BBC Proms season is here again, and I’m hugely excited as I get to sing in two concerts this year with the CBSO Chorus. For those of you who are choral music fans, I’ve worked my way through this year’s offerings and these are my top five choral highlights of the 2018 season.
Prom 11 – Mahler Symphony of a Thousand (Sunday 22 July)
If you want epic, this is the concert for you. While actually having 1000 singers would be madness (and would leave no room for the audience), Thomas Sondergard is assembling FIVE choirs alongside the BBC National Orchestra of Wales to tackle Mahler’s 8th Symphony. There won’t be an inch of space spare on stage or in the choir stalls. While for me, the 2nd symphony is the more emotional of the two choral finales, this one will blow you away with its power.
Thomas Sondergard conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, with the BBC National Chorus of Wales, the London Symphony Chorus, the BBC Symphony Chorus, Southend Boys’ Choir and Southend Girls’ Choir. Soloists Tamara Wilson, Camilla Nylund, Joelle Harvey, Christine Rice, Claudia Huckle, Simon O’Neill, Quinn Kelsey and Morris Robinson.
Prom 72 – Britten’s War Requiem (Thursday 6 September)
I have actually lost count of the number of times I have performed this work as we took it on tour a few years ago (including the 50th anniversary performance at Coventry Cathedral), but it is extraordinary. Unconventional, powerful, moving, the text moving between the traditional Latin Requiem text and poems by Wilfred Owen. I can personally vouch for the excellence of Erin Wall as she’s performed it with us several times! A piece that everyone should hear performed live at least once.
Peter Oundjian conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus and Junior Chorus and Huddersfield Choral Society. Soloists Erin Wall, Allan Clayton and Russell Braun.
Prom 73 – Before the Ending of the Day (Thursday 6 September)
And following straight on from the Britten is my next recommendation, a gorgeous range of sacred music performed by the Tallis Scholars recreating Compline. This is music to soothe your soul.
Peter Phillips directs the Tallis Scholars in this Late Night Prom.
Prom 44 – Debussy, Ravel and Boulanger (Wednesday 15 August)
Yes, I know, this is my own concert… We’ve had so much language coaching I want as many people as possible to hear our (hopefully excellent) French! I had never heard of Lili Boulanger, but we’re loving this piece in rehearsal and can’t wait to perform it with the orchestra. We’re performing it with Mirga first in May, then Morlot in August as Mirga will be otherwise occupied (her announcement preceding the publication of both the CBSO and Proms schedules, but only just!).
Ludovic Morlot conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the CBSO Chorus and CBSO Youth Chorus. Soloist Justina Gringyte.
Prom 9 – War and Peace (Saturday 21 July)
It wouldn’t be the Proms without Beethoven 9. Last year it was us with BBC National Chorus of Wales, this year the BBC Proms Youth Choir, who always make a fabulous sound. Hopefully they won’t make the same mistake we did (shhh no one noticed), neither will there be battles in the arena over the waving of European flags (it was definitely that which distracted us…). The concert also has an Esenvalds premiere, which, based on the reaction to the work of his we performed at Christmas, will likely be very well received.
Donald Runnicles and Simon Halsey conduct the World Orchestra for Peace and the BBC Proms Youth Choir. Soloists Erin Wall, Judit Kutasi, Russell Thomas and Franz-Josef Selig.
These are just my suggestions, there are plenty more fantastic choral works to hear. You can even join in yourself at one of the several singing events the Proms is holding.
You can book your tickets for BBC Proms 2018 from 9am on Saturday 12 May.