John Poole, the choral conductor who led the BBC Singers in the 1970s and 80s, made a rare appearance conducting the Bloomsbury Singers - the London University choir he worked with before his BBC appointment - at L'Église de Notre Dame, Bellac 82670, Haute-Vienne, France on Friday 24 August 2018 at 8.15pm - free entrance. The choir's visit was supported by the Mayors of both Bellac and nearby Le Dorat, and by M le Curé de Notre-Dame, Bellac.
The Bloomsbury Singers visited the Limousin area for a week, where John Poole rehearsed them each day to prepare a varied and fascinating concert programme. This was the fifth such visit, with previous weeks during the summers of 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. This year they also gave a short informal performance at Les rendez-vous de la chapelle in Le Dorat, as guests of Odon and Aurélie Hurel, during the Rubens à New York exhibition of Paris-based painter Catherine Van den Steen.
On the Bellac programme was a sequence of English madrigals by Thomas Vautor, Orlando Gibbons, John Wilbye and Robert Ramsey. The Bloomsbury Singers also sang two of E J Moeran's Songs of Springtime and Edward Elgar's rarely heard Evening Scene (to words from The River by Coventry Patmore). The large and appreciative Bellac audience also heard two choral works by William Byrd - Civitas Sancti Tui and the wonderful psalm setting Sing Joyfully, plus O nata lux by Thomas Tallis. Following Benjamin Britten's A Hymn to the Virgin, the final group of choral works introduced music from Vienna - Anton Bruckner's motet Locus iste - and Rome - Giuseppe Pitoni's Cantate Domino.
In between the groups of choral pieces in each half of the concert, English clarinettist Janet Hilton gave superb performances of solo items by Lennox Berkeley (Trois morceaux) and Olivier Messiaen (Abîme des Oiseaux).
John Poole studied at Oxford, was organist of London University's Church and musical director at University College, London. He founded the Bloomsbury Singers and Players and regularly conducted choral and orchestral concerts at St George's Bloomsbury, where he was first noticed by the BBC. In 1968 he became conductor of the BBC Symphony Chorus, and in 1972 director of the BBC Singers, conducting at the BBC Proms, London's South Bank, the Barbican, St John's Smith Square and at major festivals and on tour. Later he was music director of the Groupe Vocal de France, and founded the Academie Internationale in Parthenay (France), a workshop for singers and professional conductors. He also taught conducting at the Jacobs School of Music at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, USA, where he conducted a series of American and world choral first performances.
Janet Hilton was born in Liverpool, studied clarinet in Manchester and Vienna, and made her BBC debut at twenty, playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. She has enjoyed a career as a celebrated clarinet soloist, appearing with most of the major British orchestras, and also working in Chicago, Colorado Springs, Hamburg, Michigan, Munich, Naples, North Carolina, Ottawa, Paris, Rome, Toronto and Vienna. She had a long association with the Lindsay String Quartet, pianists Peter Frankl, Keith Swallow and Roger Vignoles, viola player Nobuko Imai and conductors Neeme Järvi, Mathias Bamert, Vernon Handley and Norman del Mar. She was head of woodwind at Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal College of Music in London, and continues to teach and give masterclasses at the Paris Conservatoire, at American Universities and in Norway, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Posted: 1 September 2018
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