Rugby Philharmonic Choir since 1867

Rugby Philharmonic Choir

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Rugby Philharmonic Choir Christmas Concert
‘Joy to the World’

Temple Speech Room, Saturday 14th December 2020

RPC Christmas Concert 2019 master flier A4_300There was plenty of joy in evidence in this concert by the Rugby Philharmonic Choir.  Christmas is a time of nostalgia, anticipation and renewal, and the first part of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ (the first half of this concert) is both familiar and yet always fresh and inspiring, reflecting on Advent and the Christmas story.  After the interval, Bob Chilcott’s ‘On Christmas Night’ offered this delightful pattern of familiarity and novelty, but in a late-twentieth-century way:  long-established songs and carols woven into an original and stylistically very varied series of pieces on the theme of ‘truth sent from above’. 
t encouraged the audience to await the next ‘Phil’ concert in April with eagerness  -  Chilcott’s ‘St John Passion’.  Then, again, in the Vaughan Williams’ versions of three traditional carols, the choir gave us tradition, but wrapped with the early twentieth-century richness characteristic of this composer.  As always at this time of year, Mervyn Bethell, the musical director,  gave the audience, as a finale,  their chance to join the expression of joy in closing carols.
The choir was in fine form.  Their distinctive formation on stage, with a phalanx of male voices in the centre, helped achieved balance and energy in both sensitive and full-throttle moods.
The choir was in fine form.  Their distinctive formation on stage, with a phalanx of male voices in the centre, helped achieved balance and energy in both sensitive and full-throttle moods.  The impact of their very first Handel chorus, ‘And the Glory of the Lord’, was terrific, and set their pattern for the evening.  They showed versatility:    the tough intricacies of ‘His Yoke is easy’, the very disparate demands of quirky rhythms and sonorous smoothness in the Chilcott, the joyousness of ‘O Holy Night’  -  the whole range was distinctively expressed.
Expressive too were the visiting soloists – many of them regular performers with the RPC.  The four singers brought out varied dramatic moods in the demanding solos of the ‘Messiah’  -  Jack Dolan and John Fletcher, the tenor and bass, were declamatory and prophetic, with notable clarity;  Emma Griffiths the soprano an ethereal angel;  Chloe Underwood, the alto, confiding and reflective.  Emma and Jack also featured after the interval ( the soprano and choir in Chilcott’s ‘A Spotless Rose’ was a highlight ), and their insistence (according to the conductor) on sharing the solos in ’O Holy Night’ resulted in a lovely sound.  Jo Foote, the RPC repetiteur, and James Williams on the organ, sustained their high standard of accompaniment, and the original vision of Handel for an intimate orchestra with the Messiah was maintained by a small ensemble of players from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.  

All this was in the growing tradition of exciting Philharmonic Christmases, and the large audience got their joy in equally large quantities.

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Rugby Festival of Remembrance

Saturday 9th November 2019

Rugby Festival of RemembranceThe Jaguar Land Rover Band, with Rugby Philharmonic Choir, at St Andrew's Church, Rugby.

Saturday 9th November 2019

With more than 100 performers, and over 300 enthralled listeners in the nave of the church, this was a packed, powerful and poignant occasion.   The Jaguar Land Rover Band booked the church for the Saturday of Remembrance weekend, and worked with the Rugby Philharmoic Choir, to honour the fallen, to support the work of the British Legion, and to remember with special affection Charlie Howard, who served the Hillmorton British Legion so well for so long.   From the first moments, and the flag procession, it was -  throughout  -   an evening with a great sense of togetherness and shared purpose.
Brad Turnbull and Mervyn Bethell, conductors of band and choir, guided us through a well-chosen combination of nostalgic numbers from the First World War and the 1940's, and a selection of appropriate music from other eras, dynamic and restrained, haunting and inspiring. The full ensemble work dovetailed movingly with Melanie Cotton's beautiful mezzo-soprano solos, Ian Wright's smooth euphonium sound,  the tear-jerking Last Post and Reveille from three JLR trumpeters, the solemn story of the Unknown Soldier from Revd Maraget Simmons and Larry Burke's tribute to Charlie Howard.   A short report cannot to do justice to the whole programme, but to mention the following is to guarantee that those who were not there will wish they had been:  the Karl Jenkins Benedictus, arranged for brass band and euphonium by Tony Small;  the Agnus Dei to Elgar's Nimrod;  You Raise me Up, by Loveland and Graham;  Purcell's 'Dido's Lament';   Handel's 'Lascia Ch'io Panga';   Glenn Miller.   That's only the half of it.  

In many ways the most moving moments of all came in the remarkable gentleness and control of the big band in its quiet passages, and the massed item of 'The Day Thou Gavest, Lord', with 400 voices raised together in tribute and remembrance.  

The good news at the end of the festival is the intention of these ensembles to come back to the same place at the same time next year.  You'll be well advised to book early.

Rugby Philharmonic Choir.  Contact Mervyn Bethell at musicaldirector@rugbyphilharmonic.org.uk

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Updated March 2020