Successful Festival, Robert Howard Performances

Two of Robert’s choral compositions featured in this year’s Prescot Festival, with the 2016 setting of the Ave verum corpus receiving a performance by a massed choir of an unprecedented 120 singers from across the North West on 16 June. (Pictured. Photo: Alan Humphreys)

Alleluia, written in memory of Gerald Dyson in 2017, was the anthem for Festival Choral Evensong, closing the 10-day event on Sunday 24 June. Gerald was a long-time member of Prescot Parish Church Choir, who sang the piece accompanied by parish organist Tim Hall.

The festival, which Rob founded in 2005 and continues to direct, was a great success, welcoming over 1,600 people to a series of concerts and arts events in venues throughout Prescot and Whiston.

Performances & Premieres Ahead

More performances of Robert’s works are lined up for later this year. His new anthem For Mary, Mother of Our Lord will receive its first performance on Sunday 9 September in Prescot Parish Church, during the 10.30am Eucharist. It has been composed especially for the occasion of the 2018 Patronal Festival and dedicated to the church and to the composer’s own mother, Dorothy Howard.

The trebles of Prescot Parish Church Choir sing Jubilate Deo at Parish Musicians in Concert on Friday 21 September at 7pm in Prescot Parish Church. The concert will also see premieres of three early works by Robert Howard: piano miniatures Pastoral Intermezzo and Prelude in F (both 1993), and Pierrot (1992), for solo bassoon; each piece will be played by the composer himself. For just £5 on the door (u16s free with a paying adult), audiences will enjoy about 75 minutes of music from organist Tim Hall and soloists, followed by complimentary cake and wine.

On 6 October St Helens Choral Society will perform three of Rob’s motets – Ave Verum Corpus, Alleluia and Jubilate Deo. The event will take place at St Helens United Reformed Church at 7.30pm. Then on 17 November, Liverpool Mozart Orchestra will feature Robert’s 2015 work Cortege as part of a WWI remembrance concert in Liverpool’s Capstone Theatre.

Howard Compositions to Feature in Prescot Festival

Two of Robert Howard’s choral compositions will feature on the programme of this year’s Prescot Festival, of which he is founder and director.

In a concert commemorating 100 years since the end of World War One, the Prescot Festival Chorus will sing Robert’s haunting setting of Ave verum corpus. Either side will be two classic works by Gabriel Fauré, Cantique de Jean Racine and Requiem. In excess of 115 singers are expected to come from across the North West to join the chorus for the concert, which takes place at 7pm on Saturday 16 June at Prescot Parish Church.

In preparation for the occasion, Prescot Parish Church Choir, for whom Ave verum corpus was originally written, sang the piece during the Eucharist on Sunday 13 May. Later the same week, they led the way in singing Robert’s 2017 anthem Alleluia at an RSCM ‘Sing & Sup’ workshop/rehearsal at the Church of St Nicholas, Sutton, under the baton of Dr Ian Sharp.

Prescot Parish Church Choir will then sing the meditative Alleluia as the anthem on Sunday 24 June, at a service of Choral Evensong marking the close of the 2018 Prescot Festival. Canticles are by Richard Shephard (his Song of Mary and Song of Simeon in place of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, respectively). All are welcome to Prescot Parish Church at 6pm. The service is followed by the Proms-style Festival Finale, featuring the Maghull Wind Orchestra.

As well as Ave verum corpus and Alleluia, two more of Robert’s pieces received performances in May 2018. The composer himself played The Clown (1991) and Folk Lament (1994), both early works for solo bassoon, as part of the South Liverpool Orchestra’s concert at St James’s Woolton on 15 May.

Performances ahead for Robert Howard Compositions

Following the successful US premiere of Robert’s Ave verum corpus during Holy Week, several performances of his other works are ahead in May.

Prescot Parish Church Choir will revisit Ave verum corpus during Eucharist at Prescot Parish Church on Sunday 13 May. All are welcome, and entry to the service is, of course, free.

The composer will play some of his own solo bassoon pieces on Tuesday 15 May as part of a concert with the South Liverpool Orchestra, which he conducts. Among them will be his early piece The Clown (listen here). The event starts at 8pm at St James’s Methodist/URC Church on Church Road South, Woolton, Liverpool, L25 7RJ. Tickets are £4 on the door.

Finally, last year’s choral work Alleluia is being sung as part of the RSCM Liverpool Come & Sing at St Nicholas’s Church in Sutton (New Street, St Helens, WA9 3UB) at 7pm on Thursday 17 May. The event takes the form of a workshop rehearsal under conductor Dr Ian Sharp, accompanied by organist George Swift, followed by a short service of worship. It costs £5 to participate, and refreshments are provided afterwards.

Details of other upcoming performances, including at the 14th Annual Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts in June, are coming soon.

US Premiere of Robert Howard’s Ave Verum Corpus

Soprano Lauren Sprague will give the American premiere of Robert Howard’s ‘Ave verum corpus’ in March 2018.

She will sing it in its version for solo voice and piano/organ at an evening of Holy Thursday Music Offerings on 29 March (Maundy Thursday) at Holy Family Parish Church in Concord, Massachusetts.

Originally written for Prescot Parish Church Choir and dedicated to the Reverend Canon John Taylor, ‘Ave verum corpus’ has received several local performances since it was first heard at St Mary’s Prescot on Good Friday 2016. That original SATB version will be sung again on Saturday 16 June (7pm at Prescot Parish Church) as part of the Prescot Festival, in a programme that also includes Fauré’s Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine. As a ‘Come-and-Sing’ concert, the performance is open to all singers – see www.prescotfestival.co.uk for more information.

View score samples and listen to excerpts via the Compositions page, or contact the composer about obtaining copies for performance.

New Compositions & Upcoming Concerts

Robert’s newest choral composition, ‘Alleluia,’ was sung for the first time by Prescot Parish Church Choir on All Saints’ Sunday (5 November).

The meditative work was dedicated to the memory of choir member Gerald Dyson, who passed away in October 2016. It was repeated for an All Souls Requiem Mass the following evening, Monday 6 November, and will feature again in the Mayor of Prescot’s Charity Christmas Concert (Thursday 7 December) and in the Eucharist for the Epiphany on Sunday 7 January 2018. Both take place in Prescot Parish Church.

Robert’s ‘Jubilate Deo,’ also composed for the choir, received the latest of several performances on 4 November at the wedding of Karim and Jayne Palant.

You can hear all these compositions and more on the Choral & Vocal Works page.

Finally, Robert has some conducting engagements coming up. As well as his regular conducting work with St Edward’s College, he waves the baton for the South Liverpool Orchestra Christmas Concert on Tuesday 5 December at 8pm in Liverpool Hope University Chapel, and the Phoenix Concert Orchestra Christmas Concert at The Venue, Huyton, on Sunday 10 December at 2.30pm. All are warmly welcome.

Robert Wins Knowsley Cultural Volunteer of the Year

Robert was honoured to be named Cultural Volunteer of the Year at the 2017 Knowsley Sports & Cultural Awards.

At the gala ceremony on 13 October, Robert was declared winner for his achievements as Artistic Director of the Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts, which he founded in 2005 and directs to this day.

The festival itself won Cultural Event of the Year, an honour it first held in 2015.

Pictured: Robert Howard, David Kernick, Laura Howard & Dot Howard, with Mayor of Knowsley Cllr Frank Walsh and author Frank Cottrell Boyce

What’s New: September 2017

A number of Robert’s compositions have been uploaded to the site over the summer.

In particular, score excerpts and recordings are now online for three 2017 compositions: Resonance, for piano; Flourish, for trumpet; and Alleluia, for SATB choir.

The first of these will be performed on Friday 22 September, as part of Prescot Parish Musicians in Concert. Over an hour of music also features Rob’s piano miniature Addition I (Original), written in 2003, and the solo voice and piano versions of his 2016 sacred works Ave verum corpus and Jubilate Deo.

All are welcome to the concert, which takes place at 7pm at St Mary’s Church, Prescot. Tickets are £5 on the door, and complimentary cake and wine follows. All proceeds go to the parish.

Howard choral works to be performed in May, June

May & June promise to be busy months for performances of Dr Robert Howard’s recent choral works.

The first of four performances takes place on Thursday 18 May at St Nicholas’s Church, Sutton, St Helens. The Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) Liverpool & Isle of Man Branch will feature Robert’s Jubilate Deo as part of a workshop exploring anthems and hymns based on the psalms, including ‘Jubilate.’

Jubilate Deo will also be performed by the 100-strong Prescot Festival Chorus with Parry’s I Was Glad and Rutter’s Magnificat on the second night of the 13th Annual Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts at Prescot Parish Church, Prescot, Merseyside.  The massed choir will be conducted by James Luxton from Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral.  James will return in the second half with the Metropolitan Cathedral Girl Choristers in what promises to be an evening of choral bliss.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral, a concert has been organised showcasing a programme of contemporary works by local composers such as Michael Stubbs and James Smith.  Robert’s Jubilate Deo has again been picked to feature as part of this special event, to be held at the Cathedral on Saturday 24th June.

On Sunday 25 June, Prescot Parish Church Choir with organist Tim Hall will premier the revised version of Robert’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.  This will feature as part of Choral Evensong at Prescot Parish Church on the final day of the town’s 10-day music & arts festival.  The original version featured as part of the 7th Annual Prescot Festival and the invitation to revise the setting came directly from the choristers.

New Solo Arrangement to Premiere Good Friday

A new arrangement of Robert Howard’s ‘Ave verum corpus’ is to be performed on Good Friday, 14 April 2017, at Prescot Parish Church.

The work was composed for SATB choir and first sung in its full choral version on Good Friday 2016, by Prescot Parish Church Choir.  Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King Choir later sang it during Mass at the cathedral with St Edward’s College.

Tenor David Kernick will sing the new solo voice arrangement at 1pm on Friday, with Tim Hall at the organ.

All are welcome to attend some or all of the services, which begin at 12 noon, 1pm (with vocal quartet items) and 2pm (with Prescot Parish Church Choir). The address is Church Street, Prescot, L34 1LA.

Howard Anthem to Feature in Met Cathedral Anniversary Concert

Robert Howard’s ‘Jubilate Deo’ will be sung as part of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King’s 50th anniversary celebrations later this year.

The performance takes place in the cathedral on Saturday 24 June at 7.30pm, with the Cantata Choir, directed by James Luxton, the cathedral’s Deputy Director of Music. The piece was originally written in 2016 for Prescot Parish Church Choir.

The concert, marking five decades since the completion and consecration of the magnificent modern building, includes works by Mendelssohn and Beethoven, as well as other contemporary composers.

Robert enjoys a growing musical relationship with the Catholic cathedral. He is Assistant Head of Music Faculty at St Edward’s College, Liverpool, official school to the Metropolitan Cathedral Choir, and the cathedral’s Youth Choir performed his ‘Ave verum corpus’ at a Mass earlier this year.

Visit liverpoolmetrocathedral.org.uk to find out more about the cathedral and this year’s celebrations and cathedralconcerts.org.uk for more about 24 June’s concert and other upcoming events.