius wrote the new arrangements for us in return for continued payment during the lockdown,” said chorus chair Paul Henstridge.

“We’re absolutely thrilled. It means that when we eventually perform the brass version with the wonderful Black Dyke Band, we can sing two more choruses than would otherwise have been possible”.

The chorus were set to perform a brass version of Messiah in April but the concert had to be postponed.

Soprano Catrin Pryce-Jones was to have appeared alongside the chorus, so she was delighted when Darius asked her to make a virtual recording of How Beautiful Are the Feet, along with members of the world-famous Black Dyke Band, all performing from their own homes during lockdown.

“The new arrangement is very light and delicate, which is just right for this aria,” said chorus dministrator Anne Adams. “Catrin sings it beautifully and the band accompany her with great sensitivity.”

You can judge for yourself, as the recording has been uploaded to the chorus website and can be enjoyed for free at https://sheffieldphil.org/how-beautiful-are-the-feet

In addition to the new Messiah arrangements, the chorus also commissioned Darius to write some Christmas music for them to sing at their popular annual carol concert at the City Hall in December.

He has created a new brass arrangement of Resonet in Laudibus, a 16th-century German carol. If that concert can’t go ahead, they plan to perform it virtually as part of an online carol concert, along with the Black Dyke Band, again recorded from their own homes.

The brass Messiah concert has been rescheduled for Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sheffield City Hall. The 180 members of the chorus were going to be joined by more than 50 singers from Perigeux in France and from Sheffield’s twin city of Bochum in Germany.Happily, both choirs are planning to cross the Channel for the rescheduled concert.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Read the original article on the Sheffield Telegraph 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

Chorus to present Bochum gift to Lord Mayor

Sheffield Telegraph, Thursday 2 November 2019

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, when we presented greetings from Sheffield’s Lord Mayor.’ explained Chorus Chair Paul Henstridge, ‘Bochum takes the twinning arrangement with Sheffield very seriously and even helped to pay for our trip. 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.’

Chorus Chair with Deputy Mayor of Bochum

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.

Bach’s compendium – Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus /Royal Northern Sinfonia, City Hall

Philip Andrews, Sheffield Telegraph, Tuesday 7 April 2019

‘Bach put his Mass in B Minor together at the end of his life from pieces he had prepared earlier.

If it was a belated CV of his best work intended to impress Him upstairs, it would surely have earned him the job as God’s in-house composer when his time came.

It is not simply a setting of the Latin mass but a compendium  of musical styles and moods – often lively and even jolly – designed to show off the talents of its various performers, who here all responded splendidly.

The focus shifts  from choir to soloists to orchestra to single instrumentalists, and all were in impressive form.

The heavy lifting is done by the choir, and our own Philharmonic Chorus was meticulously prepared by Music Director Darius Battiwalla. They responded sharply and sensitively on the night to the admirably clear and precise guidance of conductor Andrew Griffiths whose chamber group with more than its share of youthful talent, offered unobtrusive support and balance. Their soloists stepped out from the ensemble when required with confidence and flair, while the vocal soloists provided the punctuation to the narrative rather than the main thrust.

Most familiar to Yorkshire audiences was soprano Flur Wynn, who regularly appears with Opera North. ably abetted by mezzo soprano Madeleine Shaw, tenor Nick Pritchard and bass-baritone Edward Grint.’

Philip Andrews, Sheffield Telegraph, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Link to the original article in Sheffield Telegraph

Audience comments posted on social media included:

Great concert – superb conductor, orchestra, soloists and choir.

‘Really enjoyed this evening’s Bach Mass in B minor – lots of hard work clearly went into that.’

‘How amazing was tonight’s concert!’

‘Congratulations on a magnificent and moving concert. I thoroughly enjoyed it!’

‘Fabulous concert this evening…… with a conductor who was clearly enjoying working with the chorus’

‘Well done everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to you last night. You sounded terrific!’

‘So enjoyed last night’s concert. What an amazing performance.’

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