Surrey Cantata

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Surrey Cantata

Surrey Cantata in concert in Lézardrieux, Brittany, July 2008.

In July 2008, Surrey Cantata undertook its first tour to North Brittany, France. Nineteen British composers were represented, from John Sheppard to Sebastian Forbes himself.

The evident success of this tour has ensured invitations to return every year since, and has become a principal activity of this choir. Each tour programme selects a particular theme or two for a focus for its enterprising repertoire, including a special commemoration of Shakespeare in 2016, for their Britany tour and also for a concert in East Clandon in November.

Their concert in the 2009 Guildford International Music Festival, together with the brilliant Santiago String Quartet, featured that year's four great anniversaries, Purcell, Haydn, Mendelssohn and Handel. Sebastian Forbes directed from the chamber organ. As the Surrey Advertiser commented, this concert 'attracted a large audience ... and the programme was framed by coronation anthems. Purcell's My heart is inditing is a lively, complex and challenging piece and from the outset the choir produced a confident sound - notwithstanding the sharpened pitch which Professor Sebastian Forbes explained would have been current in Purcell's day. Soloists from within the choir produced a finely balanced sound ... and the Santiago String Quartet provided a wonderful foil for the singers. The blend between singers and instrumentalists was magical. Three Mass movements by Felix Mendelssohn [for double choir; newly edited by Forbes for this occasion] received solid, stirring performances from the unaccompanied choir. All forces joined for the final items, Handel's Zadok the Priest and The King shall rejoice.'

Surrey Cantata

Surrey Cantata, directed by Sebastian Forbes, acknowledging applause.

Their recital in the 2010 Guildford Spring Music Festival featured English music from Parry to Britten. As the Surrey Advertiser observed, ' ... in Elgar's touching My love dwelt in a northern land, the choir responded well to the dynamic contrasts and rhythmic subtleties'. Harris's Faire is the heav'n 'was excellently performed. The kernel of the concert was Britten's incomparable Hymn to St Cecilia ... It makes many demands on the singers, all of which were capably met.' The concert also included 'a very moving performance' of the spirituals from Tippett's A Child of our Time, and a sparkling account of Finzi's My spirit sang all day'.

Their recital in the 2011 Guildford International Music Festival, as the Surrey Advertiser noted, '... began with lively performances of Renaissance French music... The merriment of these songs provided a sharp contrast to the next item, Messiaen's intensely spiritual O sacrum convivium, which received an inspired performance. Poulenc's difficult penitential motets were bravely tackled by the choir and conveyed considerable emotive power. Debussy's Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orleans received delightfully slick and descriptive performances ...'.

In Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music, 'the choir's sharing of the solo roles was most apt' , whilst in his In Windsor Forest, 'the men displayed their skill and articulation in the Drinking Song, the women were suitably artful in The Conspiracy, and there was some lovely vocal interplay in Falstaff and the Fairies'.

Surrey Cantata

Surrey Cantata as depicted in the painting by Roger Dellar, during their concert in March 2011, United Reformed Church, Guildford, as part of the 2011 Guildford International Music Festival. The pianist is Maureen Galea.

Surrey Cantata

Surrey Cantata at their concert in Primel Trégastel, July 2011.

In progress is Stanford's G major Magnificat. The soprano soloist is Anita Coskery. The second keyboard player is Maureen Galea. Sebastian Forbes is directing from the chamber organ, in his arrangement of this piece for four hands, single manual. This is the version that he directed at the Wintershall Nativity.

Their concert in Guildford in November 2015 received a five-star review in the Surrey Advertiser, describing the event as a 'celebration of five centuries of English music' and concluding: 'Surrey Cantata and their director are to be congratulated on a fine evening of choral music: their diction is excellent and their dynamic control and flexibility are exceptional.'