Little Britten

3 02 2013


Conductors: Dr Karen Grylls and David Squire

Organist: James Tibbles


A Hymn to the Virgin

Rejoice in the Lamb

Voluntary on Tallis’ Lamentations

Prelude and Fugue on theme of Vittoria

Sacred and Profane

Five Flower Songs

Festival Te Deum

Wednesday 20 March, 2013

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell

Auckland Arts Festival 2013 has invited New Zealand’s finest choirs to raise the roof of Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral for a special concert on 20 March. Performing an array of choral works by one of the 20th century’s leading composers, Benjamin Britten, and conducted by the esteemed Dr Karen Grylls and David Squire, the award-winning Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and the New Zealand Youth Choir will join forces to mark the centenary of Britten’s birth.

Opening what promises to be a truly moving programme is the meditative A Hymn to the Virgin. An unaccompanied carol, the hymn is one of the earliest examples of Britten’s church music, composed in 1930 when he was just 16 years old. Rejoice in the Lamb, sung by the New Zealand Youth Choir, was excerpted from the poem Jubilate Agno by eighteenth century poet, Christopher Smart, who was in an asylum when he wrote the poem. Whilst there are playful elements of madness in the text, for example “For I will consider my Cat Jeoffrey … a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God…”, the work is, at its core, striking and deeply religious.

Accompanying the choristers, respected organist James Tibbles, who is also appearing in the Auckland Arts Festival’s Coffee with Mr Bach, will be giving the New Zealand premiere of Voluntary on Tallis’ Lamentations, a recently discovered Britten organ solo. Attendees to both Little Britten and Britten’s War Requiem, being performed on 23 March at the Town Hall, might notice a recurring theme across both works, one that can be heard in both the Lamentations and in War Requiem’s Agnus Dei. James will also be playing Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Vittoria, the most popular of Britten’s organ works and was written for St Matthew’s Church, Northampton, to be performed on St Matthew’s Day 1946.

Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir will be performing one of Britten’s last completed works, Sacred and Profane for unaccompanied voices in five parts. Composed in 1975, the work is a collection of eight short medieval English poems. Voices New Zealand will also be performing Britten’s Five Flower Songs which were written in 1950 as a 25th anniversary present for friends Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst who were keen botanists.

To conclude the programme, both choirs will come together for a glorious rendition of Britten’s Festival Te Deum, accompanied by James Tibbles on the organ. Little Britten is dedicated to the memory of David Carson-Parker who died suddenly on Sunday, 21 October 2012. David was Chair of Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand Trust for many years, and a true patron of the arts.

Since forming in 1979, the New Zealand Youth Choir has achieved success world-wide. Performances across the globe and nine international tours have firmly established the choir’s reputation for consistency, creativity, energy and excellence. Comprising 60 singers aged 18-25, the choir has represented New Zealand at multiple World Choral Symposiums; won the ‘Choir of the World’ title at the International Music Eisteddfod in Wales (1999); performed at a convention of the American Choral Directors’ Association; released a CD, Gaude, to critical acclaim (2004); and competed in several international choral competitions.

Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir was formed in 1998 by the New Zealand Youth Choir Board, with Dr Karen Grylls as its first and only Artistic Director. As a nationally selected choir of the highest calibre, Voices New Zealand is a chamber choir capable of performing a wide repertoire. Many of the singers are alumni of the New Zealand Youth Choir. The choir made its début at the 1998 New Zealand International Arts Festival in a recital with the New Zealand Chamber Orchestra and Keith Lewis. They have gone on to win awards at the Tolosa International Choral Competition in Spain; collaborated with the prestigious Aradia Ensemble from Canada, resulting in the completion of a world premiere recording of the Vanhal Masses for Naxos; represented New Zealand at the first Asia South Pacific Symposium on Choral Music in Singapore; released a CD entitledSpirit of the Land which won Best Classical Album at the 2006 New Zealand Music Awards; and represented New Zealand at international chamber choir competitions and world choral music symposiums.

Karen Grylls is Associate Professor in Conducting and Head of Choral Studies at The University of Auckland. In addition to being Musical Director of Voices New Zealand, she holds a role as Artistic Director of the Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand Trust, the managing body for the New Zealand Youth Choir and Voices New Zealand. Grylls is much in demand as a choral clinician and invitations to adjudicate have taken her all around the world. She also has many CD recordings to her credit. In 1996 The University of Auckland honoured her with a Distinguished Teaching Award and in 1999 she received an ONZM for her services to choral music.

David Squire is Musical Director of the New Zealand Youth choir, and one of the country’s most prominent choral clinicians. A founding member of the New Zealand Association of Choral Directors, he is also a national conducting mentor for this organisation. He completed his Bachelor of Music degree at The University of Auckland, with an emphasis on conducting and composition. He studied singing with Isabel Cunningham, Glenese Blake and Beatrice Webster, and conducting with Karen Grylls and Juan Matteucci. In March 2011, Squire was awarded a New Zealander of the Year Local Heroes Medal for services to music education.

James Tibbles is Assistant Music Director of the New Zealand Youth Choir. One of New Zealand’s leading players of historic keyboards (harpsichord, fortepiano and organ), Tibbles has an active performing career as a soloist, accompanist, recording artist and conductor. James is Associate Head, Performance and Senior Lecturer in Early Music at the School of Music, The University of Auckland. He is Artistic Director of the Age of Discovery, who are performing at The Auckland Arts Festival on 17 March in Coffee with Mr Bach, and a member of the baroque chamber ensemble Extempore. In addition to his wide research interests, James has produced a number of CD recordings.

Both Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and the New Zealand Youth Choir will also be performing Britten’s magnum opus War Requiem on 23 March, the second Auckland Arts Festival concert celebrating Britten’s centenary. They will be singing alongside the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Eckehard Stier, and feted Irish soprano Orla Boylan, British tenor Timothy Robinson and British baritone Ivan Ludlow.


Hastings concert a huge success

3 05 2012

Hawke’s Bay Opera House, Hastings

Tuesday, 24 April, 2012

FROM: Hawke’s Bay Today 24 April 2012

Hawke’s Bay Opera House, Hastings

21 April 2012

Reviewer: Peter Williams

New director, same astonishing standard

There has been a changing of the guard in the choir with this, the first concert under its new music director, David Squire, who was appointed to follow former long-time director Karen Grylls.

Change of director certainly but no diminution of quality. Residents from Otago to Auckland, these 45 talented, auditioned young singers, aged from 18 to 25, meet for a just a couple of weeks a year, plus some regional rehearsals.

An astonishingly high standard of performance was always maintained; the dedication, discipline, concentration and pleasure gained from singing together was always in evidence.

The programme was uncompromising in its requirements to reach a satisfying performance. The ever-changing idiom of each item seemed to be assimilated with ease – from the opening complex contrapuntal motet Musica Musarum, sung from the opera house boxes and conducted from the gallery by assistant music director James Tibbles, to the very serious cycle Vier doppelchorige Gesänge by Schumann, and a highlight of the programme, the very moving rendition of the Five Negro Spirituals from A Child of Our Time by Michael Tippett.

There was a welcome emphasis on music by New Zealand composers in the second part of the programme – the spectacular setting of the Magnificat by former choir member Andrew Baldwin, Hawke’s Bay composer Stephen Lange’s very original sounding He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, Palmerston North composer Helen Caskie’s five light-hearted songs Ten Cent Mixture, the rollicking NZ folk song settings by Douglas Mews and David Hamilton’s exciting Didn’t it Rain – each with its own special character convincingly projected.

Diction throughout was almost always exemplary, maintenance of pitch in a whole programme sung a capella, embracing multiple parts, extended discords and obscure interval combinations, was hugely impressive – all a great credit to the singers and those who train them.

There was one inspiring guitar-accompanied item to end the concert – a Youth Choir signature tune, Wairua Tapu, beautifully sung, together with the elegant movement of sign language.

Items were enhanced by some fine solo passages from within the choir and by the excellent spoken introductions from James Tibbles and vocal consultant Morag Atchison. Acknowledgment was made of the sponsors who support the choir, which seems certain to maintain the brilliant success of previous Youth Choirs achieved over the past 30-plus years.

New NZYC Music Director Appointed

27 09 2011

New Zealand Youth Choir has appointed David Squire as its new Music Director. He will take on the role held by Karen Grylls since 1989. Dr Grylls will remain as Artistic Director of Choirs Aotearoa Trust New Zealand, which manages the Youth Choir and Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir.

Up to four times a year, singers from all over New Zealand will meet to rehearse and perform under Squire’s guidance. The choir has been a vital part of New Zealand’s music scene for over 30 years, and has a strong following throughout the country.

Choirs Aotearoa NZ Board chairman Trevor Kempton says the appointment of David Squire is an important milestone for Choirs Aotearoa.  “David is an alumnus of the Youth Choir and is well acquainted with its tradition of excellence,” Kempton says. “I am very pleased with the outcome of a rigorous selection process, and wish David well in the role.”

Squire says he looks forward to maintaining the vision founded by Guy Jansen, Peter Godfrey and Karen Grylls, while also setting in place new artistic goals for the choir. “I am very excited to be working with such a dynamic group of young people, who all desire to create music with integrity and passion,” Squire says.

Squire comes to the role with a string of notable successes. He led his Rangitoto College chamber choir, The Fundamentals, in a platinum-award winning performance at New Zealand’s 2008 Big Sing, and the Westlake Symphony Orchestra which he directs has won gold awards every year at the KBB Music Festival for over a decade. Squire was awarded a New Zealander of the Year Local Heroes Medal for services to Music Education. Currently he directs four high school choirs.

The NZYC’s debut performance with Squire as Music Director will be in the Hawkes Bay next April.

David Squire has been a singer all his life. He sang in choirs at school in Hamilton, and was himself a NZYC member, later graduating to sing in Voices, New Zealand’s national chamber choir.