Today Prima Voce are presenting a beautiful programme of liturgical music with Haydn’s uplifting chorus ‘The Heavens Are Telling’ from his oratorio The Creation followed by Fauré’s Requiem. Over a century after its first performance, Fauré’s Requiem remains the most often played and recorded of Fauré’s works the world over. It is a Requiem of hope and assurance and has often been referred to as a ‘Mass for the living’, or as Fauré put it, ‘an aspiration, towards happiness above’.
I wish to particularly thank our soloists Lydia Isadora Dyer (UV) soprano and Alun Jones baritone. We are indebted to the tenor and bass singers from The Cecilia Consort. They have been incredibly generous with their time, skills and expertise, enabling our upper voices to experience the full rich sound of SATB work. We so appreciate their support and enthusiasm for all things choral. We have really enjoyed their partnership this year at our Newbury Carol Service, our concert at St John’s Church in March, our invitation Evensong for the Newbury Spring Festival and, of course, today’s special performance at our Founder’s Weekend.
Our orchestra is joined by professional musicians (most of whom are on the Visiting Music Team at Downe House) playing alongside our advanced musicians and giving them an invaluable insight into professional orchestral playing.
Singing is so good for the soul! The one thing Prima Voce choristers always say is how much better they feel after they’ve had a rehearsal – and the thrill of a concert is just magical! We have been singing at Downe House for over 110 years and this strong choral tradition is an important part of the School. The positive impact of singing on both academic work and wellbeing is well documented and it is clear how much the girls value being a member of Prima Voce and how much it enriches their Downe House experience.
We invite you on a special musical journey where we hope to give you a glimpse of ‘happiness above’.
Dr Charlotte Exon
Director of Music
Prima Voce is the flagship choral ensemble of Downe House, which has a long history of excellence in music. Prima Voce represents the senior choristers of the School who are continuing this proud tradition.
Winners of the Barnardo’s National Senior Choir of the Year Competition unprecedently for two years’ running and finalists for the last four years, the choir explores a wide and challenging range of music, enjoying many different types of choral performances from Cathedral Evensongs to concert work and competitions. Recent performances have included appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall and performing with Katie Melua in London.
Prima Voce thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to support the work of different charities, including Barnardo’s, which has led to performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall and taking part in Kidmas Live at Birmingham Town Hall. The choir always looks forward to performing at St John’s Church, Newbury to raise money for Christian Aid. Their concert this year raised over £1800. Most recently, they returned to St John’s to perform Evensong alongside the Cecelia Consort as part of the Newbury Spring Festival.
Many of the girls in Prima Voce are also studying other areas of music and performance at an advanced standard. The choir meets twice a week and are enthusiastic about all things musical!
Isadora is currently in the Upper Fifth (Year 11) and has just finished her GCSEs. She plays the piano, cello, and has recently achieved Grade 8 singing. Before joining Downe House, she was a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, and has performed as Young Cosette in Les Misérables in the West End. Isadora is a Choral Award Holder at Downe House. She is also a member of Symphony Orchestra and the cello ensemble alongside her work with the choirs.
A former choral scholar, freelance singer and ad hoc member of the BBC Singers, Alun studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where he won the Pernod Arts Award for the most outstanding student of the year and further awards from the Welsh Arts Council and Arts Council of Great Britain. During his singing career, concert highlights included Britten’s War Requiem at Bath Abbey, Vaughan Williams’ Sancta Civitas at Sherborne Abbey and a Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Stage engagements included tours for Cardiff New Opera and performances for Musica Nel Chiostro at the Batignano Festival, Italy.
Alun began his teaching career at the Cathedral School, Llandaff, Cardiff and the United World College of the Atlantic. Following positions as a Music Master & Choirmaster, Director of Studies and Deputy Headmaster in Girls’ Schools, Alun was appointed Principal at St Gabriel’s, Newbury, Berkshire in 2001 where he remained for 15 years. Alun retired as Principal of Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, the UK’s largest specialist school of music in 2020. He worked closely with the Royal Northern College of Music, and Manchester Camerata, Halle and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras, promoting Manchester’s vibrant classical music scene and the ‘go to’ place for talented young musicians. Much in demand as a public speaker, presenter and advocate for music education and leadership. Alun has been a strong advocate that music in schools should not merely be the preserve of the extremely talented musician who might invariably opt for a career in music. Above all, Alun believes that music in schools should lead to a lifelong love of music and enrichment in students’ adult lives.
The Cecilia Consort is the jewel in Newbury’s choral crown. Performing for over 30 years, this 40-strong choir gives 2-3 concerts per year and is frequently asked to provide small ensembles to sing at local weddings, memorial services and other public events. They sing a wide repertoire: sacred and secular music from the Renaissance to brand-new works, some written especially for them. The choir’s founder and Musical Director, Janet Coxwell, who sang with the Tallis Scholars for 23 years, is Head of Choral Studies at Cheam School and Co-Director (with David Woodcock of Harrow School) of the Early Music Academy, which runs popular, week long summer courses in the UK and the USA. Members of The Cecilia Consort have previously performed with the choirs from Downe House at the Carol Service last December at St Nicolas Church, Newbury.
Yan Qi (Angelina) Shek violin solo
Mrs Nadine de Chazal, Natalie Hui, Mr John Kane, Ms Marisa Miller, Tatiana Montanari, Yan Qi (Angelina) Shek violin
Mrs Jane Kane, Mr John Kane, Ms Jacqui Mackenzie, Ms Marisa Miller viola
Miss Helen Butcher, Ms Virginia McMurtrie cello
Olivia McClintock bassoon
Ms Kathy Chalmers, Yuchen Liu, Ruoxi (Jasmine) Yang french horn
Miss Annabel Brown, Mr Andy Smets trumpet
Alice Boyle harp
Mrs Susan Norman chamber organ
Mr Chris Lambert timpani
Alice Boyle & Olivia McClintock Heads of Music
Camilla Hale Head of Choral
Charlotte Mackinnon Deputy Head of Choral
With thanks to the Music Department team including our Visiting Music Team, Mr George Laing and the AV Team, the Marketing Team and the Estates Department.