We were thrilled to be selected for the Adopt a Composer scheme this year. A couple of choir members met Laura and mentor Jenni Pinnock for the first time at the Adopt a Composer launch in September. However, our rehearsal on 6 November was the first chance for Laura to meet the rest of the choir.

Laura enchanted us by playing one of her guitar compositions.

She and Jenni introduced her musical background and the Adopt a Composer programme before joining in our rehearsal of early Christmas music (including Tallis, Praetorius, Byrd and Gabrielli). Laura also got the chance to have a chat with some of the choir members during our break.

Laura had asked the choir to fill in a short questionnaire prior to the rehearsal, to help her to get to know us. She asked for ideas from the choir for the piece she’s going to write. We had a good discussion of ideas on our choir WhatsApp group which we’ve passed on to her to see what she makes of them! So far members of the choir have been musing on themes related to landscape or sea, following Laura’s interest in nature.

We have been thinking about a concert of music by women composers for a while so Laura’s piece will be the perfect centrepiece for this.

We’re all very excited to be part of this collaborative process and can’t wait to see what Laura comes up with.

Here's what she said about the evening:

I've always wanted to write a piece for choir, and now thanks to Making Music UK's Adopt a Composer scheme I will have the chance to write a commission for the brilliant Chandos Chamber Choir! Had a great time yesterday meeting and hearing the choir for the first time, and starting to brainstorm ideas 😍

This Christmas, the Chandos Chamber Choir will be joined by the Bromley Youth Senior Choir for our performance of Benjamin Britten’s A Boy Was Born. The Youth Choir will also be performing a festive piece of their own and join the Chandos and audience in singing the Christmas carols.

The Bromley Youth Senior Choir is part of the Bromley Youth Music Trust (BYMT), an independent music service which provides individual and group tuition in schools, bands and choirs, public performance opportunities. In addition, members get the opportunity to extend their musical education through holiday courses, workshops, masterclasses, concert tours and participation in festivals, in order to provide a ‘very high quality comprehensive and inclusive instrumental and vocal music education to the young people of Bromley and surrounding areas’ (www.bymt.co.uk).

The Senior Choir is directed by Stephanie Seeney, who kindly answered some questions so we could find out a little bit about the choir and her leadership role – she runs 7 choirs – 4 Primary school choirs, the BYMT Junior Choir and Senior Choirs, and Sing! Bromley – a daytime adult choir.

‘I trained as a singer, doing my PostGrad at Trinity College of Music. I then spent 10 years singing, mainly in small choral groups, particularly the BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music. Three years ago I came back to BYMT (where I grew up), and started teaching primary classroom music, including lots of singing. I am now the Head of Singing for BYMT, in charge of all of the choirs and singing teachers.’

The musical background of the senior choirs membership is ‘very mixed – some are big fans of classical music, others are all about the pop – so I try and include a bit of everything. Several have individual singing lessons, but many just come to choir because they love singing.’. ‘We try and sing a mix of everything – in the last concert we did some Italian songs, a Japanese folk song, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow with ukulele.’

In the past, the choir have performed with adult choirs but the current membership have not yet had the opportunity to do so, so when James Davey, a longtime friend from the National Youth Choirs, approached Stephanie to suggest a collaboration, she was delighted. The choir normally performs in churches in the surrounding local area, so coming to central London for a concert is also a bonus. ‘I am extremely keen to give all of our choirs and singers more opportunities – for their personal development – as well as being able to develop and grow the choirs. It

is important for me that we give them opportunities that they wouldn’t get with their school choirs. This absolutely fits that bill!’

The piece presents technical challenges for both adult and treble choirs, but the children are embracing these with enthusiasm, says Stephanie. ‘This is a really new and exciting challenge for the choir. They can sing all their parts really well but following the 8 adult parts to know where to come in can be rather challenging!’  However, they are enjoying the rehearsals: ‘I’ve been surprised (and delighted!) to hear them say that bits of the Britten have been stuck in their heads during the week. But all together I think we definitely enjoy In The Bleak Midwinter most, even if the words aren’t the same as they would normally say!’

The children’s choir will add another dimension and texture to the music that adult sopranos or a soloist couldn’t because they ‘will create a different sound to the adults, which is important when there are so many parts going on at once.’ In addition, children often add an extra air of excitement to Christmas celebrations and we hope they will do the same for our concert this year!

The Chandos Chamber Choir are thrilled that cellist Matthew Sharp will be joining us for our next concert ‘Cello Song’ on the 8th of July at St Vedast in the City of London. The programme will feature a varied selection of music for choir and cello as well as a solo piece from Matthew. He comments, ‘There is nothing like the marriage of immersive, soaring voices and rapturous cello! It’s like the sounds alchemise each other to make gold and magic.’

Described by James Davey, CCC’s musical director, as an ‘energised character’ and The Times as “An extraordinary cellist – charismatic, virtuosic, brimming with verve and poetry’, Matthew is not only a solo cellist but also excels as a baritone, actor and director.

He has performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, sung principal roles for Opera North and the Royal Opera House and acted principle roles at the Young Vic and National Theatre Studio. As a director he has written, conceived and directed shows for Opera North and the BBC among others and toured major festivals internationally with his own music and theatre works, including gigs at Glastonbury and Latitude. He has recorded for Sony, EMI, Decca, Naxos, Somm, NMC, Avie and Whirlwind and given over sixty world premieres.

A Special Concert

The Chandos Summer concert is unusual in that it consists of only choir and cello music. Matthew said ‘It’s a first for me! I’ve often been the stunt special guest. I’m looking forward to being one of the troupe and lending the spice of the cello ‘voice’ to the cocktail’. The performance will feature Svyati by Sir John Tavener who wrote two pieces especially for Matthew – Petra and The Fool and has performed another of Tavener’s most loved pieces The Protecting Veil many times. Ola Gjeilo’s haunting piece O Magnum Mysterium was previously recorded by Matthew for DECCA and performed by The Chandos three years ago as part of our Scandinavian Christmas concert. Matthew will also perform Sollima’s Lamentatio, a solo piece for voice and cello he has made his own. But it is Arensky’s Variations that Matthew is most looking forward to exploring; ’I’ve always loved Arensky’s music and these pieces are new to me, so I’m really looking forward to that particular adventure but it’s all ravishing soul food… This combination of sounds and repertoire does upliftment and transcendental unlike any other!’

A unique event, this is truly a Chandos concert not to be missed. Tickets are available here.


‘Extraordinary cellist, virile baritone, compelling actor – astonishing’
The Daily Telegraph