Concerts

With its spacious interior, generous seating capacity and excellent acoustics, St Peter’s is an ideal venue for concerts. These include the church’s own promotions as well as those of visiting organisations. Following the easing of restrictions, we are delighted that the second half of 2021 will see the return of live music to this beautiful building.

We offer a popular, informal summer series of lunchtime concerts on the first Thursday of each month from April to October. Light lunches are available from noon, and the concerts start at 12.30pm. Admission is free, but donations are very much appreciated. The annual Flower Festival in August customarily includes a lighter concert on the Saturday evening, which is always a lively social event with wine and other refreshments on offer before the concert and during the interval.

St Peter’s is in demand for externally promoted concerts, which include performances by renowned local choirs and bands, as well as regular events by the prestigious Roman River Festival – we are delighted to be hosting the opening night of their 2021 season in September. The church is also a regular venue for the concerts of the Colchester Chamber Choir, one of East Anglia’s finest musical organisations. Organ recitals are also given from time to time. Please see the schedule below for a full list of what is planned 2021.

For further details contact the Concert Manager: Sarah Wickens: sfwickens@yahoo.co.uk

CHOIR PRACTICE TIMES

Weekly choir practices are held in the church on Friday evening as follows:

7.00-7.30pm            Junior Choristers only.

7.30-8.15pm            Full Choir including Junior Choristers.

8.15-9.15pm            Adult Choristers only.

Sunday’s Full Choir practice is at 10.00am in the church, before the 10.30am Mass.

When there is Evensong, a Full Choir practice is held at 4.00pm, before the service at 5.15pm.

Other additional practices for services, concerts and cathedral visits may be arranged.



2021 Concerts

Date
Event
Sat 27 Nov
Organ Recital – Michael Frith
Sun 12 Dec, 7.30pm
Kelvedon Singers
Sat 18 Dec, 7.30pm
West Bergholt Concert Band Christmas Concert
Sat 8 Jan
Colchester Chamber Choir concert

THE RETURN OF LUNCHTIME CONCERTS

We had a foretaste of normal Church life on 1st July, when Christine Stevenson returned to St Peter’s to give the first of a new season of lunchtime concerts. She is, of course, one of our most distinguished regular visitors, and her piano recitals are always eagerly anticipated. 

Introducing her programme, she described it as ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ – Vienna and Weimar: Vienna first, with some delightful variations by the young Beethoven on a popular operatic aria of the time. This was obviously designed for amateur performers, unlike the following Sonata in A minor (D784) by Schubert: a work in which dark, impending tragedy is unpredictably contrasted with moments of playfulness and heart-warming lyricism, culminating in its virtuosic third movement, which is almost a dance of death. Perhaps it reflects the turbulence of the composer’s private life, as well the general atmosphere of repression, uncertainty and fear in post-1815 Austria. It certainly demands of the performer a supreme technique and the ability to unify these sudden transitions of mood into a clearly conveyed narrative. Ms Stevenson is more than equal to such a task, and her performance was exceptionally vivid, and at times, spine-tingling.

No less impressive was her final group of Franz Liszt’s transcriptions of songs by Schubert and Schuman and the final Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.  In the latter, Liszt set himself the task of recreating, for solo piano, one of the supreme moments of nineteenth-century opera in which the soprano heroine sings radiantly above an enormous orchestra in an overwhelming catharsis which, in its time, sent some young aesthetes from Paris swooning and fainting. It needed all of Liszt’s famous wizardry to bring off such a transcription; Christine Stevenson has the necessary power and musicianship to bring it to life. Through enormous torrents of notes, she kept the different layers of the orchestral texture in perfect balance, always allowing the solo voice part to soar above, through one overwhelming climax after another.

This was the culmination of the Weimar component. Between the Schubert and Wagner we were treated to three shorter pieces by Bach, Brahms (who visited Liszt in Weimar in 1853) and the 20 year-old Mendelssohn. The latter’s Fantasie in E minor was a welcome contrast with the more serious items; it is one of its composer’s most delightful, fleet-footed scherzos, and it demonstrated again Ms Stevenson’s versatility and expressive range.

Arrangements are already being made for yet another return visit next year.


CHORAL EVENSONG

Evensong is a balance of psalms, canticles, scripture readings and prayers.  Much of this is sung by the choir, providing a reflective and prayerful space of contemplation and peace for the congregation.

The choir sings a full Choral Evensong usually on the fourth Sunday of each month at 5.15pm.

All are welcome to attend.

A VERY SPECIAL OCCASION FOR COGGESHALL

‘World-class’ is an over-used epithet these days, but the Roman River Festival’s claim to it is no indiscriminate hyperbole. St Peter ad Vincula was once again privileged to be the venue for a truly world-class performance in the opening concert of this year’s Festival featuring Stile Antico, the renowned vocal ensemble whose worldwide appearances and recordings have won unanimous praise from critics.

They take their name from early 17th-century attempts to distinguish older styles of church music from the newer ‘Stile Moderno’ exemplified by Claudio Monteverdi and his contemporaries. If anyone was expecting this music to sound stuffy and old-fashioned they would have been happily mistaken. The group’s repertoire, in fact, includes works by many of the great pre-classical masters of sacred and secular music with an emotional and expressive range that can still move us today, especially when performed with such immaculate skill and understanding.

Stile Antico is a group of twelve singers who dispense with both accompaniment and conductor, performing with superlative vocal technique, perfect balance and impeccable intonation; their empathetic communication produces miracles of unanimity and ensemble. Beyond that, they are totally immersed in the texts they sing and committed to communicating with vivid characterisation and projection.

Their programme consisted of four cleverly devised sequences around the nocturnal theme ‘Towards the Dawn’, in which church music was freely mixed with secular madrigals and chansons. It wasn’t all old music, either: one of the high points of the programme was ‘Gentle Sleep’, a piece they commissioned in 2015 from the American composer Nico Muhly (born 1984) to words from Shakespeare’s Henry IV part 2, beautifully evocative of restless insomnia.

Another highlight was the well-known ‘Miserere mei’ (Psalm 51) by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), once the jealously guarded property of the Sistine Chapel. In an imaginative use of the church’s ample space, they divided into three groups: the main consort of five singers on the chancel step, in the sanctuary a four-part semichorus which included the notoriously high soprano embellishments, and at the back a solo cantor who sang the plainsong verses.

English music from the Tudor period was included – Thomas Tallis, John Wilbye, Robert White and William Byrd – and returned in the final ‘sunrise’ item by John Taverner (c1490-1545): ‘Ave Dei Patris Filia’ is one of his most weighty Marian motets, which exploits the contrasts of different sub-groups of solo singers and, typically, a stratospherically high soprano part.

This was a deeply satisfying evening: revelatory, world-class performances of miraculous music in the setting of our own beautiful parish church. All-in-all, it was a most auspicious start to this year’s festival, for which St Peter’s was privileged to be the host.