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What do you say when you're invited to London to sing music performed at the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in this, her Diamond Jubilee year? With great enthusiasm, you say, "Righto!"
On June 4, 38 members of The Dessoff Choirs will join singers from the Crouch End Festival Chorus and the Hertfordshire Chorus on the stage of London's Royal Festival Hall. Leading the resulting powerhouse of 291 singers will be conductor David Temple, musical director of both London-based groups.
The first half of the program features music from the coronation—almost 60 years ago to the day—including Handel's thrilling Zadok the Priest, Hubert Parry's majestic I Was Glad and William Walton's meditative Coronation Te Deum. The second half of the program is given over to Walton's searing Biblical oratorio Belshazzar's Feast. The musical forces also include baritone soloist Ashley Riches and a full orchestra.
Dessoff first worked with David Temple in 2009, when he came to New York for a series of concerts with British rocker Ray Davies, former front man of The Kinks. The program included arrangements known as The Kinks Choral Collection, so naturally a chorus was required. Appearances that fall included a spot on The Late Show with David Letterman and a concert at The Town Hall. Two years later, Davies and Temple returned for an East Coast tour, also featuring Dessoff.
How did the connection to David Temple and Ray Davies come about? Years earlier, Louise Bloomfield, a Dessoff soprano, lived in England and sang with one of Temple's choirs. He got in touch with her, and, knowing that Dessoff is always ready to stretch its musical horizons, she recommended the group. Such was the start of a warm friendship, and perhaps the June concert in London will yield further musical collaborations in years to come.
The Dessoff Choirs, an independent New York chorus, was founded in 1924. It presents its own season each year, with music director Christopher Shepard conducting. The group also collaborates frequently with local and visiting professional ensembles. In 2012 it made its first trip abroad, at the invitation of the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, for performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor. From Mexico City to London, Dessoff has had a rather smashing year!
For tickets: www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/crouch-end-festival-chorus-72180. More information: www.dessoff.org.
Miriam Lewin has been a soprano with The Dessoff Choirs for 20 years. When she's not singing, she is a television and radio producer.