One of the most musically versatile chamber choirs in the country
Now in its 29th season, Canticum has been praised for accomplished performances of major works and for exploring contemporary repertoire. The choir has also commissioned new writing and gives regular first performances.
This season has seen the choir perform a Venetian inspired programme in the unique layout of St Stephen Walbrook, an inspiring combination of Victoria’s polyphony and modern contemplative Tavener and Part to a packed house at St Sophia’s Cathedral in Bayswater, in addition to joining the London Concert Choir in the Barbican for a well-received performance of Brahms’s German Requiem.
Apart from the Covid season where not much happened, we’ve recently seen highlights including the premiere of Stephen McNeff’s Armistice-inspired Walking Shadows combined with a performance of Mozart’s Requiem at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in addition to a Christmas concert in Southwark Cathedral in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care.
In recent times the choir has staged Poulenc’s Figure Humaine and a new work by Hywel Davies at the Cheltenham Music Festival and took the semi-chorus part in Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony at the Barbican.
Canticum has performed BBC Radio 4’s Christmas Morning Service, Bach’s Mass in B Minor with the Orchestra of The Age of Enlightenment at St John’s Smith Square and the première of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Step by Circle, dedicated to Mark Forkgen and the choir.
By way of contrast, the choir opened the 2008 Chelsea Festival, providing choral voices for Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother alongside soloist David Gilmour.
The choir stages regular trips abroad, with Italy a favourite destination. Canticum has toured with works including Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and Handel’s Messiah and Israel in Egypt, a performance which opened the Viterbo Early Music Festival to a packed audience. The choir toured Bulgaria in May 2013, performing in Sofia and Plovdiv for Bulgarian TV and radio. Recording, too, has an important place in Canticum’s schedule. The existing catalogue includes A Hymn to the Virgin, with works by Victoria, Poulenc and Panufnik, and two Christmas discs: A Christmas Carol and The Christmas Story. Another disc, In the Gloom of Whiteness with Craft Music, features work by Colin Riley, Fraser Trainer and Keith Roberts.
Sounds and Sweet Airs at the Lighthouse, Poole
(Four stars out of five) As a nine-year-old schoolboy I wasn’t much interested in Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, and I will need to live to 109 to see his 500th. So I’m grateful that, in Poole at least, they are celebrating his 450th with what passes in Dorset for frenzy. I’m not sure what Shakespeare’s connection with the Bournemouth area was — but it must have been huge, because this concert of more than a dozen pieces inspired by his plays and poems was an epic community effort.
For sumptuous beauty, however, not even Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music could match the unaccompanied choral pieces with which Canticum opened the programme: Our Joyful’st Feastby Einojuhani Rautavaara. In an otherwise all-British programme the Finn’s mellifluous harmonies were a timely reminder that, from Berlioz and Mendelssohn to Verdi and Prokofiev, most of the greatest Shakespeare music has been written by foreigners.
Music Director – Mark Forkgen
Mark Forkgen has been Music Director of Canticum since 1995. He is also Music Director of London Concert Choir and Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of Kokoro, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s contemporary music group.
He has worked with many leading orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the City of London Sinfonia, the English Chamber Orchestra, the English Northern Philharmonia and the Composers’ Ensemble, appearing at all the major venues including the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican, the Royal Albert Hall and Covent Garden.
A specialist in the field of choral and contemporary music, he has given first performances of over one hundred works, while also acting as Conductor and Artistic Advisor for highly acclaimed festivals including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s 70th Birthday, Stravinsky Rite On, A Festival of Britten, Music of the Americas, Britain after Britten and East meets West. His wide range of conducting also includes performances with Deep Purple leading a project for the Chelsea Festival based on Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother”. He has also conducted a number of productions in the last few years including Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, The Threepenny Opera, Oh What a Lovely War and The Boyfriend.
Mark’s recordings with Canticum and Kokoro have been highly recommended by BBC Radio 3 and in both musical and national press. Outside the UK he has given performances of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Denmark, Handel’s Messiah in Siena and Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the Viterbo Early Music Festival in Italy, Schubert and Bach in Hong Kong and Haydn’s The Seasons in Assisi.
Mark is a champion of youth music. He is currently Director of Music at Tonbridge School, having been conductor of the Scottish Schools’ Orchestra for ten years and Music Director of the Ealing Youth Orchestra and Dorset Youth Orchestra for eight years.
St Saviours Church, Pimlico, London,UK