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Sunday 08 March 2020

3:00 pm • Retiring collection

University of Surrey Chamber Choir and Orchestra

Conductor: Russell Keable

Bach's Cantata BWV 150 'Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich' and much more

Choir with Russel Keable conducting
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A wide-ranging programme of choral and instrumental music including Bach's Cantata BWV 150 'Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich' with the University of Surrey Chamber Choir and Orchestra.


Once again the sanctuary echoed to the sound of twenty four young voices when the University of Surrey's Music Department visited us on Sunday afternoon 8th March. This was their annual choir and orchestral concert, but this time it included more "intimate" music making as well, in the form of a string quartet a solo pianist, a very fine singer and an excellent violin and piano duo.

Under his guiding hands, Russell Keable commenced the programme from the heyday of Venician music making, namely Monteverdi's "Cantate Domino", but soon relinquished control to a student conductor who skillfully and with great effect steered the choir through the remaining four items initiating the concert. These included "El Grillo" by the Frenchman Josquin Des Prez, "Soneto de la noche" by Morten Lauridsen, and a very moving arrangement of a traditional Negro Spiritual by Moses Hogan. The exuberant performance of these pieces provided an exhilarating atmosphere and showed that the singers were in fine form, an impression that was later confirmed in the second half of the programme.

"The Caprice Quartet" next gave us their rendering of the Adagio and Allegro Vivace from Mendlessohn's Second String Quartet Op.13. This had good rhythmic drive but felt a little strained and could have sounded better had the first violin been more relaxed. However it is good practice for these young people to play in public and to learn what nerves can do to one`s performance. Beethoven`s Op2 No3 Piano Sonata requires nimble fingers, especially in the Scherzo where the Trio of triplet arpeggios has to go at the same pace as the Minuet. Consequently a more cautious Allegro might be advisable than that of the great concert pianists in the interests of control and articulation, and also to be able to bring off the composer`s renowned forte/piano dynamics where the opposite seems more natural.

Two songs by Gluck "Che faro senza Euridice?" and Grieg "Die verschwiegene Nachtigall" sung by an Alto accompanied at the piano by Maureen Galea, were well controlled with a pure voice and pleasing demeanour ,and received a well deserved response from the audience. An outstanding performance of the first movement from the Beethoven Sonata for violin and piano Op.30 No.2 showed two musicians at their best and equally matched in ability. Actually, the violinist, who was also the leader of the orchestra, has conducting and engineering as his main subjects at UNI but can still play like an accomplished virtuoso having learned the violin at a very early age from his musician father along with the piano, organ, and voice !

The whole of the second half with Russell Keable at the helm, was devoted to J S Bach`s Cantata "Nach dir, Herr,verlanget mich" -- "For thee O Lord I long". A very early Cantata in seven parts probably written around 1707 with verses from Psalm 25 and an unknown poet confirmed the first impression that choir and orchestra were in fine fettle with admirable performances from the Alto,Tenor and Bass soloists the first of whom was the student conductor at the beginning of the concert. In addition to the usual strings, the orchestra included a very competent bassoonist and chamber organ played by the ubiquitous Dr. Maureen Galea.

This very fine concert once again showed how lucky we are to have our close ties with the University of Surrey whose Music Department visits us on regular occasions with such an admirable supply of young musicians.



Russell Keable

Russell Keable has established a reputation as one of Britain’s most exciting and versatile musicians. ‘Keable and his orchestra did magnificently’ wrote The Guardian, ‘one of the most memorable evenings at the South Bank' said The Musical Times. He performs with orchestras and choirs throughout the British Isles including the London Mozart Players, Manchester Camerata, Northern Ballet Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Viva and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a regular guest conductor for the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra, has conducted in Prague and Paris (concerts filmed by French and British television) and recently made a highly-praised début with the George Enescu Philharmonic in Bucharest. His regular performing partners include many leading national and international soloists (including Steven Isserlis, Tasmin Little, Nikolai Demidenko, John Lill and Nicholas Daniel).

Keable, a graduate of Nottingham University, studied conducting with George Hurst and Norman Del Mar at London's Royal College of Music, and violin with Maria Lidka. His academic interests have led him to seek out much rare repertoire. He revived Dvorak's opera Dimitrij for a British stage première in Nottingham and a London première concert performance. Research in Los Angeles led to a reconstruction of music from Erich Wolfgang Korngold's film score for The Sea Hawk. Other revivals have included the British première of Korngold's celebrated opera Die tote Stadt, Nadia Boulanger's Faust et Hélène, Copland's ballet Grohg, and less-well-known works by many British composers.

He broadcasts regularly on Radio 3 and was invited by the BBC to conduct the world première of Errollyn Wallen's Spirit Symphony in the final concert of the 2005 Listen Up Festival (broadcast live from the Royal Festival Hall); a performance that was awarded the Radio 3 Listeners' Award as part of the 2005 British Composer Awards.

For 26 years he has been associated with Kensington Symphony Orchestra, one of the UK’s finest non-professional orchestras, with whom he has led first performances of works by many British composers (including Maxwell Davies, Knussen, Woolrich, Holloway, Colin and David Matthews, Joby Talbot and John McCabe). His British première of Aulis Sallinen's Symphony no.8 was praised by The Sunday Times as a 'finely-judged performance'.

Russell is also in demand as a composer, arranger and teacher. He has written works for many British ensembles and has had premières throughout the UK (including at the Edinburgh, Norwich, Aberystwyth and Newbury Spring Festivals). His opera Burning waters, commissioned by the Buxton Festival as part of their millenium celebration, was premièred in July 2000. In 2005 he was appointed Director of Conducting for the University of Surrey in Guildford.