Christmas 2019: Festive Performances Ahead

Prescot Parish Church Choir will sing Robert Howard’s compositions on four occasions over Advent and Christmas.

His 2002 carol ‘A Babe Is Born,’ arranged for SATB choir and organ/piano in 2016, will be heard at the Mayor of Prescot’s Charity Christmas Concert on Thursday 12 December. Stephen Mannings will accompany the choir on the piano. A host of other school choirs, as well as guest ensemble Brassworks Quartet, will perform at the event, which runs from 7pm to 8.15pm at Prescot Parish Church. Tickets are £5 on the door (including refreshments), and under-16s are free with a paying adult.

The choir will repeat the performance at the church’s own Festival of Lessons & Carols (6.30pm, Sunday 22 December) and at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (11.30pm, Tuesday 24 December). Also on Christmas Eve, at the family-oriented Crib Service (3pm), the trebles of the choir (pictured) will sing Robert’s unison arrangement of the same work.

Rob also has an important conducting engagement in the pipeline this Christmas.

On Sunday 8 December, he conducts the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra in ‘A Seasonal Selection’ (2.30pm, Capstone Theatre, Liverpool, L6 1HP). He is joined by BBC Radio Merseyside presenter Roger Phillips, who narrates Prokofiev’s timeless children’s tale Peter and the Wolf.

The programme – inspired in part by the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic New Year concert – also promises music by Johann Strauss II, Arcangelo Corelli, Gustav Holst and Leroy Anderson, among other much-loved composers. Tickets are on sale at www.ticketsource.co.uk.

New Harvest Anthem & Other News

Robert Howard’s latest choral composition will have its premiere in Prescot in October 2019.

‘Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honour’ is a setting for SATB choir and organ (or piano) of a text by Charles Wesley, and its theme makes it an ideal anthem for Harvest Festival, although it suits many occasions in the Church year. It is an exuberant, celebratory hymn, march-like, with three verses and a coda.

The choir of Prescot Parish Church will sing it during Sung Eucharist at 10am on Sunday 6 October (St Mary’s, Church Street, L34 1LA), with Tim Hall on the organ and David Kernick conducting. Robert has dedicated it to the Reverend Kimberley Mannings, the Curate of Prescot, who celebrates her 30th birthday in December.

October also sees one of Rob’s sacred vocal works sung by an Oxbridge choir for the first time. The chapel choirs of Cambridge and Oxford universities play a vital role in the history of church music and the English choral tradition, making this performance a particular honour. Selwyn College Chapel Choir, under music director Sarah MacDonald, will sing ‘Jubilate Deo’ (SATB choir and organ/piano) at Choral Evensong on Tuesday 15 October (6.30pm, Selwyn College Chapel, Grange Road, CB3 9DQ). The work, after Psalm 100, was composed for the occasion of Rob’s own wedding to Laura in 2017.

In other news, the hymn ‘Bread of the World’ had its second performance on 27 September at Prescot Parish Church, during a concert celebrating Tim Hall’s 40th anniversary as Parish Organist. Listen below (with thanks to Alan Humphreys for the audio recording). David Kernick, to whose late mother, Jacquie (d. 26 March 2019), the piece is dedicated, conducted the choir of St Mary’s.

Among other vocal and instrumental items on the programme were three of Rob’s own miniatures, with the composer at the piano, as well as his 2018 setting of ‘For Mary, Mother of Our Lord,’ sung by soprano Elizabeth Lyon, again with Rob accompanying on piano.

Update (23 October 2019): The new anthem ‘Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honour’ (see above) will have its second performance on All Saints’ Sunday, during the 10am Eucharist at St Mary’s Prescot, again with David Kernick conducting Prescot Parish Church Choir, accompanied by Tim Hall on the organ.

Record-breaking Prescot Festival & More News

This year’s Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts broke records, with an unprecedented 1,700 through the doors of Prescot Parish Church and other venues.

The 10-day cultural celebration took place between Friday 21 and Sunday 30 June, and this year’s was the 15th since Rob founded it in 2005. Highlights included appearances by Dr Jazz & the Cheshire Cats, the Band & Drums of the Cheshire Constabulary and the world-renowned Liverpool Cathedral Choir. Maghull Wind Orchestra were joined by soprano Danielle Louise Thomas – the ‘Voice of Liverpool’ – for the Proms-style finale, which attracted an audience of 325, an increase of 100 on last year.

Two of Rob’s own compositions were performed during this year’s festival, with Alleluia (2018) opening this year’s ‘Come & Sing’ concert. The following day, Metropolitan Cathedral organist Richard Lea played the 2014 piece Meditation, dedicated to Lea and fellow organist Ian Tracey.

Elsewhere over the summer, Liverpool Cathedral Junior Choir sang Robert’s Ave verum corpus, while the Ormskirk Music Society Orchestra played the stirring 2015 work Cortege. In May, Rob was soloist in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, with the South Liverpool Orchestra.

Trinity Sunday, on 16 June, was the occasion of a premiere – Bread of the World, dedicated to Jacquie Kernick, who passed away on 26 March. The meditative hymn was sung by the choir during Eucharist at Prescot Parish Church.

Upcoming Performances

Prescot Parish Church Choir will sing Bread of the World again on at Parish Musicians in Concert later this month. Soprano Elizabeth Lyon will sing the solo voice version of For Mary, Mother of Our Lord (2018), accompanied by Stephen Mannings on piano, and the composer will play his own piano miniatures: Pastoral Intermezzo No. 2 (1994), The Mystery of the Trinity (1998) and Mother and Child (2000). All four compositions are premieres.

Parish Musicians in Concert takes place at Prescot Parish Church on Friday 27 September, at 7pm. Tim Hall, celebrating his 40th anniversary as Parish Organist, is joined by Prescot Parish Church Choir for 75 minutes of vocal and instrumental music, followed by cake and wine. Tickets are £5 on the door.

Looking even further ahead, Rob will conduct the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra for the first time on Sunday 8 December at 2.30pm in the Capstone Theatre at Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus (Shaw Street, Liverpool). The concert of ‘Festive Favourites’ features BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Phillips narrating Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.

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