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College staff compose music for St Paul’s choir performance

By The Cheltenham Ladies' College  |  Posted: February 06, 2013

The Cheltenham Ladies' College Director of Music Dominic Hawley conducts at Tewkesbury Abbey

The Cheltenham Ladies' College Director of Music Dominic Hawley conducts at Tewkesbury Abbey

For most musicians, the opportunity simply to perform at St Paul's Cathedral would be a rare treat.

But two staff members at The Cheltenham Ladies' College will go one better when their compositions are played at one of the country's holiest sites.

Director of Music, Dominic Hawley, and Head of Vocal Studies, Stephen Parham-Connolly, will hear their pieces performed by the College choir on February 25.

At 5pm Evensong the singers will perform Mr Hawley's anthem Dios te salve, Maria.

The performance will also feature Magnficat and Nunc Dimittis, with Geoffrey Burgon's setting of the Nunc, and an extraordinary setting of the Magnificat by the choir director Mr Parham-Connolly.

Mr Hawley chose the Spanish text with half an eye on College's tour to Andalucía, later in the academic year; but also because the Spanish language resonates with his love of the Phrygian mode and the shared heritage of Western Art Music and folk music from other cultures, which influence his composing profoundly.

Mr Hawley said: "Composing sacred, choral music is my chief passion. I only compose for a specific occasion, often for a great church, which provides wonderful motivation, particularly as one can imagine the building's acoustics as part of the creative process.

"That the church in question on this occasion, is St. Paul's Cathedral, has made the whole experience extraordinarily rewarding."

The mysterious Phrygian Mode also pervades English folk music, and its influence will be heard even more plainly in Dominic's setting of the Responses, which the choir will sing during Evensong in the Cathedral.

Mr Parham-Connolly spent 23 years as a member of the internationally renowned King's Singers.

He said: "My inspiration for the work came from the girls themselves and choir's desire to perform something  - in what is one of the grandest acoustics in the UK - that is both mystical and, at the same time, rather grand.

"Testing the choir's extremes of dynamic and vocal colour, it is based, melodically and harmonically on a simple whole tone scale. The result is an optimistic 'world without end' feel to the music."

The College Choir will also perform a short lunchtime recital at 1.15pm featuring a cappella works spanning nine centuries.

Tickets for the recital are priced £6 in advance or the usual St Paul's sightseeing charge of £15 on the day.

Following Evensong, there will be a drinks reception at The Goldsmiths' Hall in aid of the College Bursaries Fund, with tickets priced £25, or £15 for students.