A choral celebration!
- Published on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 22:33
Choirs and singers of Sheffield - Come and take part in a massed choral performance in the heart of Sheffield!
Albion have been commissioned, with funding from Arts Council England, to stage a special performance as part of the opening weekend of the Tour de France cultural festival, which begins 100 days before the Tour comes to Sheffield.
We see this as a wonderful chance to celebrate the strength and colour of choral singing in our city. We’re aiming to put together a diverse choir, ‘The Sixty,’ representing many of the city’s major choral forces, who will join Albion ‘en masse’ for some of the songs – including Greensleeves, Scarborough Fair, and the perennial favourite JERUSALEM – creating a wonderful live atmosphere, surrounding the audience with song.
Come and be part of this choral celebration of the music of these islands!
With all the media coverage surrounding the Festival and the Tour, taking part will raise the local and regional profile of your group, and will enable us all to show the country what we do. We’re working hard to arrange a broadcast / streaming of the event too, so potentially we are on show to the world! And there will be plenty of local press and PR coverage to boost everyone’s local profiles too.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a really special event that will put Sheffield choral singing majorly on the map!
Time is really limited: we need to hear from you ASAP!
▪ Ideally, your choir would assemble a group of 6 singers: SSATBB – more than one such sextet if you wish *
▪ We will share copies and MP3s with you in advance via Dropbox
▪ Rehearsal will be 4 – 5.30pm on Sunday 30 March
▪ Performance is 6.30 – 7.30pm on the same day
▪ Arundel Room, Millennium Galleries, Sheffield
▪ Dress code: either your choir dress, or all black – whichever you prefer
▪ Tickets will be free and your friends / supporters are welcome to them; details will follow
* Individuals are welcome too – please get in touch! We’ll just need to ensure balance on the day…
Something old, something new...
- Published on Sunday, 16 February 2014 22:12
Unique but universal: traditional and new folksongs from Britain and Ireland
The choral group Albion take songs and texts from the rich ancient tradition of ‘these islands’ and reimagine them for a new age.
Albion is “unique but universal”: unique because all the choral arrangements and compositions are freshly crafted by Fraser Wilson and being sung for the first time; universal because they are based on melodies and words that, being a living heritage, are deeply familiar to us all.
These Islands is Albion’s first full-length album, its fifteen tracks representing some of the most popular pieces from the group’s formative years. Twelve unaccompanied voices are joined by piano on three tracks including Greensleeves, a medieval love song reputedly composed by King Henry VIII.
Amongst the British and Irish songs reclothed in lush choral harmonies are Scarborough Fair, Loch Lomond, Jerusalem,and Danny Boy. They are combined with Wilson’s beautiful new settings of text including WB Yeats’ He wishes for the cloths of heaven and Robert Burns’ My love is like a red rose.
These Islands is a distinctive choral compilation from a group that cannot be categorised, and represents a unique and gladdening contribution to a rich musical tradition.
Our First Come and Sing workshop!
- Published on Sunday, 16 February 2014 21:39
Come and sing with Albion!
Share and absorb the nature and nuance of our distinctive technique – singing without copies or conductor, honing awareness of ourselves and each other, internalising and expressing the music.
In an afternoon workshop, you’ll be immersed in our unique settings of “the music of these islands” alongside members of Albion. In the evening, the newly formed choir of which you’re a part will be special guest stars in Albion’s Spring Songs concert!
It all takes place in the fabulous acoustic of our home, Holy Trinity Church, where you are guaranteed a warm welcome.
“Is it for me?”
We’re looking for the same characteristics as for Albion singers: the ability to learn a tune and sing it with confidence (you can probably do this – think ‘Happy Birthday’), a sense of energy and fun, and an open mind. Albion’s music is in up to 6 parts (SSATBB) so you will need to indicate which part you sing.
SIGHT-READING is not a requirement. In fact it can inhibit musicality. You just need to be able to absorb and express a musical line. Sight-reading in the workshop is NOT the point. So if you do read well, the challenge is to learn everything off-copy.
We’ll provide sheet music and audio files well in advance, all you need to do is listen and lot and you’ll find that the lines will become ingrained in your mind… and that’s the beginning of the Albion technique!
If you've questions about this, why not tweet / Facebook / email? You can also call 0114 268 5827 to reserve workshop places; we'll then ask you to send a cheque or pay online.
Saturday 3 May at Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses
3.30 – 6pm WORKSHOP
6pm - Hot meal kindly provided by Holy Trinity
7.30pm CONCERT – over by 10
Cost of workshop and concert: £15
WE're delighted that the workshop is now fully subscribed. It will be great to work with more than 20 come-and-singers.
Sorry if you wanted to be amongst them!
Join our emailing list so that you are the first to hear about future events.
- Published on Sunday, 19 January 2014 22:56
Welcome to the new year! Amazingly, we seem to have reached 2014 without a hitch.
In January we are mastering our new record, These Islands, with the genius that is Paul Baily up in Thirsk. Having worked at Abbey Road for 14 years, Paul now runs his own sound production company, ReSound. He's absolutely brilliant, and elevated what was already a darn good noise into an even better one.
HERE'S THE FIRST LOOK AT THESE ISLANDS!!!
And here's Nick, Fraser, and Stew in post-production realising that we might just be on to a winner...
The record will be launched in early spring 2014: watch this space to find out more...
- Published on Sunday, 22 December 2013 13:30
You can see the full programme for this year's Christmas concerts here.
We had an incredible time this weekend, and we'd like to thank everyone who helped us to "put the mystery back into Christmas":
at Holy Trinity: Eric, the Pats, Peter, Mary, Gail, and everyone else...
at the Cathedral of the Peak: Juliet, Mike, the Vicar, Carol, and all the others...
and our amazing team of Ymum and Wendy, who kept us on the straight and narrow.
Well done everyone, and Happy Christmas!
(Have you seen the video?)
Special guest star for Carols with Albion
- Published on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 23:23
We are really looking forward to seeing so many of you at our Christmas concerts this weekend!
I'm delighted to announce that our guest star for both concerts will be organist PETER HEGINBOTHAM.
Peter was Assistant Master of the Music at Sheffield Cathedral from 1999 to 2005, and has played (brilliantly) here, there, and everywhere, including with me in Truro & Gloucester Cathedrals and Notre Dame de Paris... And he's played with Albion in the past too, of course.
And last Sunday morning he broadcast live on BBC Radio (click here to listen).
At our concerts he'll be playing two very special pieces of Christmas music: one based on 'Away in a manger', and the other THIS BEAUTY - splendid!
We look forward to Peter adding an extra dimension to our festive celebrations. In the meantime, here's a picture of him masterminding the mammoth organ at Gloucester Cathedral...
Sing with Albion this Christmas!
- Published on Monday, 02 December 2013 23:57
At our two Carols with Albion concerts this year, we're going to have the really special experience of singing with our audience!
Knowing how active many of you are as singers and musicians, we thought we'd find a way to all sing together - and what better time than Christmas? None!!
We've chosen two pieces that we'd love you to join in with. You can download them from here for free, do as much (or as little) preparation as you like, and then come and sing with us and everyone else in the audience! It will be a lovely experience! Click on the titles of the pieces to download the scores in PDF.
AWAY IN A MANGER - as recorded on last year's Salutation. It's in 4 parts, so caters for all of you altos, tenors, basses, and anyone else who doesn't like to sing the tunes all the time. (Click here to sing along with our recording.)
ADVENT ANTIPHONS - the power of this one is in the unison 'Veni Emmanuel' plainsong hymn that emerges towards the end. So we'll get you all singing it together while our beautiful ladies weave their plainsong around. (Click here for this one!)
We mark the start of Advent
- Published on Saturday, 30 November 2013 18:00
Tomorrow is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the countdown to Christmas and a very rich, special season in its own right. Over the next four weeks we're going to illuminate the turning of darkness into light through the six tracks of our seasonal record SALUTATION. So today we begin with the ancient Advent Antiphons, looking in the darkness for God to come into the world. Here it is.
Christmas Concerts 2013
- Published on Sunday, 03 November 2013 20:54
This December, Albion give just TWO special Christmas concerts: one in our home town of Sheffield, the other in the delightful village of Tideswell, High Peak.
Both performances take place in very special churches, with wonderful acoustics which enable the voices to soar and resonate, and with beautiful decoration and architecture that heighten the stunning musical experience.
SHEFFIELD: Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses: Friday 20 December at 8.00pm
TIDESWELL: St John's Church (The Cathedral of the Peak): Saturday 21 December at 7.30pm
We are lucky, too, that in both places the welcome from the churchpeople is hearty, and that the performances will be warmed by mulled wine and refreshments prepared by the local people, to whom we are grateful indeed. Visitors from far and near will have a wonderful experience of magical music and festive cheer!
I won't reveal full details of the treats in store, except to say that for anyone who came to last year's events and found them special, this year will be on another level... There will be music nearly 1000 years old sung alongside a carol that I am writing even as we speak, and we will sing all around you with magical voices.
For the first time, we are inviting everyone to sing with us too - you can download the music from our website!
Tickets are limited in number and are always in demand, so make sure of yours by buying now. We use a quick, reliable payment system that ensures maximum security and gives you immediate confirmation of booking.
NOTE WELL: you do not need to bring a physical ticket, nor any other kind of proof of purchase. Our rigorous booking system means that we know exactly who has paid for tickets! As long as you have received emailed receipt of payment, your tickets are secure and your places are confirmed. All card and banking fees are included in the cost.
Full-price tickets for FRIDAY 20 DECEMBER: SHEFFIELD
CONCESSION tickets for FRIDAY 20 DECEMBER: SHEFFIELD (these are for under-18s and seniors)
4pm Friday: ADVANCE SALES FINISHED. No more tickets can be bought online or reserved on the phone. A limited number of tickets will be available on the door. Please arrive early (by 7.30) to maximise the likelihood that you will get some!
Full-price tickets for SATURDAY 21 DECEMBER: TIDESWELL
CONCESSION tickets for SATURDAY 21 DECEMBER: TIDESWELL (these are for under-18s and seniors)
2pm Saturday: ADVANCE SALES FINISHED. No more tickets can be bought online or reserved on the phone. Some tickets will be available on the door. Please arrive early (by 7pm) to maximise the likelihood that you will get some!
Spring Songs 2014
- Published on Sunday, 03 November 2013 20:54
Buy your tickets for Spring Songs quickly and securely here!
FULL-PRICE tickets are £10
CONCESSION tickets are £6 (these are for under-18s, students, and Seniors)
Click here to view your cart and pay for your tickets:
SPRING SONGS is Albion's now-traditional May Bank Holiday performance, this year taking place in the wonderful warm venue of Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses, Sheffield.
SHEFFIELD: Holy Trinity Church, Grove Road, Millhouses: Saturday 3 May 2014 at 7.30pm
The concert always features some of our best-loved songs - we guarantee appearances for Scarborough Fair, Jerusalem, and Loch Lomond - alongside new numbers for the new year. It's a feast of the music of these islands.
This May, for the very first time, the members of our Come and Sing Workshop will make a special guest-star appearance during the concert!
Albion Concert Tickets are limited in number and are always in demand, so make sure of yours by buying now. We use a quick, reliable payment system that ensures maximum security and gives you immediate confirmation of booking.
You can also call 0114 268 5827 to reserve your tickets for collection and payment on the night.
NOTE WELL: you do not need to bring, and will not be issued with, a physical ticket. Our rigorous booking system means that we know exactly who has paid for tickets! As long as you have received emailed receipt of payment, your tickets are secured and your places are confirmed. All card and banking fees are included in the cost.
We cannot give refunds unless the performance is cancelled or substantially rescheduled. If you have any questions about the booking process, please click here to email us.
Britten and Folksong: Buxton
- Published on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 22:04
Next month, we bring our unique repertoire and performance style across the Peaks to Buxton for the first time. On Saturday 16 November at 7.30pm we perform our Britten and Folksong programme at St John’s Church in the town.
The group, twelve in number, sings “the music of these islands”, the traditional songs of our lands, but in new arrangements that bestow them with fresh life and colour. They are mostly sung without instruments, and singers move around and within the space so that the audience is totally immersed in the sound. It makes for an intense, varied evening’s experience!
Songs such as Scarborough Fair, Jerusalem, and The Skye Boat Song form the centrepiece of the repertoire. For the forthcoming concert, which falls days before what would have been Benjamin Britten’s 100th birthday, these are combined with brand-new settings of some of Britten’s best-loved folksongs, including Greensleeves, The water is wide, and Early one morning.
Members of the group will also perform solo items – songs by both Britten and his contemporaries – and we will hear the choral piece Hymn to the Virgin, composed by Britten at the tender age of just 18, his first major choral work. Albion’s young, fresh choral tone and colourful approach will make this an evening of super sounds and discovery!
The group’s composer and director Fraser Wilson says: “One of the things we hear the most from our audiences is that it’s a delight to hear familiar music sung in a new way – our songs strike a chord deep within people. When writing the arrangements I try to absorb the essence of the song and to reflect that in the final version, even though it might have a very different flavour to the original.”
The fine acoustic of St John’s Church in Buxton, extensively used for the Fringe Festival every summer, will show the music off to excellent effect. It will be an evocative, beautiful evening, and the people of Buxton and beyond are warmly invited to discover the magic of Albion for themselves!
To hear live recordings of these songs, go to www.soundcloud.com/albionchoir
St John’s Church, Buxton SK17 6XN
Tickets £10 / £5 (under 18s, students, seniors, unwaged)
Call 0114 258 2690 to reserve tickets; buy tickets online from here (no booking fee)
Brain of Britten
- Published on Friday, 07 June 2013 17:22
Our musical director on the Britten-inspired project that's about to come to fruition
Nearly a year ago, James and I sat down with Stewart Campbell (producer of Salutation, but more importantly festival director extraordinaire) to plan Albion's contribution to 2013's Benjamin Britten festival. With such a variety of music being heard this year - probably the majority not by BB but by others who influenced / were influenced by him - it was important to us to produce something really distinctive. We soon realised that folksong is the thing that links us so strongly with him. His love for "the music of these islands" was lifelong; he started setting traditional songs (mostly for solo voice and piano) when he was in America during WWII. His piano writing is simply divine and in every case adds a new dimension to the song, heightening its effect and enabling us to hear it afresh - watch The Ash Grove here.
This - and it's funny how you only realise this when you see it in someone else - is my intention with every piece we sing in Albion. I have never really seen the point of churning out the same old stuff in the same old way - though so many choirs do this, all the time! If you can say something new, if you can paint an old thing in a new way... that is when the paradox of "known and unknown" causes us to hear and respond meaningfully and with our hearts. It's almost as though the novelty of the new attracts you enough to hear afresh the beauty of the original.
So we decided to present a concert done "the Albion way", and chose a number of the songs that Britten himself arranged (some time between 1913 and 1976!) that I would set for choir - many for the first time. Importantly, I absorbed myself in his settings before starting work on my own; that way, I could hope to synthesise something of his colour. Britten's harmony is so interesting, so diverse and full of flavour - so worth embracing! And it's fair to say that I have written music that I'd never have produced a year ago. Just listen out for some of the jazz, the darkness in there! Especially in what I've done with The Miller of Dee: here's Britten and Pears themselves performing it.
Also we'll hear some of the guys coming out from behind their bushels and singing solo songs! We've got a really lovely range of music by both composers who shaped Britten's musical personality and others who themselves were inspired by his genius. Amongst others, they include Purcell, Dowland, Walton, Vaughan Williams...some of the best of our music. Bliss!
And now this special night is nearly upon us! How do I feel? At this week's rehearsal I found myself becoming strangely wistful. I have not felt that way making music for some time. But I did understand, as I heard the singers bring my music to life (here's a sneak listen to The Salley Gardens), that we have touched something indescribable. We really have created something new out of something old; we have distilled not only those timeless songs that Britten so adored but also somehow the essence of Britten himself as well into something that transcends time and space. I just hope that, next Saturday night as this Suffolk boy's dear friends make reality out of his dreams, that the other lad from Lowestoft, somewhere, approves.
A bit more Britten
- Published on Monday, 03 June 2013 21:42
Here's some more info on next week's Britten concert.
It was while Britten was in America in the 1940s that he began to arrange traditional folksongs. Perhaps it helped the homesick composer to connect with his English roots; it certainly also provided a lighter repertoire for his recitals with Peter Pears. His interest in arranging these songs would be life-long: Britten wrote six volumes of songs in total, taking material from England, Scotland, Ireland, and France. He said of the songs that he was attracted to the ‘weakness of tunes, which seldom have any striking rhythms or memorable melodic features’. In reinterpreting the songs, though, Britten’s distinctive harmonic language adds an extra dimension, making them anything but weak – rather, they are full of colour and passion.
Here, Albion and Britten find common ground. Both celebrate the rich musical heritage of “these islands” through reimagining the songs we grew up with. As Britten re-wrote songs of Purcell, Dowland, and authors unknown, now Albion paint afresh some of Britten’s best-loved songs, including Greensleeves, Early one morning, and The water is wide.
In this special concert in the warm acoustic of Holy Trinity Church in Millhouses, the two traditions unite. Alongside brand-new Albion arrangements of folksongs made popular by Britten, the concert also features the solo-song repertoire of Britten and his contemporaries, plus some special surprises.
Our Britten-celebration concert
- Published on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 11:38
The focus now is on Britten and Folksong, our concert in tribute to Benjamin Britten (born 100 years ago on 22 November this year). This will be unique: there is no other choir that does what we do; and there are many parallels between our motivations and Britten's. We both look at traditional music in a new way. In his case, this was by writing new piano accompaniments to existing melodies; in our case, of course, we mostly use choral voices. For both, there is an emphasis on preserving the melody while illuminating the mood or story with harmony and texture. We have been working on new arrangements of songs that were close to Britten's heart. Come and see how we do this on 15 June!
Auditions, summer 2013
- Published on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 17:32
We will be holding auditions in Sheffield this summer for singers of all voice parts.
Sight-reading is NOT a prerequisite; nor are endless years of "expert" training which have dulled your awareness of how to actually MAKE music.
We want to meet people who have good voices, are open-minded, and who want to be part of our journey.
To register your interest - so that we will keep you informed of times and dates - please email choir @ albionchoir.org.uk (without the spaces) - ideally now, and definitely before the end of May.