Choral Workshop and Informal Concert 2016 directed by Stephen Threlfall
St Peter's Church, Shaldon
Bridge Road
TQ14 0DB
United Kingdom
Type: Choral Workshop
Date: Saturday 18 June 2016
Start Time: 11.00am
Performer(s): Choral Workshop and Informal Concert directed by Stephen Threlfall
Host Organisation: Shaldon Festival


Musical Director: Stephen Threlfall
Soprano soloist: Catherine Hamilton
Baritone soloist: Julian Rippon
Piano/Organ: Peter Adcock
Piano: Paul Morgan


Concert Review

After only a single workshop together, the Shaldon Festival Choir once again delighted us with a poignant performance of a work of considerable complexity in modulation and rhythmic structure. This says a great deal for the expressive and empathetic direction of Stephen Threlfall, who led the Choir with his customary verve and energy.

But, first, we were treated to a short contrasting piece: Sing! With words by Sir David Willcocks to the popular Toccata from Widor’s Symphony No. 5, this joyous work –“Sing praise! Sing we for joy!” – was an outpouring of the affection felt by the Choir for Sir David who graced our Festival a number of times during his life. It encapsulates the spirit of the Choir.

This was followed by the monumental Brahms German Requiem (happily sung in English to the great enjoyment of the audience). Written in seven movements, the work is more oratorio than requiem and its tone moves from contemplative and melancholic to a defiant affirmation of hope. The choir handled these changes in tone with sensitivity and clarity, from the soft underlying sadness of the first movement to the climactic defiance and emotional release of the sixth movement, and the thoughtful and reflective conclusion in the seventh.

The two solo parts are all-too-short. The expressive baritone of Julian Rippon set the tone of yearning in the third movement and the interplay between the pure soprano of Catherine Hamilton and the Choir in the fifth was sumptuous and moving.

Neil McRae

A highly experienced musician, Stephen’s career encompasses that of conductor, cellist and educator through his current role as Director of Music at Chetham’s School of Music, the UK’s leading music school. As a conductor, Stephen has earned much acclaim for his performances, recordings and broadcasts which encompass a wide range of orchestral and choral repertoire. He has conducted at many major venues and festivals in the UK and with many international solo artists. Engagements have taken him to the USA, Europe and Scandinavia, with regular visits to the Urals Philharmonic and Bach Orchestras in Yekaterinburg, the Royal Oman Symphony and Amman Symphony Orchestras. Other ensembles include Northern Ballet and Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester Camerata and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. He has conducted a number of concerts broadcast on radio; for the BBC, Classic FM and Russian national Radio and TV. His repertoire includes many world premiers notably High on the Slopes of Terror by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
Stephen has a passion for working with young people and has enjoyed successful collaborations with many student and youth orchestras both home and abroad. He has worked with the symphony and chamber orchestras at Trinity and Royal Northern Colleges, Birmingham Conservatoire, Vannersborg Orchestra Sweden, the Texas Music Festival in Houston, as well the National Children’s Orchestra on numerous occasions. He has created a number of arts and community projects including the award nominated Antarctica (2001) and The Spirit of Norway Festival (2007) which consisted of over 50 events including many educational workshops and performances. In autumn 2008, the Leonard Bernstein Celebration included chamber and symphonic concerts, and a special concert with the composer’s daughter Nina Bernstein-Simmons. In Autumn 2012, his four day celebration marking the 150th anniversary of Frederick Delius, included concerts with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra and the cellist Raphael Wallfisch, broadcast by Classic FM. Stephen made his Royal Festival debut in February 2012 in an all Rachmaninov programme.

JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897): Ein Deutsches Requiem
Brahms was just 33 years old when he completed the bulk of Ein Deutsches Requiem, but he already had a very personal perspective on mourning. The requiem had begun to gestate in Brahms' mind a decade earlier, in response to the untimely and protracted death of his close friend and mentor, Robert Schumann. There can be little doubt that the death of Brahms' mother in February 1865 spurred him on to complete the work.
It has become such a staple of the choral-symphonic repertory that it is easy to lose sight of its profound originality. Brahms did not attend church as an adult, nor did he write any liturgical music. For him, the Luther Bible was as much a poetic and literary source as a sacred one. In Ein Deutsches Requiem, Brahms acted as his own librettist, as it were, interweaving 16 different passages from the Old and New Testaments and also the ‘unofficial’ writings of the Apocrypha. The texts focus not on the terror of death but on consolation and hope among the living. There is little conventional Christian prayer; the names Jesus and Christ appear nowhere in the Requiem. Only the Lord (Herr) is addressed directly. When challenged by Karl Martin Reinthaler, the conductor of the first performance at Bremen Cathedral on Good Friday 1868, Brahms replied, ‘I have chosen one thing or another because I am a musician.’
In overall design, A German Requiem forms a great arch in seven movements. It is anchored on both ends by movements in F Major, whose texts were carefully selected by Brahms to complement each other. The first movement begins with a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, "Selig sind, die da Leid tragen" ("Blessed are they that have sorrow"). The seventh movement begins with the Book of Revelation, "Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herrn sterben" ("Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord"). The funeral march of the second movement is balanced by the triumphant theme of the resurrection in the towering sixth movement. Similarly, the baritone solo in the third, "Lord, let me know mine end", is paralleled in the fifth by the soprano solo, "Ye now have sorrow".

At the centre of the Requiem’s arch is the lyrical fourth movement, "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen" ("How lovely are thy dwelling places"), which is perhaps the most loved part of the work, and the only one that is sometimes performed alone. Here Brahms offers a vision not of anguish or torment, but of beauty and security, taken from Psalm 84. Brahms sets these words to a lilting theme and accompaniment in 3/4 time that most resemble a Viennese waltz. He thus brings a more popular or accessible style into the very heart of his Requiem. This is no simple dance, however. Brahms includes a fugal development at "die loben dich immerdar" ("they praise you evermore").
A German Requiem gave Brahms his first large-scale success as a composer, and it consolidated his reputation as one of the leading figures in the German musical world.

Parking Map for St Peter's Church, Shaldon


St Peter’s Church, Bridge Road, Shaldon, TQ14 0DB


1. Long Stay Public Carpark ½ mile from the church, reached through the village or off the A379 coast road to Torquay, postcode TQ14 0HP – 381 spaces, “pay & display” during the day but free after 6.00pm. Allow 15 minutes for the blue walking route shown.
2. Short Stay Public Carpark, opposite the church, postcode TQ14 0BP – 48 spaces, “pay & display” subject to a short stay 4 hour limit during the day but free after 6.00pm.
3. Extra parking – limited space adjoining the recreation ground reached from Ringmore Road but with easy pedestrian access to the Church along the estuary embankment. If using this area, please park “tidily” to maximise the usable space; this area is only available for parking as a special arrangement for the Festival.


Please telephone Malcolm Watson on 01626 873492 if you need help with letting someone alight at the church and/or need seating space for a wheelchair. In addition, there are a very few parking spaces close to the church which we can reserve for those with mobility difficulties on a first come, first served, basis.