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The Athenaeum Singers concert  20th May 2017

Harry: Mass of the Martyrs: A Mass of St Denys
Haydn: Te Deum
Fauré: Requiem

It is uncommon for a small town choral society to have a major work written for and dedicated to them.  The Athenaeum Singers of Warminster will be presenting the world premier of this piece at their concert on 20th May.

The premier will take place in The Minster Church of St Denys; a fitting venue for a piece entitled Mass of the Martyrs: A Mass of St Denys. It is inspired by the martyrdom of St Denys, a third century Bishop of Paris, who persisted in preaching the gospel during the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius. He was decapitated and legend has it that he walked a further 10kms carrying his head whilst continuing to preach a sermon of repentance. The work has been written as part of a doctoral thesis by the singer’s Director of Music, Edward-Rhys Harry. 

Most of the choral movements use the words of the Latin Mass, but the soloists tell a different story superimposed on these familiar words, and introduce the modern day sacrifice of victims of terrorism and the plight of refugees.  One movement uses the words of Antoine Leiris, whose wife was a victim of terrorist attack in Paris, with its message of victory over hate.

The four soloists for the concert have been engaged for their experience in opera and/or musical theatre, for the production will not follow concert format but will unfold in dramatic form.  The British Sinfonietta, a leading independent professional orchestra, will provide the accompaniment.

The first part of the programme will feature Haydn’s Te Deum, a joyful and exuberant piece of praise and celebration.   From an Allegro opening it moves into a slower more contemplative middle section before returning to an allegro ending with syncopated rhythms. It is a joyous piece to sing and joyous to hear. Fauré’s beautiful Requiem follows, a work which the composer described as being ‘dominated....  by a feeling of faith in eternal rest.’ It was written as a tribute to his father and delights in rich, expressive melodies and a calm and peaceful sense of solace.

The singers welcome members of Corsley Festival choir who will be joining them for the evening. This concert begins at 7pm and it will be exciting to experience the premier production of a work written especially for the town of Warminster and its Athenaeum Singers.



The Armed Man and Rutter Requiem  12th November 2016

Beatrice Newman Cellist Beatrice Newman Cellist.

Talented Wiltshire cellist, Beatrice Newman, will return to the county on 12th November to take part in The Athenaeum Singers concert of remembrance.  Beatrice, who will be playing with The British Sinfonietta, will perform the moving solo from the Benedictus, in Karl Jenkins’, The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace in Warminster.

Beatrice, who grew up in Westwood, gained her early orchestral experience as a member of the West Wilts Youth orchestras based at the Bradford on Avon Music Centre.  She studied for a degree at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and continued her studies at The Royal Academy of Music with Guy Johnston, gaining an MA in 2013.  (Guy performed the same piece in the original recording of The Armed Man which was released in 2001.)  She is now a freelance performer and teacher based in Cardiff.

The Armed Man:  A Mass for Peace, was commissioned for the millennium by Britain’s Royal Armouries.  Whilst the framework for this mass for peace is taken from the Christian liturgy, it features other text from a variety of sources around the world including the French poem from which it derives its title, L’homme Armé, with its message,  ‘The armed man must be feared’ .

The programme features another favourite of the choral repertoire in the John Rutter  Requiem which combines English and Latin text in its portrayal of repose. It is especially appropriate for the theme of remembrance as it takes the listener through alternating experiences of reflection, hope and triumph.  Rutter is regarded for his writing of glorious melodies which are well exemplified in the soprano solo, Pie Jesu and his setting of Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Athenaeum Singers have been preparing for this concert under their new chorus master, Rosie Howarth.  The British Sinfonietta returns to Warminster to accompany the programme, which, with professional soloists, will be conducted by Director of Music, Edward-Rhys Harry.  The performance will be held in The Minster Church of Denys at 7pm on Saturday 12th November to mark Remembrance Day.


A Night at The Opera                  Saturday 18th June 2016 at 7pm


Warminster Civic Centre will resound with songs of love and longing, freedom and oppression, seduction and betrayal when The Athenaeum Singers present ‘A Night at the Opera’.  This concert at 7pm on Saturday 18th June will include extracts from great operas which tell stories of the human experience with drama and passion.  The melodies will be familiar to many and most of the pieces will be sung in English.

Soprano soloist Mary Pope will portray a saucy seductress in Bizet’s Habanera from the opera Carmen, in contrast to her tragic lament from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Mary is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music who has performed extensively in recital and oratorio in addition to operatic roles.  She will be joined by baritone soloist Paul Fletcher, a former member of Bath Abbey choir and also the Bath Light Operatic Group.

The Athenaeum Singers will make up the chorus of fast changing characters, from islanders to soldiers, voyagers to slaves and from pilgrims to heavy drinkers. Their contribution includes The Humming Chorus from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco.

Accomplished rehearsal accompanist, Douglas Stevens, who does so much to aid the singers each week, will accompany on the piano.  Instrumentalists from the British Sinfonietta will convey the excitement of the original scores, with strings and woodwind, brass and percussion sections to portray the full flavour in a small venue.

At the helm will be the singers’ Director of Music, Edward-Rhys Harry, who recently led a full day rehearsal concentrating on the performance of opera.  His deep love for the music and his considerable ability to shape and blend the sound of the choir will underpin the singing. Regular weekly rehearsals are led by Chorus Master Patrick Barrett.  He is a teacher of immense skill and understanding who is able to draw on a range of specific techniques to support the voice which the choir have found valuable and enjoyable.   His approach has been described as ‘master class techniques for an amateur choir’.

Delicious canapes will be served during the interval and a licenced bar will be open before the concert and during the break.  This evening is a contrast to the Athenaeum Singers usual classical repertoire and they look forward to a new venue and presenting glorious melodies and rousing choruses.


Long - serving  Committee Members retire.  December 2015

Three members of the Athenaeum Singers Committee retired from their roles at last week’s Annual General Meeting.

In his letter to the choir following the recent concert, Director of Music, Edward- Rhys Harry paid tribute to committee members who had ‘given of themselves for the good of the choir’. Paddy Yerburgh was a founder member and has served as honorary secretary for 16 years, during which time she has taken on more and more responsibility. She has worked tirelessly with different musical directors, and the smooth running of the concerts has been down to her willingness and efficiency.

Treasurer Martin Gairdner’s acumen has kept the finances in a healthy state and enabled the choir to take on ever more ambitious projects. Auditor of the accounts, Mike Stanley commented on Martin’s ‘great book keeping and attention to detail’. He has carried out his long stint of nine years as treasurer with humour, efficiency and wise counsel.

Carolyn Lewis has reached the end of her five year term as Chairman during which she has steered the Singers through choppy waters.  In his tribute Edward – Rhys Harry stated that ‘thank you did not seem enough’. He commented on the sensitivity Carolyn has shown to the needs and concerns of the choir and her selfless commitment, always ‘carrying the care of the choir in her heart.’ The incoming Chairman Jo Casey said that committee meetings had always been pleasurable under Carolyn’s leadership.

The huge commitment of time and skills the three have brought to the choir was recognised at the meeting and gifts presented to them from the grateful choir members. They will continue to enjoy singing with the choir.

Appointed as their replacements, Helen Schroeder will take the role of Secretary, Richard Stokes, Treasurer, and Jo Casey as Chairman.


Mozart Requiem Concert on 28th November 2015

The Athenaeum Singers’ approaching concert in Warminster on 28th November will combine a firm favourite of the choral repertoire with some of the best of contemporary writing.  Mozart’s Requiem conveys the meaning of the textwith power and drama. The modern pieces are of varying styles but all are characterised by the glorious sounds createdby the shifting and interweaving voice parts.

Conductor Edward-Rhys Harry’s piece, Et tu Bethleèm will receive its first public performance during the evening. In it the words of the prophet Micah foretell the comingof the Christ Child. Ubi Caritas, written in 2001 by Ola Gjeilo, draws its inspiration from the Gregorian chant tradition, and a setting of Ave Maria by Paul Mealor evokes beautifully the feelings of comfort and peace intended by the composer.  Sure on this shining night by the much admired American composer, Morten Lauridsen, completes this section.

Mozart composed his Requiem in response to a commission in 1791 but only started composing in earnest in the autumn of that year. By 20th November he had fallen ill and he failed to complete the piece before he died on 5th December.  His father had passed away a fewyears before and perhaps this and the closeness of his own death explains his vivid portrayal of the Mass for the dead. His motet, Ave verum corpus, composed in the same year, is included in the programme.

 Soloists for the evening are young singers who are embarking on professional careers and combining this with further post graduate study. Soprano Angharad Davies originates from and continues to study in South Wales whilst contralto Beth Moxon is pursuing her interest in opera at The Royal Academy of Music. Rhodri Jones (tenor) and Ben Tomlin (baritone) will be making a return visit to Warminster following their appearance with the singers in The Crucifixion earlier this year. In addition to their roles in the Requiem, Angharad and Rhodri will also present solo pieces.  Gary Desmond from Bath Abbey will accompany on both piano and organ during the evening.

Chorus Master Patrick Barrett continues to inspire the singers to greater heights with his boundless energy and skilful teaching.  He will be sharing the podium with Edward-Rhys Harry during what promises to be a delightful evening, flavoured by drinks and mince pies in the interval.


Crucifixion: March 2015

The Athenaeum Singers recently enjoyed a Saturday workshop preparing for their Palm Sunday performance of  The Crucifixion, by John Stainer. Guided in the finer points by their Director of Music, Edward-Rhys Harry, and accompanied by a long standing friend of the choir, Alan Burgess, the choir studied not only the music but how to bring the text to life. Edward’s lively approach and sense of humour ensured an entertaining, as well as productive, day.  Vocal training and a preview of the Brahms Requiem, to be performed this summer, complemented the day.

The Crucifixion was written with the intent of providing a Passiontide Cantata to which congregations could immediately relate. It draws on the Gospel accounts for its narrative, and uses soloists and choir in a variety of roles to meditate on the events leading up to Good Friday, and includes participation from everyone in the congregational hymns.

Ben Tomlin, currently studying singing in Cardiff, will sing the bass solos, and student at The Guildhall, Rhodri Prys Jones will sing the tenor role.  Both bring experience and expertise to the podium which belies their age. David Whitehead, a former organ scholar at Bath Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, will bring out the richness of the organ accompaniment.

Edward-Rhys Harry has renewed his association with the choir after a break of several years. In the role of Director of Music he will plan and conduct the performance.  He is aided in weekly rehearsals by Chorus Master, Patrick Barrett, a Masters student in Choral Conducting from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, who has already endeared himself to the choir with his energy and dynamism, his high expectations and attention to detail.  This trial collaboration is a new and exciting venture for The Athenaeum Singers and they are benefitting from the skills of two highly talented musicians.

The Athenaeum Singers are proud to bring this event to the people of Warminster and the surrounding villages.  The performance in The Minster Church on the evening of Palm Sunday will be without charge, but there will be a retiring collection to help the Minster with costs related to preservation of the building.  


‘For the Fallen’  October 2014

To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the First World War, Warminster’s Athenaeum Singers will present a concert For the Fallen on 29th November. A retiring offering will be taken for the military charity, Combat Stress.

The concert will feature Edward Elgar’s Spirit of England , first performed in 1917, which puts to music three works by the noted war poet, Laurence Binyon. The suffering of the First World War had a profound effect on Elgar and he dedicated the piece ‘to the memory of our glorious men’. The orchestra will perform Samuel Barber’s, Adagio for Strings and a piece by local composer, Paul Carr completes the programme. Requiem for an Angel was commissioned by The Athenaeum Singers and received with much acclaim when first performed by them in 2006. Some movements of this melodic piece use the words of the Latin Mass, but these are entwined with other texts to create ‘a comforting expression of love and compassion’.

Soprano soloist Rhiannon Llewellyn, who continues her study at the Royal Academy Opera, has amassed an impressive array of awards in recent years. The Athenaeum’s previous performance of the Requiem was conducted by the composer’s brother, Gavin Carr. In this concert, the choir is delighted to welcome Gavin as baritone soloist and Paul as a member of the audience.

Conductor Jessi Pywell rates Elgar as her favourite composer and is excited to present her choir in this programme of glorious and contemplative music.

 August 2014                                 
The Athenaeum Singers                              

Warminster’s Athenaeum Singers re-commence rehearsals at Christchurch on Tuesday 9th September. Their next concert at the end of November, ‘For the Fallen’ will be in commemoration of the First World War. It will feature two contrasting pieces: Edward Elgar’s, The Spirit of England, which puts to music three war poems by Laurence Binyon, and Requiem for an Angel, a piece by Paul Carr which was commissioned by The Athenaeum Singers and first performed by them in 2006.

Many people love to sing, but may not be familiar with this type of music or the nature of the choir. To give new singers a chance to see what it is all about, the singers’ Director of Music, Jessi Pywell, invites them to attend the first three rehearsals of this term, before making any commitment .After this, they can make an informed choice of whether to join. Experienced choral singers are very welcome but so are those who just enjoy singing and would like to develop their skills. There are no auditions. Why not gather some friends together and give it a go!

The choir runs a Studentship scheme to encourage young singers to explore choral music at minimal cost. Another opportunity to sample the singers will be at a singing from scratch evening on Tuesday 21st October, when we will be rehearsing ‘More Songs from the Shows’ as part of the Warminster Festival.

For details of the singers and this offer please follow this link: studentships


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