Harping On

La Nova Singers choir rehearsing at Highcliffe Castle, Christchurch

After we were named winners of Grassroots Giving funding, La Nova Singers were keen to start putting the money to good use. We were already planning our concert for December 2014 at Highcliffe Castle, and for the first time had decided to perform with a harpist. The fees for professional instrumentalists – such as the many wonderful pianists we have had to accompany us with over the years – are one of our biggest running costs; but we knew the addition of a harp would make this event something special. Winning £500 from Skipton meant we didn’t have to worry about covering our expenses if the concert didn’t sell out.

Our plan was to sing the Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten – this is a really intriguing cycle of Christmas music, written using old English, and with Britten’s characteristically interesting harmonies! The composer used to write a lot for children’s voices, and for choirs of boy trebles, who have roughly the same vocal range as our choir of adult women. Getting to grips with the complexity of the music was tricky (I imagine Britten must have known a lot of precociously talented children to have written something so difficult!) but our aim is always to achieve a professional standard, or as near as we can get.

We worked with harpist Katie Salomon, who is based in Wiltshire; and performed in Highcliffe Castle in Dorset – a fascinating building, more of a stately home than a castle, and cobbled together in the 19th century from imported bits of Medieval French masonry. It was once the home of Harry Selfridge, the famous founder of Selfridges department store. Highcliffe is a venue we love to perform at, since it’s local and gives the audience a wonderful setting in which to experience music. Holding concerts is a also a great way to raise funds towards the building’s ongoing restoration (we are particularly grateful for the under-floor heating in the Great Hall)!

Choir performing at Highcliffe Castle - La Nova Singers with harpist Katie Salomon

In the end, our concert sold out well in advance – a result we were thrilled with. We enjoyed performing to a full audience, and watching as Katie’s beautiful harp solo left them spellbound. It really did help to create a truly magical festive atmosphere. We’re looking forward now to working with other instrumentalists in the future, particularly for our next concert in March, where we’ll be singing two of the ‘big hitters’ of the choral repertoire – Vivaldi’s Gloria and Fauré’s Requiem…

Note: This post originally appeared on ProjectDirt.com – view here.

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