Choral Workshop and Informal Concert 2015 directed by Brian Kay
St Peter's Church, Shaldon
Bridge Road
TQ14 0DB
United Kingdom
Type: Choral Workshop
Date: Saturday 20 June 2015
Start Time: 10.00am
End Time: 9.30pm
Performer(s): Choral Workshop and Informal Concert
Host Organisation: Shaldon Festival

BRIAN KAY Musical Director

HANDEL Zadok the Priest
HANDEL O Ruddier than the Cherry (from Acis and Galatea)
HANDEL Ombra mai fu (from Xerxes)
HANDEL The King Shall Rejoice
PUCCINI Messa di Gloria


The Shaldon Festival Choir has developed an enviable reputation for enthusiastically embracing new challenges and warmly welcoming its guest conductors. This year was no exception.

Brian Kay is internationally renowned as a choral conductor and as a broadcaster with the BBC, having twice won a Sony Award as Music Presenter of the Year. Returning by popular acclaim, this was Brian’s third visit to conduct the Shaldon Festival Choir.

The first half of the evening’s programme comprised work by George Frideric Handel, including two of the four Coronation Anthems composed specially for the coronation of George II in Westminster Abbey in 1727. The best known of them, Zadok the Priest, has been performed at every coronation since. There could hardly be a more rousing start to a choral evening! With skilful manipulation of musical suspense, Handel’s introit is not choral at all but a long slow layering of sound from the strings before the choral entry on “Zadok the Priest!” bursts forte tutti upon the audience with great drama and power. Brian Kay brought out the best from the 150 assembled singers with the massed voices singing with confidence and conviction. What an opening – truly thrilling!

What followed was in delightful contrast. Two Handel arias showcased the musical skills of the evening’s two soloists. Firstly, baritone Julian Rippon sang “O Ruddier than the Cherry” from Acis and Galatea. Julian is a well-known and well-loved performer at the Shaldon Festival and he was warmly received. He took a moment to reveal his full range of tones as the opening was somewhat dry and lacking colour, and the piano rather overpowered the singer, but Julian soon hit his stride to reveal the qualities of the aria. Secondly, tenor Anando Mukerjee appeared for the first time at the Shaldon Festival and was an immediate sensation. Hailed as India’s finest tenor, he has sung in concert halls across the world with a very varied range from art-song to oratorios, with music from the Baroque to the modern age. His rendering of Ombra Mai Fu from Xerxes, an aria that celebrates the wonderful shade of the plane tree, held the audience rapt as his beautifully expressive voice filled the church with the tender longing of this most justly popular of Handel’s arias.

The second Coronation Anthem of the evening, The King Shall Rejoice closed the first half of the programme. With the orchestra at the premiere in 1727 numbering, according to a witness, “about 160” with a chorus of 47, Shaldon boasted an orchestra of one – Peter Adcock on the Yamaha C6 grand piano. This fine instrument is now on regular loan from the Newton Abbot and District Society of Arts, NADSA. Peter is official accompanist to the Festival and uses his considerable musical skills to the great benefit of the Festival. While The King Shall Rejoice cannot match the sheer drama of Zadok the Priest, the rich interplay of voices matches the power of the words and concludes with a satisfyingly grand finale.

The second half of the programme comprised Giacomo Puccini’s Messa di Gloria. Better known for composing some of the world’s best known operas like Madam Butterfly, Puccini grew up in a family of church musicians and while still only a teenager, became church organist of various churches in and near Lucca, his home city in northern Italy. And it was as a teenager that Puccini first heard Verdi’s Aida, an experience so powerful, it set the course of his life as a composer of operas.

Puccini composed the Mass as his graduation exercise from the Istituto Musicale Pacini in 1880 and already those distinctive Puccini operatic trademarks are apparent with startling key changes and restless changes of mood. Both soloists excelled in this piece. Julian Rippon sang the extended bass solo for the Crucifixus with powerful solemnity while Anando Mukerjee’s tenor solo with unaccompanied chorus ‘et incarnatus est’ had a searing poignancy that stayed in the mind long after the end of the concert. The duet in the Agnus Dei was well-balanced with Peter Adcock’s sensitive accompaniment and revealed operatic flourishes so familiar from later works by Puccini.

But it is in the Gloria, after which the work is named and that occupies nearly half the mass that we most clearly sense Puccini’s trademark operatic skills - memorable melodies, rhythmic intensity and powerful dramatic gestures. Here the Shaldon Festival Choir was at its best, clearly relishing the work’s best-known melody, which, repeated in several forms and with extended unison singing, sent the audience away with the clear vocal line firmly embedded in the memory.

This work is not performed as often as other better-known masses, and the singers had to work very hard throughout the workshop day to learn the music ready for the evening performance. At times, the lack of familiarity showed, with heads occasionally buried into scores and parts lacking intensity and definition – work in progress, we can say. But that is part of the importance of the day for the singers, discovering music that may well be new to them under the leadership of a master choral director. Brian Kay is deservedly popular. His relaxed and encouraging manner inspires confidence and readily wins over singers and audience alike. His commentary throughout the performance was laced with delicious anecdotes and genuinely funny jokes. But all this is backed by a highly developed musicianship and a genuine love of directing choirs that will ensure Brian will return at some later date to lead another workshop. Typical of the man, he wrote at length to the Festival committee after the performance thanking them for their hospitality and remarked,
“It was all hugely enjoyable for me, particularly as the choir made such a good job of so much music in such a short amount of time… The balance of the voices seemed better than ever, particularly with such a splendid bass section and a tenor line-up more numerous than before! All in all a good day and so good to see so many in the audience too.”

We concur!

Roger Kirk

Brian Kay divides his working life between the broadcasting studio and the concert platform. His many presentations for BBC radio have included Brian Kay’s Sunday Morning, Brian Kay’s Light Programme, the weekly listeners’ request programme 3 for all and Choirworks - all on Radio 3 - on Radio 2 the popular programmes Melodies for You and Friday Night is Music Night, and for Radio 4, Comparing Notes and Music in Mind. His former BBC World Service programme Classics with Kay reached an audience of millions all over the world. Brian’s television presentations have included the competitions to find the Cardiff Singer of the World and the Choir of the Year, and for fifteen years, the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna. He has twice won a Sony Award as Music Presenter of the Year, including the coveted Gold Award in 1996.

On the concert platform, he presents and narrates concerts with many of the leading orchestras. His narrations include Peter and the Wolf, Paddington Bear’s First Concert, Tubby the Tuba, Babar the Elephant, The Snowman, The Musicians of Bremen, Walton’s Facade, Honegger’s King David and Bliss’s Morning Heroes.

Brian Kay is Conductor and Musical Director of Vaughan Williams’s Leith Hill Musical Festival in Surrey, and of the Burford Singers, near to his home in the Cotswolds. He is also Principal Conductor of The Really Big Chorus, with which he regularly conducts massed voices in London’s Royal Albert Hall (Verdi’s Requiem, Carmina Burana, The Armed Man, Mozart’s Requiem, The Dream of Gerontius, Messiah, and in 2010 the world premier performance of Karl Jenkins’s Gloria) together with recent concerts in Salzburg, Seville, Prague, Venice, Dubrovnik, Madeira, Malta, St. Petersburg and Cape Town, a performance of Handel’s Messiah in China, in Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall and an annual singing cruise to such destinations as the Baltic, the Aegean, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Nile.

He was, for ten years, Chorus Master of the Huddersfield Choral Society, and Conductor of the Cheltenham Bach Choir, the Bradford Festival Choral Society, the Cecilian Singers of Leicester, and the Kendal-based Mary Wakefield Westmorland Festival. He frequently Guest-Conducts choirs and orchestras in many parts of the country and has directed choral courses at the summer schools of Dartington and Ardingly. Further afield, in New Zealand he has conducted the Orpheus Choir of Wellington and the Auckland Choral Society, and in Sheffield, Massachusetts, the Berkshire Choral Festival. He is a Vice President of the ABCD (the Association of British Choral Directors) and of the RSCM (Royal School of Church Music).

Brian Kay has twice appeared at the Royal Variety Show – in 1978 as a member of the King’s Singers (he was a founder member, and as the bass voice in the group performed over 2000 concerts world-wide) and in 1987 conducting the Huddersfield Choral Society. He sang the voice of Papageno in the Hollywood movie Amadeus (his wife, the soprano Gillian Fisher sang Papagena). He has also been the lowest frog on a Paul McCartney single, one of the six wives to Harry Secombe’s Henry V111th, and a member of the backing group for The Pink Floyd!

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.