Reviews and Responses

Oberstdorf Protestant Church | Fantastic Concert
Oberstdorf, Bavaria, Southern Germany, 27th May 2013

It was a feast for the ears last Monday: a concert by choir “voxcetera” from London. Under the direction of conductor Jane Hopkins, the 15 singers took their audience on a musical journey from the Alps via Estonia to the British Isles. The choir presented a programme that stretched across all musical styles. Works by Elgar, Barber, Haydn, Reger and others touched the music loving audience who expressed their gratefulness with long-lasting applause. Rightfully so: the choir was convincing in all aspects: vocally, in its musical direction, and with their very finely-tuned programming between sacred choral music and entertaining works – as if it was made for this balmy summer evening, which did indeed deserve being called so.

Schwäbische Zeitung | London Choir performs in cold Frauenbergkirke – Even in the cold, Voxcetera sing to warm your hearts
Munderkingen, Southern Germany, 26th May 2013

An audience of 100 enjoyed a very special choral concert on Sunday in the packed Frauenbergkirche at 5 degress Celsius. Under the direction of Jane Hopkins, the choir Voxcetera from London, consisting of 8 women and 7 men, sang a concert here. Among them, Florian Fischer from Hundersinger, who has been teaching German in the UK for 13 years. He announced the songs in Swabian. The programme started with an old round from the 13th century, Sumer is Icumen in, although considering the temperature was equally as cold without as within the baroque church walls, “this was the most inappropriate introduction”, said Florian Fischer, and he jokingly asked for a pair of gloves for pianist Magnus Gilljam… From the Middle Ages, the choir went on to Elgar’s songs From the Bavarian Highlands, composed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1895. While those were sung in English, Max Reger’s Liebersscherz could be heard in Swabian. Florian Fischer stepped forward with a solo in Samuel Barber’s Under the Willow Tree (from the opera Vanessa). With the radiant song Sunday from Stephen Sondheim’s most important musical Sunday in the Park with George, the choir sent the audience into a short break.

vox up a hill

With Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, the ensemble took the freezing earth dwellers to eternity with a classical fugue from Haydn’s Schöpfung. But Elgar’s My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land quickly brought back a taste for this world.

Life’s small joys were depicted in animal songs by Bob Chilcott, Frederick Bridge and in a purred cats’ song by Veljo Tormis. Five British folk songs formed the end of the programme, with See the Conqu’ring Hero Comes from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus as an encore – and a great concert came to an end.

Oberstdorf Protestant Church | When Brits rave about the girl on the Alm: 
Chamber choir “Voxcetera” present their artistic singing in Oberstdorf with a lively programme
Oberstdorf, Southern Germany, 1 June 2013

Has the chamber choir competition of Markoberdorf, which only last pentecost attracted extraordinary ensembles to the Allgäu region, not long come to an end? Those who recently heard London chamber choir Voxcetera in Oberstdorf’s Christuskirche might well doubt that; for the 15 singers – eight ladies and seven gentlemen – also presented the art of song under the baton of Jane Hopkins on a very high level.

It mattered only little that the ensemble needed two pieces to reach their perfect harmony and convincing power of expression, or that the choir, in a piece from Haydn’s Creation, ventured into an interpretation that was unusually and extremely rousing. All in all Voxcetera‘s singers impressed with remarkably pure and flexible vocal lines, and with lively and imaginative interpretations.

The programme itself followed unusual paths: it reached all the way from a humorous round from the 13th century to a technically demanding hit song from a musical by American composer Stephen Sondheim, but always returned to British composers, as well as paying respects to Germany. British late romantic composer Sir Edward Elgar for example was inspired by Alpine sounds during a summer holiday in Garmisch to compose the choral cycle Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands.

From this cycle, Voxcetera gave a lively and dynamic rendition of the piece The Dance, simultaneously showing how Elgar, even in a very rhythmic piece, employs the most subtle shades of sound. In On the Alm, a dream-like vocalise by the women’s sections drew, with subtle humour, an image of a pure idyll, while the men’s voices raved about their girl on the alm.

Two folk arrangements by Max Reger offered multi-faceted layering of the choir’s vocal parts, delicately adapted, one of them Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär. Following this, individual singers could show their abilities as soloists in the sensitive nocturne Sure on this Shining Night by American composer Samuel Barber. The short solos were elegantly embedded into the flow of the music as a whole.

A tender play of the waves, evoked by Magnus Gilljam who accompanied the programme on the piano, introduces the story of The Goose and the Swan, set to music by British composer Bob Chilcott. Voxcetera performed three of the five pieces adapted from Aesop’s fables and stressed their British sense of humour.

The programme was rounded off atmospherically by British folk songs, and received the cherry on its cake when it was followed by a popular arrangement from Händel’s oratorio Judas Maccabae, sung and accompanied with a real punch – clearly owing to a historically informed practice of performance, and thus staying with the listeners for long after the concert.

Klaus Schmidt (Allgäuer Anzeigenblatt)

Hampstead and Highgate Express | British Choral Music in Crouch End
St Peter-in-Chains Church, Crouch End, London on Tuesday 16th October 2012

The curiously named St Peter-in-Chains is one of Crouch End’s less well known churches, nestling off a main road and at the top of a very steep hill. As the scene of Voxcetera’s delightful concert it staked its claim to have one of the best acoustics of any north London building. The sixteen voices that make up Voxcetera have only been together since autumn 2009 but their programme, delivered to an appreciative audience of 300 souls on a wintry Tuesday evening, showed a maturity and enthusiasm that must demand more outings in the new year.

The evening divided into two sections: more and less well know classical pieces and then a whistle-stop tour round the folk music of the UK.

Zadok the Priest, I Was Glad, the Hallelujah Chorus and others filled the vault of this lovely building. Tallis’s O Nata Lux was two short minutes of absolute beauty with its whispered, delicate passages that left the audience breathless.

There was excellent accompaniment on a simple upright piano and occasional organ from Magnus Gilljam. But the relationship between the choir and conductor Jane Hopkins was astonishing. Sixteen pairs of eyes only occasionally glanced at their music, reserving their intense concentration for her ambulatory direction.

It was great to see so many young people in the church, no doubt attracted by the £5 ticket price. Unlike some of their big brothers in the world of North London Choirs, Voxcetera are able to travel light, with a stripped down single sheet A4 programme, and keep prices low. Long may it continue and continue to generate new audiences.

muswell hill vox gig

Personally I’m not really keen on what is called “folk music” unless it has been dredged out of Rambling Syd Rumpo’s gander bag. But, like the rest of the audience, I was entranced by Voxcetera’s ability to engage with the audience as they delivered so many standards.The entire, but rather short, evening, put a spring in my step and made me scuttle off home to dust off my Woggler’s Moulie!

Dave Winskill

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