A year in review: season 2016-17

Martin Palmer with Käthe Wright Kaufman

Martin Palmer with Käthe Wright Kaufman

As TCS chair, Colin Scofield, said at the AGM in July, what a fantastic season 2016-17 was, with four concerts and two wonderful seminars led in totally different styles but both so effectively by Russell Pascoe and Paul Drayton. We also welcomed Käthe Wright Kaufman as our accompanist, who our MD, Martin Palmer, described as, “A great asset, confidently taking rehearsals and gifted with the ability to mind read! I forecast she will go far.” As with our previous years’ accompanists, Käthe was the organ scholar at Truro Cathedral and, for 2017-18, we have been joined Will Fairbairn (for a short introduction to Will, please head here). We are so lucky to have the opportunity to engage such talented accompanists each year – they never fail to amaze and entertain.

Tony Mee performing Nessun Dorma

Anthony Mee performing Nessun Dorma

In precis, Martin described the season as “a very daring year”.
 It began with an Italianate concert in November 2016, with a programme that included Vivaldi Magnificat in G Minor and Concerto 576 (scored for this for violin, recorder and flute, oboe and bassoon), as well as Puccini Nessun Dorma – with soloist Anthony Mee stealing the show –
 and Messa di Gloria, which in Martin’s words was: “A crazy piece that TCS gave a great rendition of.”

Taking as inspiration the famous New Year’s Day concert at Vienna’s Musikverein, on 2 January 2017 we held our first New Year concert, with the Dean of Truro – Roger Bush – as MC. The evening’s programme included roof-raising performances of Handel Zadok the Priest and the Hallelujah chorus, Winter from Vivaldi The Four Seasons, with the hugely talented violinist Michael Foyle as soloist, along with Strauss Blue Danube and Waltz of the Flowers from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker performed by the always excellent Truro Symphony Orchestra – and not forgetting an all-congregation rendition of the Epiphany carol We Three Kings for regular TCS tenor soloist David Webb’s #CarolsforCancer appeal (view it on YouTube here). The concert was a resounding success and drew a huge audience.

Tenor soloist Nathan Vale with TCS

Tenor soloist Nathan Vale

For our concert on 11 March, it was Bach St Matthew Passion,
 a staging that required two choirs, two orchestras and a host of soloists. Many remarked, including the orchestra members, that it was one of our most powerful and moving concerts, particularly with international soloist Nathan Vale as our tenor soloist, described by Martin as, “out of this world”. In preparation for the concert we held a seminar on the work, led by Cornish composer Russell Pascoe, so that choir members and audience alike could learn more about the man and this masterpiece. Always happy to share his passion for Bach, Russell left everyone who attended looking forward to the forthcoming concert even more.

TCS with Three Spires Singers for Elijah

TCS with Three Spires Singers at rehearsal for Elijah

In May, the second seminar of the season was held in preparation for our joint concert of Mendelssohn Elijah with Three Spires Singers. This time, it was led by Paul Drayton, composer and conductor of Duchy Opera, among many other things. The morning included sessions about Mendelssohn and this mighty work and some singing. Of the concert itself, held in June and conducted by the MD of Three Spires and Director of Music at Truro Cathedral, Christopher Gray, Martin said: “I had heard Michael Edwards conduct Elijah eight years ago and thought it a great work for TCS – and it is always a joy to join with Three Spires and Chris Gray. The soloists were superb, particularly Lucy Wallis as The Boy and the girl choristers in ‘Lift Thine Eyes’. 
The choirs sounded marvellous but were eclipsed by the cello section, who were stupendous [ahem, see photograph below]!”
 This was the second time TCS and Three Spires had joined forces – the last time being for Elgar The Kingdom in 2014 – and it was again a great success and enjoyed by all involved. Mirroring the arrangement in 2014, the cathedral seating was turned around, so that the large joint choir and orchestra of 55 could be accommodated at the west door, with the audience heading “backwards” towards the altar. You can read Philip Buttall’s review of the concert in Seen and Heard International here.

Our year was rounded off with a lovely summer party, expertly organised as always by our social secretary, Dee, and held at Mylor Yacht Club. The outrageously beautiful sunset provided the perfect ending to a wonderful season.

The first TCS New Year Concert

The first TCS New Year Concert

MD Martin with bow in hand for Elijah rather than baton

MD Martin with bow in hand for Elijah rather than baton

The view from Mylor Yacht Club at the summer party

Mylor Yacht Harbour

TCS Chair Colin Scofield at the summer party

TCS Chair Colin Scofield at the summer party

Ring in the new

screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-15-12-55Taking its inspiration from the famous New Year’s Day concert at Vienna’s Musikverein, Truro Choral Society is holding a musical celebration on Monday, 2nd January 2017, at Truro Cathedral. The first in what is hoped to become an annual event and musical tradition for Truro, it will be held at 7pm to make the concert more family-friendly and include a mix of light popular items and some weightier pieces.

Handel’s Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest will provide a rousing opening to the programme, while the atmosphere of Vienna will be evoked by Strauss’s Blue Danube waltz and a seasonal touch introduced by Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The latter will be played by the gifted violinist Michael Foyle, who was praised by The Daily Telegraph for playing with “compelling conviction” at his Purcell Room debut in London last year.

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is always a favourite at this time of year and Truro Symphony Orchestra will play the popular Waltz of the Flowers from the ballet. For opera lovers, there is the famous aria Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot, to be sung by tenor Anthony Mee, who has performed to much acclaim at major concert halls around the world, including the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican and Royal Albert Hall in London.

The core of the concert will be the opening chorus of JS Bach’s St Matthew Passion and it will end with the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah, bringing a joyful evening to a truly exuberant conclusion. In all, the perfect way to welcome in 2017.

Listen to Colin’s interview with Martha Dixon of BBC Radio Cornwall for the Donna Birrell Sunday breakfast show (at 2:38:18) to find out more.

New Year Concert: 7pm, Monday, 2nd January 2017, at Truro Cathedral. Tickets: £16 (under 19s free), available from Box Office Cornwall (hallforcornwall.co.uk; 01872 262466) or on the door

Meet our new accompanist

kewkOn the eve of our first concert of the 2016/17 season, we chatted to our talented new accompanist, Käthe Wright Kaufman – the current Organ Scholar of Truro Cathedral – to see what she thinks of the show so far and to find out more about her.

Originally from Evanston, Illinois, a city just north of Chicago, 23-year-old Käthe started learning the piano at the age of four and has pursued her organ studies since 2007. During that time she has been taught by the virtuoso organists James R Brown of the Music Institute of Chicago, and William Porter and Edoardo Bellotti of the Eastman School of Music, and has participated in masterclasses with the premier concert organists Ann Elise Smoot, David Higgs and Alan Morrison. She has performed for the US radio programme Pipedreams Live! and in venues such as St Thomas Church, New York City, and – as part of a recital tour this summer – Clare College, Cambridge, St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds and St Michael’s Cornhill, London. This whistle-stop trip to the UK meant getting to know the pedals, pipes and stops of unfamiliar organs and playing a complete programme within hours of arriving at a venue. However, her audition with Christopher Gray for the position at Truro Cathedral took place back in the US – via Skype!

Prior to arriving in Cornwall, Käthe studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where in 2013 she received the Gerald Barnes Award for Excellence in Pipe Organ. She graduated earlier this year with high distinction. Other accolades include receiving the VanDelinder Prize in Liturgical Organ Skills from Christ Church, Rochester, in both 2014 and 2015, and winning the West Chester University International Organ Competition in 2015.

As someone who clearly doesn’t seek a quiet life, Käthe has also previously held the positions of Organ Scholar at Christ Church, Rochester, and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, NY. At the latter she accompanied a similar-sized choir to Truro Choral Society, though the markedly different timing of rehearsals there called for her alarm clock to be set for 5.45am (don’t get any ideas, MDP). And it has been unsurprising to discover that, on top of all these achievements, Käthe is also an accomplished choral soprano, having performed with choirs around America, England and Germany. Even in her personal life, music is omnipresent: her boyfriend is the fifth generation of a family of organ builders whose business is based not far from Rochester – very helpful in times when urgent tuning has been needed.

Käthe with her boyfriend, Matt

Käthe with her boyfriend, Matt

Here in Truro, her role at the Cathedral naturally keeps her very busy beyond our increasingly wintry Tuesday-night rehearsals. Music for the Cathedral choir needs to be organised and distributed before run-throughs and services. Meanwhile, her duties mentoring the probationary choristers at Polwhele House school mean early mornings for her most weekdays – her guidance with basic theory will help them gain their surplices in the spring. Of course, somewhere amid all this, she needs to fit in time for playing herself: so far, the hours after 9pm seem most appealing, when there are no noise restrictions and time seems to slip by. She is also a member of St Mary’s Singers, the voluntary chamber choir of the Cathedral.

When talk turns to Käthe’s favourite composers, Bach unsurprisingly gets the top spot – her recitals at the Cathedral and Truro Methodist Church in October bore impressive witness to this, with audience members commenting that they were “blown away” by her performances. Bartok also gets a mention, though, and in a nod to her new UK position, Standford, Howells and Britten all feature highly. This term’s Puccini rehearsals have brought enjoyment, too – Käthe mentions the Messa di Gloria’s satisfying melodies and how she is looking forward to accompanying us on the chamber organ when we sing it on Saturday.

Käthe will be returning to the US in 2017 for the start of the next academic year – a deferred master’s in organ performance awaits her at Eastman. Before then, we will be fortunate enough to have her accompany us for our rehearsals for our New Year concert, Bach’s St Matthew Passion and our joint concert with Three Spires Singers, Mendelssohn’s Elijah. If you’re not a TCS member, do make sure you get to hear her play before she goes, too.

Musical chairs


From left: Martin Palmer, Colin Scofield and Susanne Deneke

The official end of season came on Tuesday, 21st June,  when our AGM was held at Richard Lander School. It was well attended and included several key changes to the committee. We sadly had to say goodbye to Susanne Deneke – only as Chair, though – and happily welcome Colin Scofield in as her replacement. Susanne had been Chair for six years and, to thank her for applying her extremely calm and capable gubernatorial skills to TCS affairs over that time, former Chair Ian Halford presented her with flowers and Waterstones and Plaza vouchers worth £200 on behalf of the choir. Fortunately, Susanne will be staying on as a singer – and adviser, if necessary. In her final report as Chair, she spoke of how it had been “a great honour and privilege to serve this wonderful choir”. Colin has already served on the committee for several years as Publicity Officer and Making Music Representative and we are grateful for him taking up his new role so readily.

We also were delighted to welcome two new committee members: Jill Nicholls and Stefanie Helmle. Post AGM, Colin said, “What persuaded me to accept the job of Chairman was the knowledge that we will continue with the same team who, as Susanne has said, have proved so able and willing in the past. Stefanie and Jill will strengthen us even more.”

We also enjoyed poetry (and Maltesers, of course) from MD Martin Palmer, which one day we hope to be able to publish in full. However, like a Homeric epic, it can only be preserved orally for the time being (ie until Secretary Liz Keasley can decipher the stanzas from the scribblings annotations).

The committee sends huge thanks to those who attended the AGM and to all members for making the choir the force that it is today. We wish you a happy summer and look forward to all the pleasure Season 2016/17 will bring. See you in September.

“Moving and memorable”

TCS Rehearsing Rutter in Truro Cathedral, June 2016In a weekend of celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday, Truro Choral Society was not going to miss the opportunity to contribute, and this summer concert began with probably the finest of all ceremonial pieces – Parry’s I Was Glad, with the eight-part choir plus cathedral organ sending majestic echoes round the vaulting. On a more intimate scale, members of Truro School Chamber Orchestra excelled in Bach’s second Brandenburg Concerto, with bubbling high spirits in the outer movements contrasted with the graceful central andante. The solo group — Martha Prindl (violin), Lottie Brenton and Molly Carleston (oboes) and Katie Shaw (piccolo) — were outstanding. I had doubted whether there could be a viable substitute for the specified clarino trumpet, but am pleased to report that the piccolo in all its crazy glory reached even the very back of the West Gallery. And ice creams were available in the interval — a splendid innovation!

Some choral purists dismiss John Rutter’s writing as “easy listening” — perhaps rightly in the case of some of the shorter works, but his Requiem is certainly not a soft option for singers in its challenging complexity and contrasts of light and dark. Martin Palmer’s direction and the choir’s flexibility caught the marvellous transition of the opening, from ominous agitation to the  magical “earworm” main melody (once heard, never forgotten).

Luke Bond’s sensitive organ playing was a notable feature, as was the contribution of all the instrumentalists – Barbara Degener’s cello in “Out of the deep” perfectly mirroring the hushed choral entry. The central Sanctus was radiant with pealing bells — Joseph O’Berry on piano and James Robinson somehow managing to play glockenspiel and timpani simultaneously. The 23rd Psalm setting was a pastoral delight with Tamsin Carleston’s oboe obbligato, and Katie Shaw’s flute phrasing was perfect, particularly well matched with soprano Cheryl Rosevear in her expressive Pie Jesu and Lux Aeterna.

It may be a relatively short work, but this Requiem doesn’t grant much rest for the chorus — they have to sing almost continually. They coped heroically with all its demands, building up tension in Agnus Dei, lyrical in Psalm 23, modulating marvellously towards the inevitable reprise of the big tune at the end. Well done to Palmer for such thorough preparation and direction, and huge thanks to TCS for a moving and memorable performance.

Judith Whitehouse

TCS Rehearsing Rutter in Truro Cathedral, June 2016
Pictures of TCS at final Rutter rehearsal in Truro Cathedral (c) Crispin Geoghegan


Mass appreciation


TCS with Truro Symphony Orchestra at Truro Cathedral, Saturday, 23rd April 2016

Beethoven’s “Hallelujah Chorus”…. no, not a misprint – he really did write one as the finale of a now neglected oratorio, and Truro Choral Society President Michael Galsworthy had suggested that TCS might perform it, so they did! Augmented by Cornwall Youth Choir and Truro School Chamber Choir (nearly 200 voices altogether), plus the usual splendid orchestra, they gave a rousing start to this mostly Beethoven evening.

TCS has recently made a feature of showcasing outstanding local young musicians, and Truro School sixth-former Ellie Sullivan’s performance of Schumann’s Abendlied, arranged for oboe and orchestra by musical director Martin Palmer, was an exquisite “song without words” in her last Truro concert before entering the Royal Academy of Music.

Probably the best-known of all symphonies, Beethoven’s Fifth, directed by Palmer, ended the first half of the programme in an inspiring performance, from the famous opening chords, via a warmly lyrical slow movement with glorious lower strings, to a spirited Scherzo and triumphant finale – a real emergence into daylight.

Dating from the same period as the Symphony, but inevitably overshadowed by the later Missa Solemnis, Beethoven’s Mass in C requires the chorus to sing almost continuously for long sections and express many different moods – devotional in the Kyrie, thrilling in the Gloria, with a concluding Agnus Dei contrasting anxiety and expectation punctuated by lyrical horn calls. A strong solo teamsoprano Cheryl Rosevear, alto Shelly Coulter-Smith, tenor Paul Martyn-West and bass Charlie Murray – blended well together, particularly in the Benedictus. Palmer’s direction made a good case for a neglected work, and the chorus still had enough energy left at the end to reprise the “Hallelujah” from the start of the evening, to great acclaim from the large audience. A fascinating and most enjoyable evening.
Judith Whitehouse, West Briton

TCS helps hospice

2016 Jan TCS Charity Collection (1) ed copyOur performance of Handel’s Messiah on 12th December in Truro Cathedral was a success in more ways than one.

Judith Whitehouse, writing in the West Briton, praised the contributions made by the soloists and Martin Palmer’s direction, which she said “produced some fine effects”. She also described the choir’s singing as “rock solid in the many fugal episodes” and sounding “simply glorious in the final chorus, with a massive crescendo and deceleration at the close”.  A capacity audience filled the Cathedral.

The other great success of the evening was the retiring collection for Little Harbour Children’s Hospice. In the 10 minutes it took for everyone to leave the Cathedral at the end of the concert, the magnificent sum of £917 was donated by members of the audience, orchestra and choir – £90 a minute! We thank everyone for their generosity.

Our Treasurer, Markus Mueller (far left), presented the cheque to Roger Clarke (far right), who was representing Little Harbour, on the steps of Truro Cathedral on Monday, 11th January. Also in the photo are Glynnis Wadham-Smith (TCS Vice Chair) and Colin Scofield (TCS Publicity Officer).


Messiah at Truro Cathedral


Martin Palmer with Felicity Turner and Imogen Hancock

“What is the collective noun for Messiahs? There seem to be a lot of them around at this time of year! This was probably the largest I’ve heard for some time, with the massed ranks of Truro Choral Society augmented by the choirs of the three local senior schools – over 200 voices in all. Rehearsals must have been fun.

It’s always good to welcome back David Webb, and his ‘Comfort ye’, expressive and judiciously decorated, set the tone for a vigorous interpretation – bass George Humphreys (also currently in Jonathan Miller’s production of The Mikado at the Coliseum – such versatility!) gave the heavens a really thorough shaking, and mezzo Felicity Turner’s dramatic ‘refiner’s fire’ was equally spirited. Cornish soprano Lydia Mee, in her debut with TCS, was understandably a little hesitant at first, but grew in confidence, her performance culminating with a radiant ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’.

Martin Palmer’s direction of the large choir produced some fine effects – a sprightly ‘For unto us’, and a splendid sequence of five vividly contrasted choruses in Part Two, interspersed with Felicity Turner’s exquisite ‘He was despised’ and David Webb’s clear narrative passages. The chorus coped well with some brisk speeds – ‘Hallelujah’ almost too fast – and were rock-solid in their many fugal episodes. As always, great orchestral accompaniment, with the added bonus of harpsichord (Joseph O’Berry) plus chamber organ (Luke Bond, who also sprinted upstairs to the Father Willis for extra volume).

I always moan about items being cut, but appreciate the need – two and a half hours plus interval, otherwise – but Part One really does need to end with a chorus, and it didn’t (lose half a star for that!). I always miss the ‘middle bit’ of ‘The trumpet shall sound’ – no one ever does it – but what a treat it was to hear George Humphreys and solo trumpet Imogen Hancock. The trumpets were back at the periphery for the final chorus, which sounded simply glorious, with a truly massive crescendo and deceleration at the close that shouldn’t have worked but did – ‘Amen’ to that!”
Judith Whitehouse, West Briton

Lydia Mee

Lydia Mee

Felicity Turner

Felicity Turner

David Webb

David Webb

George Humphreys

George Humphreys


TCS at Choral Evensong

MD93153  -  Chris Gray directing TCS members  singing with the Cathedral Choir in Choral Evensong 6 November 2015  from a large high resolution original Over 100 of our members took part in Choral Evensong at Truro Cathedral on Friday 6 November and it was an experience that left a deep impression on all of us.

Christopher Gray, director of music at the Cathedral, gave us a very warm welcome after we had assembled in the Quire and talked about the history and content of the service. We were then joined by the boys and men of the Cathedral Choir for an hour’s rehearsal, during which we were taken through Stanford’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C, Parry’s “I was glad” and the hymn Now Thank We All Our God. This was when we were so glad that we had been well prepared for this by our music director, Martin Palmer, and Russell Pascoe.

Robin (TCS tenor) observed: “A memorable experience, singing with the brilliant Cathedral Choir. We can learn so much from new challenges such as forming two choirs. Impressive concentration was shown by the children as they rapidly learnt the music yet still watched the inspirational Christopher Gray.”

After rehearsal we remained in our seats while the Cathedral Choir left to put on their surplices and cassocks, and by 5.30pm, a good-size congregation had assembled for the start of Evensong. After a hushed silence, the Cathedral clergy and choir processed into the Quire and, for the next 45 minutes, we were privileged to be part of an event that none of us will forget.

Chris Gray directing TCS members  singing with the Cathedral ChoTCS alto Joy said: “It was a great experience, and so intimate to be looking into all four sides of the choir instead of out to the congregation. Parry’s ‘I was glad’ was so celebratory, a real joy to sing, and Stanford’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis just so much part of the service.”

Our kind reviewer Judith Whitehouse, who also happened to be in the congregation, commented, “Now we just have to get you some cassocks and surplices!” And it is true to say that Gray made us feel welcomed and an integral part of his choir.

When Evensong ended, we had only 10 minutes to assemble in front of the High Altar to have a photograph taken, as another event was to follow at 6.30pm. We are lucky to have an excellent photographer in the choir (Crispin Geohegan, bass) and our thanks go to him for the beautiful images he captured.

The last word must go to local composer Russell Pascoe: “A truly memorable event. A superb performance of ‘I was glad’ and great to hear the Stanford at the correct tempo. I hope this will become an annual event.”



Choral Evensong at the Cathedral

© James Ram (www.jamesram.co.uk)

When TCS take part in Choral Evensong in Truro Cathedral on 6th November it will be the first time we have done so in our 53-year history. We will join Truro Cathedral Choir to sing Parry’s “I was glad” and Stanford’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C. The service commences at 5.30pm, with Christopher Gray as Music Director.

The Cathedral Choir is made up of 18 boy choristers and 12 men. With over 100 members of TCS joining them and the accompaniment of the 2,700-pipe Henry Willis organ, this should be a memorable occasion.

The normal running order of Evensong is: responses, welcome by the priest, psalm, bible reading, Magnificat, bible reading, Nunc Dimittis, the Creed, responses (including the Lord’s Prayer), anthem, prayers, hymn and, finally, responses.

Anyone is welcome to attend Evensong, so come and enjoy the beautiful music and the amazing architecture of the Cathedral. We have loved rehearsing these pieces and are very much looking forward to taking part in the service.

IMG_6284 IMG_6280 Freya Truro Cathedral Concert (18 of 26)