Higginbottom to Lead Festival Men and Boys Choir

Edward Higginbottom

Edward Higginbottom

The Festival of the Hours is pleased to welcome Edward Higginbottom of New College, Oxford, to lead the 2016 Men and Boys Choir. During his tenure at New College, Professor Higginbottom has been a pivotal influence in English sacred music and boy choir education, both in the U.K. and internationally.

Accomplished boy trebles are encouraged to apply for participation in the 2016 Festival, to take place July 25–31, 2016 at St. Paul’s Episcopal, Oakland, California. Auditions are also open to adults and young adults for the Festival’s several choirs: Ruben Valenzuela of Bach Collegium San Diego will conduct the mixed-voice Collegium, Sven Edward Olbash the male Schola Cantorum, and Kerry McCarthy the treble Schola Alta.

Services of the Festival commence on Wednesday evening, July 27, and continue through Sunday, July 31, observing the offices of Matins, Eucharist, Evensong, and Compline for four complete days of liturgy, supplemented by a series of afternoon lectures as well as an organ recital at First Presbyterian Church, Oakland, by Bruce Neswick of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland.

For more information on auditions and the upcoming Festival, visit http://www.festivalofthehours.org.

July 20: Ann Moss in Recital for FotH

Ann Moss, soprano

Ann Moss, soprano

Versatile soprano Ann Moss sings a delightful program of varied art song Sunday evening in Oakland, at the final in a series of benefit performances supporting the upcoming Festival of the Hours (www.festivalofthehours.org). The event takes place at 863 Vermont Street, Oakland, the home of Festival director Christopher Kula and Tonia D’Amelio, in its octagonal atrium.

Ms. Moss is joined by acclaimed pianist Steven Bailey, as well as young soprano Justin Kim for Gabriel Fauré’s Op. 93 duet setting of Ave Maria. Other music includes a selection of German songs by Mozart, Schubert, and Strauss: “Flowers Who Speak Their Minds”; Fauré’s Rêve d’Amour, and Three Dickinson Songs by American composer Vartan Aghababian. 

An ardent champion of contemporary vocal music, Ann Moss’s high, silvery, flexible voice has been singled out by Opera News for its “beautifully pure floated high notes” and by San Francisco Classical Voice for its “powerful expression.” In addition to working closely with well-known composers such as Jake Heggie, John Harbison, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Wayne Peterson, Ann seeks out and performs works by new and emerging voices at forums, festivals and concert series across the country. Her debut CD, CURRENTS, features a dream team of collaborators from the chamber music, new music and jazz communities performing the extraordinary new and recent American vocal/chamber music Ann has championed over the past decade.

Pianist Steven Bailey has appeared as concerto soloist with Symphony Parnassus, Diablo Symphony, UC-Davis Symphony, San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, and Magnificat Baroque Orchestra. He has performed with American Bach Soloists as guest soloist and continuo organist and has collaborated in chamber performances with members of the Alexander, Arlekin and Sausalito quartets. He is a founding member of the new music repertory group CMASH and a frequent music director at San Francisco Parlor Opera. He teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Food, beverages, and hospitality begin at 6 p.m., with the musical presentation at 7 p.m. Reservations are required. A donation of $60 is requested for individuals and $100 or more for couples. Advance payment may be sent by PayPal to info@festivalofthehours.org, or make arrangements for check payment at the door by contacting Festival of the Hours at the same email or by telephone at 510-473-7736.

July 6: Campra, Couperin for FoTH

André Campra (1660–1744)

André Campra (1660–1744)

Sunday evening, July 6th, sopranos Tonia D’Amelio and Jennifer Owen-Blackmon sing duets of André Campra (1660–1744) and François Couperin (1668–1733) as part of a special fundraising series in support of the Festival of the Hours (beginning at the tail end of July — see schedule at www.festivalofthehours.org). Christopher Kula accompanies on organ and Roy Whelden on gamba.

In addition, the two virtuoso sopranos are joined by soloists of the Pacific Collegium to present movements of a colorful cross-cultural Baroque Mass: the Missa Concertata, an arrangement by French musical scholar and curator Sébastien de Brossard (1655-1730) of an Italian Mass setting originally by Pietro Antonio Fiocco (1654-1714). Singers are Eric Tuan, haute contre; Will Betts, tenor; Paul Boyce, baritone, and Phillip Saunders, bass.

Eric Tuan will also be on hand to discuss and elucidate his new setting of Preces and Responses, to be premiered at the service of Evensong to take place at 6 p.m. on August 1st as part of the Festival.

The event is at a private home in Piedmont, California. Please RSVP for further location details.

Food, beverages, and hospitality will begin at 6 p.m., with the musical presentation at 7 p.m. Reservations are required. A donation of $60 or more is requested for individuals and $100 or more for couples.

Advance payment may be sent by PayPal to info@festivalofthehours.org, or make arrangements for check payment at the door by contacting Festival of the Hours at the same email or by telephone at 510-473-7736.

Please join us for this memorable occasion!

May 30th benefit recital: Gilbert Martinez, harpsichord

Gilbert Martinez, harpsichord

Gilbert Martinez, harpsichord

Join us for a wine and food reception and recital on Friday evening, May 30th, in support of the Festival of the Hours (www.festivalofthehours.org). Featuring harpsichordist Gilbert Martinez, the event will be held at 863 Vermont St., Oakland, the home of the Festival artistic director.

Gilbert Martinez, named “a formidable soloist” by the San Francisco Chronicle, will present a program of 17th-Century music from England, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, including music of Cabezon, Picchi, Buxtehude and others, as well a number of late 18th-Century pieces by Scarlatti and Rameau. The recital will be performed on a harpsichord modeled on a large Italian instrument of Carlo Grimaldi (17th Century).

Soprano Tonia D’Amelio also joins Mr. Martinez on pieces by Purcell and Grandi. In addition, composer Frank La Rocca will be present to talk about the Festival commission Anima Christi for mixed choir.

Gilbert Martinez is artistic director of MusicSources, Center for Historically Informed Performance, and is highly in demand as a recitalist and lecturer and conductor. He divides his residency between the San Francisco Bay Area and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Food and beverages will be served starting at 7 p.m., and the recital will begin at 8 p.m. Reservations are required, and a donation of $75 or more is requested for admission.

To reserve your seat at this limited event, please contact the Festival of the Hours at info@festivalofthehours.org / 510-473-7736. Advance payment may be made by check or by PayPal to this same email address.

We look forward to seeing you!

A chat with Mark Williams

Mark Williams, director of music at the the Chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge, talks with us about his upcoming visit to conduct the men and boys at the Festival of the Hours (July 31–August 3) in Oakland, California. Auditions for boy trebles are currently underway. More information at: www.festivalofthehours.org.

Mark Williams at Jesus College, U.K.

Photo by James Appleton

FotH: What interests you about working with men-and-boys choirs?

Williams: There is no doubt that there is something unique about the sound of boys’ voices, and at their best, they can be instruments which combine the seemingly opposing qualities of purity and expressive power. Children who sing must have musical instinct and a natural ability, but refining that and encouraging them to explore not only their voices but also the vast repertoire of sacred music is a challenge which I enjoy a great deal.

FotH: Are there any pieces you are particularly looking forward to preparing?

Williams: I am of course looking forward to the varied diet on offer in the festival but it will be a particular pleasure to spend time with music that’s not familiar to me such as the Moody Pacific Canticles.

FotH: What potential do you see for the Festival in terms of contributing to music within liturgy in the United States and/or internationally?

Williams: Whatever our profession or our area of interest, we all need new ideas, inspiration, refreshment and the chance to share time with others who do what we do. The experience of participating in a festival which places music firmly in its liturgical context is invaluable for all those whose regular work involves music-making of this kind. We all seek to maintain the very highest standards of performance both in concerts and in services but a festival which brings together those high standards in both music and liturgy has the potential to inspire and motivate us all.

FotH: You had a long working relationship with Richard Marlow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who recently passed away. Do you have any thoughts on his contribution to the choral world? How do you feel filling his shoes at Portland’s William Byrd Festival?

Williams: Richard Marlow was a towering figure in the world of choral music and inspired thousands of musicians in Cambridge and across the world. He had a unique and deeply expressive approach to the interpretation of all the repertoire, from Byrd to Berio, principally defined by his extraordinary attention to details of blend, dynamics and the expressive power of text. I could never fill his shoes at the Byrd Festival in Portland, Oregon, but it is an honor to continue the important work begun by him and the inimitable Dean Applegate.

FotH: What’s in store in the near future for the organ and choirs at Jesus College?

Williams: Well, this week we have two performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and then we fly to Ireland for a week of concerts. At the end of the academic year we have a number of UK concerts and another CD recording but our most exciting project will be a visit to Sri Lanka in December to continue the project we began last year in India working with under-privileged children under the auspices of the charity Songbound which seeks to improve the lives of impoverished communities through music.

FotH: When did you first start playing the keyboard?

Williams: I was just six years old. I hope I’ve come on a bit since then.

FotH: Do you have a favorite instrument that you’ve played?

Williams: I have been extremely fortunate to work with two of the finest instruments in the UK – at Trinity College Cambridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, London – on a daily basis. However, one of the most exciting instruments I have ever had the pleasure to play was Durufle’s organ at the church of Ste Etienne-du-Mont in Paris.

FotH: Besides the music, what are you most looking forward to in visiting Oakland and the SF Bay Area once again?

Williams: I have always enjoyed visiting the west coast and look forward to my return. Californian wine and the wonderful food of the Bay Area are a big attraction but I find the vistas towards San Francisco from Oakland deeply captivating. For all the beautiful historical architecture in the UK, such sweeping views simply don’t exist here and always take my breath away.

Visit www.jesuscollegechoir.com for more information about the choral programs at Jesus College. The Festival of the Hours will present three days of the full cycle of Anglican liturgy at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakland. Boys and young men with previous choral experience may contact the Festival at info@festivalofthehours.org or 510-473-7736 to make an appointment to audition.

Choir life at Jesus College, Cambridge, U.K.

A recent Telegraph article, focused on training of boys at Jesus College, Cambridge:

Confessions of a choir mother

Jesus College director of music Mark Williams will be instructing boys at the Festival of the Hours in Oakland, California, the week of July 28 through August 3. Enrollment is limited. Visit festivalofthehours.org or contact info@festivalofthehours.org to obtain more information or to request an audition.

Festival composer Frank La Rocca wins ORTUS 2014

Frank La Rocca

Photo by Lucia La Rocca

Oakland composer Frank La Rocca, whose new work Anima Christi will be featured at the opening service of the Festival on July 31, 2014, triumphed Saturday evening at the ORTUS International Music Competition in New York City.

His work, Miserere, was chosen from ten new finalist a cappella works presented by Khorikos, Jesse Mark Peckham, conductor. More information on the program here: http://www.khorikos.com/program-notes

La Rocca’s Festival Commission setting of the classic church text Anima Christi will be premiered under the direction of Jameson Marvin, emeritus director of choral activities at Harvard University, at a service of Evensong, 6 p.m., July 31, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakland, CA.

Please visit the Festival of the Hours website for more information about this service and the full Festival.