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Arts preview: The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

Sam Olluver

 

THE CHOIR OF KING'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

 

If there's one group of singers that needs little introduction, it's the Choir of King's College, Cambridge.

Known to millions globally for its Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast live on radio each Christmas Eve since 1928, the 30-strong choir can also be heard live during its Hong Kong recitals on August 14 and 15.

It's the group's fifth visit to the city. On this occasion, they perform two contrasting programmes: the first quintessentially British, the second drawn mostly from works of the Austrian classic repertoire.

Stephen Cleobury, the choir's director of music, says both programmes offer something familiar, and something slightly off the beaten track. For their August 15 programme, for example, the choir is joined by the Hong Kong Virtuosi, who provide the orchestral accompaniments both for Vivaldi's famous Gloria and Haydn's lesser-known Little Organ Mass.

"There's an enchanting solo in the Benedictus movement of the Haydn Mass," Cleobury says. "This will be sung by local soprano Margaret Yim and accompanied by our organ scholar, Douglas Tang, who also has a Hong Kong background."

Schubert's Psalm 23 and works by Mozart complete the programme.

Items by three British composers dominate the choir's August 14 recital, including Stanford's A Song of Wisdom, Parry's Songs of Farewell and Vaughan William's popular Five Mystical Songs.

"Those pieces are all wonderful, of course," says Cleobury. "But I hope people will also enjoy the almost Wagnerian chromaticism of Wolf's Sechs Geistlicher Lieder [Six Spiritual Songs], which, I suspect, will not be known [to most audiences]."

The choir is one of Britain's national treasures, having for centuries provided music for worship in the splendid architecture of the college's chapel, a tradition Cleobury has helped maintain since his appointment as music director in 1982. But he's also in the process of helping the choir reach beyond its rarefied setting, courtesy of modern technology.

"The most significant recent development has been the launch of our own record label," Cleobury says. "We are also actively planning a new and enhanced presence online, which will embrace podcasting of our chapel services."

48hours@scmp.com

 

Sha Tin Town Hall Auditorium, August 14, 8pm, HK$120-HK$280; Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, August 15, 8pm, HK$120-HK$320. Inquiries: 2268 7321

 

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