In Quest of Beauty – La Nova Singers visit Alphonse Mucha at the Russell-Cotes

Champenois Imprimeur image by Alphonse Mucha - image from Wikipedia

As well as some unexpected sunshine, April has brought with it one of Bournemouth’s most eagerly anticipated cultural events: an exhibition of work by the influential Art Nouveau poster artist Alphonse Mucha, at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum.

Since the museum is also the venue for our special gala concert in July, we sent soprano and Art Nouveau aficionado Holly Stroud to see the exhibition and report back…

Seeing the tall, elegant posters Mucha created for the actress Sarah Bernhardt in person, you can understand why residents of findesiècle Paris might have torn them down overnight and smuggled them home. The linework within each image ranges from delicate and flowing, to bold and very modern-seeming. There is a flair for composition, and a magpie’s eye for decorative detail (Mucha also designed stage jewellery).

A particular favourite of mine is the poster for Bernhardt’s appearance as the tragic courtesan Marguerite in ‘La Dame Aux Camellias‘ – a story familiar to us in La Nova Singers, as it is also the basis for Verdi’s opera La Traviata. Mucha’s poster features the camellia as a decorative and symbolic device, adorning a stunning full-length portrait of the heroine against a background of iridescent stars.

La Dame Aux Camellias, 1896 - Alfons Mucha; image via Wikimedia Commons.

One thing that the curators at the Russell-Cotes always do really well is planning exhibitions that complement the museum’s permanent collection. In this case, although the work in the exhibition-proper comes from the collection of The Mucha Trust,  the curators have chosen to juxtapose artwork from the Aesthetic Movement in Britain – including Rosetti’s ‘Venus Verticordia‘. By drawing parallels with this so-called ‘cult of beauty’, they highlight what is perhaps the most salient aspect of Mucha’s work – that it is beautiful. A far cry from the shock tactics and appeals to fear and ignorance that are such a frequent feature of today’s advertising. The product placement in Mucha’s commercial work is subtle; the effect always stylish.

Moët & Chandon Crémant Impérial, 1899 - Alfons Mucha. Image via Wikimedia Commons

As we plan our celebratory concert, the setting of the Russell-Cotes seems more appropriate than ever for our pursuit of ‘bel canto’ – beautiful singing.

‘Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty’ runs until the end of September 2015 at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth.

The exhibition alone is reason enough to visit; but if you’d appreciate some elegant classical singing with a backdrop of fine art, visit our website for booking details for La Nova Singers’ 10th Anniversary Gala Concert on Saturday 25 July.

Find out more:

Images © The Mucha Trust

La Nova Singers female choir singing at a wedding in Dorset | Photo by Simon Furlong Photography: http://simonfurlongphotography.smugmug.com/

A soprano gets married – Lucy and Ben’s wedding at Corfe Castle

In October 2014, La Nova Singers made their way to Corfe Castle village (sadly not by steam train) for the wedding of one of their own sopranos. Lucy married Ben at a lovely ceremony in St Edward’s Church – fortunately a stone’s throw away from the National Trust tea rooms, to which the choir decamped post-ceremony for scones with lashings of cream and jam. It’s a hard life being a singer!

These gorgeous wedding photos are by Simon Furlong Photography, who did a fantastic job of capturing the joy and humour of the day.

Wedding choir rehearsing before the ceremony

The beautiful – and practical! – bride

Here’s the video which was made on the day – though you’ll be hard-pressed to spot us, as we were doing our best not to block the videographer’s view of the ceremony!

La Nova Singers love castles. And cream teas!

NEW VIDEO: In Concert at Highcliffe Castle, Christchurch, Dorset

Follow the journey of La Nova Singers as they prepare to perform at historic Highcliffe Castle in December 2012.
Video filmed and edited by Sarita ‘Frit’ Tam : vimeo.com/saritafrit

You can read more about the making of the video on Frit’s blog.

This is our first professionally filmed and produced video and we think it’s rather brilliant! Even if it does feature some questionable dance moves. Do you like it? Let us know in the Comments!

Christmas Concert in aid of the British Heart Foundation – Behind the Scenes

La Nova Singers at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Dorchester

An early concert tonight; 3pm in Dorchester, at a place we’ve performed in once before. This time – some three years later – the Church of St Mary the Virgin has some new staging with lovely plush carpeting.

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Here we are in attack formation. Ready to attack… with song!

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And here’s the view from the stage. This church has really lovely acoustics – in fact, quite a lot of our 2010 CD ‘DEBUT’ was recorded there. It is also replete with lovely Christmas tree, lights a-twinkle. I should mention that this concert featured that other festive favourite, the mince pie. Icing sugar didst fall like the snow. I may or may not have performed with crumbs on my chin…

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These are just a few pics I managed to take during our rehearsal – hence the lack of posh frocks and serious bling. We may or may not have some video footage to post in future (and yes, I know I’m always promising video footage, I promise you it does exist! There are just a few technical issues that need to be worked out, i.e. getting the footage off the DVD and on to the blog)!

Meanwhile, you can read about the very good cause behind this concert in an article from the Dorset Echo. Holly Parkin, a health professional and mother of two from Dorchester, will be running the London Marathon in 2013 in aid of the British Heart Foundation and in memory of her cousin Jake. She organised this event and we wish her all the best with her fundraising!

Press Release: Christchurch Choir to Perform Premiere at Hardy Festival

A Christchurch choir has been chosen to give the premiere performance of a new arrangement by popular English composer Patrick Hawes, a former Classic FM Composer in Residence.
The song ‘Quanta Qualia’ first appeared on Patrick’s Classical Brit award-nominated album Blue in Blue in 2004, and has also been recorded by classical crossover star Hayley Westenra.
La Nova Singers will perform a new version, arranged for female choir and soprano soloist, at their concert for the 20th Annual Thomas Hardy Festival in Dorchester on Monday 20 August. The choir are conducted and trained by Michelle Nova and perform a diverse repertoire of classical, sacred, operatic and modern choral music.
Speaking about the song, Patrick Hawes said: “I think it’s safe to say that it’s become my most popular piece of music, and I think this is because of its simplicity… there’s something very stabilising and comforting about it.”
The concert will also feature traditional folk songs and music by Stanford, Vaughan Williams, Fauré and Mozart. It takes place at 8pm on Monday 20th August at the United Church, South Street, Dorchester. Tickets will be available on the door for £10, £4 for students. Visit www.lanovasingers.co.uk for more information.