It has been announced that VOCES8, performers at this year’s Sherborne Abbey Festival and world-renowned British vocal ensemble, are paying a special visit to the pupils of Sherborne Abbey Primary School on the afternoon of Tuesday 5th May. They will spend workshop time with pupils in advance of their much-anticipated Sherborne Abbey performance of ‘Devotions’ later that evening.
VOCES8 is now established as one of the most versatile and best-loved singing groups in the world. Touring extensively throughout Europe, North America and Asia, the ensemble performs a repertoire from Renaissance polyphony to contemporary commissions and arrangements. Pupils at Sherborne Abbey Primary will have a unique opportunity to learn more about the VOCES8 ‘Method’ – a unique and ground-breaking teaching tool written by Paul Smith and designed for students of all ages. The Method is an engaging programme designed to enhance development in numeracy, literacy and linguistics – using music and performance as its inspiration.
The ensemble is passionate about music education – VOCES8 is part of the VCM Foundation, a registered charity that has received praise from UNESCO and invested more than £1 million in music education in the UK alone.
Festival Director, John Baker, said “The Festival has always had a commitment to local schools and music scholars and we’re delighted to support this visit to Sherborne Abbey Primary School. We are sure pupils will be inspired and delighted by the opportunity to learn from such accomplished performers as VOCES8”.
With an ongoing programme of recordings and live broadcast, VOCES8 is heard regularly on international television and radio, including MPR, the BBC and Classic FM. The ensemble is also a Decca Classics Artist and its last two albums ‘Eventide’ and ‘Lux’ went straight to the top of the Classical Charts on their release.
VOCES8 will also be hosting inspiring music-making workshops and master classes at Milton Abbey Summer School later this year.
See VOCES8 in Sherborne Abbey on Tuesday 5th May for their performance of ‘Devotions‘
Award-winning Sherborne Abbey Festival opens on Friday 1st May for its sixteenth annual event, offering a stunning liturgical setting in a traditional Dorset town (film location for the recent screen adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd), uplifting musical performances and a gathering of thousands in celebration of music and song. The Festival is uniquely community spirited and accessible, with more than 70% of all concerts free entry, encouraging the enjoyment of music and the arts to new audiences of all ages.
This year’s Festival takes place over the early May Bank Holiday from 1st – 5th May, with an exceptional line up of acclaimed professional performers alongside local music scholars and schools. Highlights include ‘Strictly Viennese’ – featuring virtuoso violinist Adam Summerhayes and his orchestra with a guest appearance from Matthew & Nicole Cutler (World and European dance champions and stars of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing) in a crowd-pleasing programme of Strauss, Kreisler, Lehár and Tchaikovsky. Tenebrae, a choir with a breathtaking dynamic range, performs ‘Russian Treasures’, featuring Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky; while British vocal ensemble VOCES8 presents ‘Devotions’, masterworks from five centuries and pitch-perfect harmonies in an inspiring candlelit concert presentation. In this centenary year of Edith Piaf’s birth, vocalist Tina May brings to life the music and song of France’s most beloved entertainer, national icon and musical legend with ‘A Celebration of a Legend’.
As always, local young musicians and singers have a major role with concerts by jazz, madrigal, choral and chamber ensembles from Sherborne School, Sherborne Girls, Leweston and The Gryphon School, while the Dominican Convent School Choir performs a heady mix of African spiritual and secular music. Sherborne School’s Swing Band repertoire covers everything from Sinatra to Bublé and The Gryphon School teams up with Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir for a lively performance of composer Alexander L’Estrange’s acclaimed ‘Zimbe!’.
Local chamber group Rossignol presents ‘Music from the Court of Frederick the Great’ while Sherborne Festival Chorus and Chameleon Arts Orchestra performs Brahms and Wagner. Classical guitarist, Samantha Muir entertains with ‘Legends and Laments’ from Brazil and Margaret Phillips, Professor of Organ at the Royal College of Music, and leading interpreter of Bach’s music, presents a memorable concert in Sherborne Abbey. For a ‘hands-on’ experience, recorder enthusiasts will enjoy the musical workshop with iFlautisti and a chance to perform with London’s leading Recorder Quartet.
(Image copyright the BBC : Matthew Cutler & Alesha Dixon)
Sherborne Abbey first as ‘Strictly’ dancers perform with internationally acclaimed virtuoso violinist
Some of the country’s finest musicians join internationally acclaimed virtuoso violinist and composer, Adam Summerhayes, on 1st May in Sherborne for what is an unexpected addition to the award-winning Festival’s 2015 programme with ‘Strictly Viennese’. What makes the event even more spectacular is the guest appearance of World and European Latin American dancing champions, and Strictly Come Dancing professionals, Matthew and Nicola Cutler who will enchant the audience with exceptional, world-class dance and of course a Viennese Waltz! Matthew and Nicole Cutler are regarded as one of the most successful English Latin American couples of their time and Matthew famously won BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2007 with his dance partner Alesha Dixon.
The Viennese Fever Orchestra, all soloists and chamber musicians in their own right, will perform a programme including the most popular Viennese compositions by Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Kreisler, led by Adam Summerhayes (whose grandfather studied the violin with Joachim’s last pupil and with Adolf Brodsky, the violinist who premiered the Tchaikovsky concerto). Adam learnt first from his grandfather and then from Yfrah Neaman, one of the twentieth century’s greatest pedagogues. He enjoys feeling linked to the historical continuum of violin playing. He has been very highly acclaimed as a chamber musician and has performed in Russia, Germany, France, Spain, the Czech Republic and the USA as well as throughout Britain.
This new performance has been launched to replace the previously advertised War Horse Only Remembered which has been re-scheduled to 7th November at the request of author Michael Morpurgo. Festival Director John Baker said ‘While obviously disappointed at changing this year’s programme, we are equally delighted that the War Horse event is re-booked, poignantly, for Remembrance weekend on Saturday 7th November, and that National Theatre puppeteers, with the magnificent life-size horse ‘Joey’ will co-star. Tickets for that performance will be on sale after 30th April. In the meantime, we are sure Festival-goers will love the replacement ‘Strictly Viennese’ event for 1st May for which tickets are now on sale’.
Tickets for ‘Strictly Viennese’ are on sale at www.sherborneabbeyfestival.org or in person at Sherborne Tourist Information Centre. Book early to avoid disappointment and to get the best experience of this unique performance in Sherborne’s magnificent Abbey setting.
Matthew & Nicole have twice been the recipient of the Carl Alan Award for services to dance.
Strictly Come Dancing Winner
Matthew won the 2007 series of BBC Television’s BAFTA nominated Strictly Come Dancing with his celebrity partner Alesha Dixon and Nicole has appeared in three series.
Matthew was United States Ballroom Champion 1998 and the Principal Latin Dancer in the film, Burn The Floor – partnered by Nicole.
Matthew and Nicole have been competing and winning trophies for over two decades. In 2005 they were UK Closed Professional Champions and World and European Professional Latin finalists. In 2004 they were British Closed Professional Latin Champions and International Professional Latin finalists.
World Latin American Champions
Matthew and Nicole were World, Open British, International and UK finalists 2000-2003, Vice European Professional Champions in 2002, UK Closed Professional Champions 2000 and 2002, World Masters Professional Latin Dance American Champions 2000, UK Open Amateur Champions 2000, Open British Amateur Champions 1997 and 1999, World, European and International Amateur Champions 1999. Matthew and Nicole win the Closed British and UK Amateur Championships for five consecutive years (95-99), were the Dutch Open Amateur Latin Champions 1998-99 and South African Open Amateur Champions 1990 and 1994.
Important update regarding our scheduled performance on Friday 1st May
Michael Morpurgo has asked, due to unavoidable personal circumstances, that we re-schedule his planned performance of War Horse Only Remembered on 1st May.
While obviously disappointed at this news and mindful of the inconvenience caused, we are equally delighted that the performance is now re-booked for Saturday 7th November; poignantly this is Remembrance weekend. To say thank you for the support of those who have already purchased tickets for this event and to make the occasion even more memorable, we have also arranged for National Theatre puppeteers, with the magnificent life-size horse ‘Joey’, to co-star on that date.
In the meantime, we wish Michael every good wish for a speedy recovery.
A *NEW* performance for 1st May | 7.30pm | ‘Strictly Viennese’ with Adam Summerhayes
With a special appearance by world champion dancers, and Strictly Come Dancing professionals, Matthew & Nicole Cutler
This new performance at Sherborne Abbey on 1st May is ‘Strictly Viennese’ starring acclaimed violinist, fiddler and composer Adam Summerhayes, with a 9-piece orchestra and (what will definitely be a first for Sherborne Abbey) World and European Latin American dancing champions, and Strictly Come Dancing Professionals, Matthew and Nicola Cutler.
In the meantime have a look at Matthew and Nicole’s showreel:
Already bought tickets for War Horse Only Remembered on 1st May?
We have already written to you by post but here is the information you require.
Please choose an option regarding your tickets:
Option A: Retain your existing ticket(s) and these will give you entry to the War Horse event on 7th November in the same seats that you have already booked. You do not need to take any action other than to tick the ‘Option A’ box on the form available below, confirm the number of tickets you hold, and return the tear off slip to us.
Option B: Return your tickets to us for a full refund, including booking fees, sent to you within 7 days of receipt. If you purchased your tickets by post or at Sherborne TIC the refund will be by cheque; if you booked online the refund will be via Paypal. If you prefer a refund please tick the ‘Option B’ box in the form available below and return the tear off slip, remembering to enclose your tickets, no later than 30th April so that we can free up seats before re-opening general bookings for the re-scheduled November event.
Please note: After 30th April the normal rules for returning tickets will apply, meaning that a refund will only be made after the event and only if the seats concerned are re-sold. However, in view of the circumstances, the usual £5 handling fee for such returns will be waived.
It believes in the power of music to enhance lives and is helping schools far and wide.
Jake Wallis Simons reports in The Telegraph
A short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral lies St Anne and St Agnes church. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it is a cavernous place with a hint of history in the air; it is here that the great poet John Milton used to pray.
In 2013, its worshippers left to join another congregation, and the church was falling on hard times. But new life now courses through its pews. Walk past at any time of day, and you are likely to hear soaring choral music echoing from inside. And it’s singing with a difference. The church, renamed the Gresham Centre, has been taken over by the vocal ensemble Voces8, and repurposed as an “international centre for vocal excellence and outreach”.
“It is being renovated and upgraded, and when it is finished it will be glorious,” says baritone Paul Smith, 32, one of the founders of the Voces8 group. “But we’re not waiting for that. It is already open as a rehearsal and recital venue, and we are already running workshops pretty much every day.”
This is characteristic of the unusual energy and commitment that underpins Voces8. The group is a multi-award-winning classical singing ensemble in its own right. It has recently signed a deal with the Decca Classics label and released its first album, Eventide.
But the singers’ own careers are only one aspect of the Voces8 project. “We really believe in the power that music has to benefit people’s lives,” says Andrea Haines, 27, one of the group’s two sopranos. “The group is run by a charity that we set up in 2006, and our main goal is to bring the joy of singing to as many people as possible. Voces8 is just the flagship ensemble, the figurehead.”
The church has now become the hub of a musical outreach project that reaches more than 20,000 people around the world each year.
It began in 2005. Paul Smith, his younger brother Barnaby and their friends Dingle Yandell and Ollie Vincent were old schoolmates from Westminster Abbey Choir School. They had formed a 24-person chamber choir called Voces Cantabiles, and wanted to enter the illustrious European Choral Grand Prix competition in Italy.
In order to qualify for the jazz and pop category, they whittled down their choir to eight members. They won the competition easily. The rest is history.
“The other members of the choir understood,” recalls Barnaby, 30, a counter-tenor. “They all went off to pursue different careers. There was something special about the eight of us, and we just knew we could make it work.”
Before long they had more bookings than they could handle and decided to go professional. From the start, musical outreach was a key part of their philosophy.
They were all aware that they had benefited from “a top-class musical education” – Emily Dickens, a 26-year-old soprano, was one of the first female choristers at Winchester Cathedral, and Chris Wardle, 34, sang as a boy treble in operas at Glyndebourne – and they wanted to bring some of these benefits to people who were less fortunate.
In 2011, after the tsunami that devastated many parts of Japan, the group travelled to the country to conduct singing workshops with children affected by the disaster.
“It doesn’t seem like the most obvious way to help people who have lost everything,” says Paul Smith. “But while aid organisations worked to help people physically, it was our way of trying to let the kids express themselves and open up.
“It was hugely positive. Students in Japan can often be reserved and shy, but for a short while they could make music and have a positive experience. It was very moving.”
The “power of music” is not without scientific foundation. The group has developed a set of vocal exercises to enhance children’s musical and overall academic performance. This method, which is currently being used in several schools in Britain, is based on a 2010 study conducted by Professor Sue Hallam, a researcher at the Institute of Education in London.
“It is a well-established fact that there is a large overlap between the skills that the brain uses for understanding music and understanding speech,” she says. “So regular musical workshops can greatly enhance reading and literacy. It is also likely that the rhythmic patterns of music can have a positive effect on numeracy and mathematical ability.”
Her study found that eight-year-old children with just eight weeks of extra musical training showed an enhanced “perceptual cognition”, and improved performance in “tests of music and language”.
At Queen Anne’s independent girls’ boarding and day school in Caversham, Berkshire, the method has been used for four years.
“The exercises were first introduced by Voces8 to the whole school at eight in the morning, possibly the worst time of day for teenagers,” says John Padley, the school’s director of music. “But as soon as it began, the whole atmosphere changed. The girls had been expecting hymn practice, and it was a riot. I don’t think chapel has ever been so noisy.”
Such have been the benefits that the exercises have become a permanent part of school life. “If you can imagine it happening in all schools across the UK, it would have a tremendous amount to offer,” says Mr Padley. “It is an excellent way to invigorate the children and give them a new sense of focus.”
In the school hall, 12 girls engage in the method. It blends physical movement with vocal exercises, and looks, above all, great fun.
“My brain feels more supple and easier to focus afterwards,” says Tiajna Amayo-Izeker, 17. “I’ve even introduced the exercises to my A2 history teacher when the lesson is really boring. It has made a difference.”
Caitlin Croke, 16, has never been confident with music. “I was always really bad. I’m not taking GCSE music or anything,” she says. “But the Voces8 method really helps. I can actually read sheet music now.”
Indeed, regular music practice can be especially helpful for dyslexics, and children who find learning difficult.
“Because of my dyslexia, I can visualise a whole score but I struggle with the mathematical side of music,” says Dingle Yandell, 32, the bass singer in Voces8. “But music has had a massive impact on my life, and I think it has been good for my brain overall.”
Queen Anne’s school is part of a foundation that includes inner city state schools. Although the musical curriculum at the state schools is of a much lower standard, the Voces8 method is used there too.
Several times a year, pupils from all the foundation schools get together for musical workshops, and later this year a choir from each of the schools will put on a Voces8-inspired concert in central London.
On a wet January evening, Voces8 is rehearsing in the Gresham Centre, their new home. This will be their final practice before they leave on a tour of Europe. As their voices lock together in a rendition of Thomas Tallis’s Te Lucis Ante Terminum, dog walkers in the churchyard stop for a moment to listen. For the St Anne and St Agnes church, this is paradise regained.
The album Eventide by Voces8 is out now on Decca Classics. They perform at St Gregory’s Centre, Christ Church Canterbury, on March 13; voces8.com
There is a wealth of choral music associated with the liturgy from the Eastern Orthodox Churches, dating back to the 16th Century and evolving more-or-less uninterrupted until the sudden decline in the Church’s fortunes which accompanied the Bolshevik Rebellion in 1917.
This programme performed by the Tenebrae Choir includes works from two of the greatest names in Russian music, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, as well as gems by less well known composers, such as Chesnokov, Golovanov and Kalinnikov, rarely sung outside Russia.
“Tenebrae’s precision, dynamic range, unanimity of sound and musicality were nothing short of astonishing… It was breathtakingly beautiful.” – Cleveland Classical
“More polished choral singing would be hard to find.” – BBC Music Magazine
“Tenebrae reveals itself as one of those exceptional choirs whose individual singers have been moulded into a single superbly sensitive and responsive musical instrument.” – The Telegraph