Britten and Mahler

Hannah (centre of the singers) and orchestra in Rejoice in the Lamb

November 17 saw a major event in our series marking the Britten anniversary. Cantores Michaelis singer and year 3 Music student Hannah Woodhouse, who was a soloist in the concert, tells us how it went:

Last weekend music students from across the University of Southampton came together to produce a centenary concert marking Benjamin Britten’s birth. Performing works by both Britten and Mahler, the collaboration of SUSO, Hartley Singers and Cantores Michaelis, conducted by Robin Browning at St. Michael’s church in Southampton, proved an exciting evening of fantastic music.


Ted Schmitz (tenor), Robin Browning (conductor) and Rob Harris (horn)

In preparation for the event weekly rehearsals were organized separating choir from orchestra before bringing the two together a week before the concert date. The pieces chosen meant there was one choral piece Hymn to the Virgin, one orchestral piece, Blumine, and Rejoice in the Lamb, which brought both orchestra and choir together. These three pieces were complemented by Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with professional soloists Ted Schmitz and Rob Harris, two talented musicians who demonstrate the standards one can achieve through commitment to music.

Opening with the unaccompanied choral Hymn to the Virgin set the atmosphere for the evening and the audience seemed captivated by the beautiful harmonies. The separation of the semi-chorus from the main chorus added further to the atmosphere with the church acoustics and setting accentuating the lush harmonies.


The subsequent orchestral number Blumine written by Mahler, but dropped from the original five-movement First Symphony, contrasted with the Hymn to the Virgin. The lyrical trumpet line and inclusion of harps showcased the array of exceptional orchestral players at the University.

Charlie Best plays the trumpet solo in Blumine

The final piece, Rejoice in the Lamb, proved a huge success and the hard work everyone had put in certainly paid off. As I had already performed the piece before I was at a slight advantage knowing the rhythms and general tempo. The quick rhythms with wordy text can often prove quite hard but everyone seemed to grasp the text quickly and soon we had the chorus lines covered. The most challenging part was practicing with the orchestra. Whilst I had sung the piece before, I had never done so with the orchestra so this was an entirely different experience as the orchestral writing is so different to the vocal score. When we finally got it together thanks to Robin’s patient conducting, it sounded amazing. I was fortunate enough to perform the soprano solo within the piece and though challenging with conflicting orchestral parts, it was a hugely rewarding experience.

britten100_no_web_logo_red.jpg_SIA - JPG - Fit to Width_100_trueOverall the concert proved a success with every seat in the house taken.  The hard work from everyone involved and fantastic musicianship once again proved that these annual events organized by the University are a great success and hopefully they will continue in the future.