Schola Cantorum: the World Premiere of David Bednall's Requiem

Schola Cantorum Bednall Requiem

World Premiere

Friday 14th November

"Still in his mid-twenties, David Bednall is announced as an important and individual voice. Watch this space."
Editor’s Choice, Gramophone May 2007

Please see lower down the page for David Bednall's personal account.

The World Premiere of David Bednall's Requiem took place on Friday 14th November in the splendid setting and wonderful acoustic of St James's Church, Spanish Place, close to Oxford Street in London.  The recital was given by Schola Cantorum of Calne, the highly acclaimed Chamber Choir of St Mary's School, Calne.

Since the critical success of the 2006 recording of his Choral Works by Wells Cathedral Choir, David's stock as a composer has risen rapidly, and this 11 movement work for upper voices, viola and organ was very exciting indeed.  David himself played the organ and the viola part was played by the distinguished international soloist, Philip Dukes.

The Requiem reunited Conductor, Edward Whiting and David Bednall, who first met as organ scholars at The Queen’s College, Oxford.  They have collaborated on various new commissions and choral ventures and were excited to be working together again. 

David Bednall

“...a thoroughly assured composer… immensely inspired writing…clearly a composer with something very worthwhile to say”  Gramophone May 2007

David Bednall is an innovative and exciting composer whose work is notable for its vivid and accessible qualities. Much of his recent music has been for choirs and his exceptionally wide field of musical tastes, combined with considerable experience in the Cathedral Choral Tradition, makes for an exciting and reinvigorating approach to liturgical choral writing. Major inspirations include R. Strauss, Puccini, Ravel, Vaughan Williams, Howells and Cochereau. However his writing is no pastiche of these styles, but a distinctive and varied synthesis of these harmonic and rhetorical characteristics.  For more information, see www.davidbednall.com

Philip Dukes

“Great Britain’s most outstanding solo viola player” The Times

Philip Dukes’ recital debut at London's South Bank in 1991, described by The Strad magazine as "world class", marked the beginning of a career that is now established as one of the foremost of his generation.  Performing the world premiere of David Bednall’s Requiem, will add to the already impressive list of premiere performances given by this outstanding viola player.  In 1995, Philip Dukes made his BBC Promenade Concert debut giving the world premiere of the viola concerto by Sally Beamish and at the 1997 Aldeburgh Festival, he gave the world premiere of the previously unpublished concerto for violin, viola and orchestra by Benjamin Britten.  At the 1999 BBC Promenade Concerts, he gave the world premiere of Inside Story for violin, viola and orchestra by Piers Hellawell, and in 2005 he gave the world premiere of the concerto for viola and cello and orchestra by Hugh Watkins. Philip Dukes can be heard regularly on BBC Radio 3 and has recorded a number of CDs.  For more information, see www.philipdukes.com

Schola Cantorum, Calne

The Chamber Choir of St Mary’s Calne has a repertoire that crosses many musical eras and boundaries from pre-Renaissance to the present day.  As well as singing Cathedral services and giving concerts to raise money for charities, the choir regularly tours in the UK and abroad, with recent highlights including Austria, Italy, Sweden, Iceland, France and the USA.

Since winning the title BBC Church Minstrels of the Year 1999, the Choir has made regular radio broadcasts for the BBC. In addition to enjoying further success in Radio 3, Sainsburys and HTV competitions, the girls have also sung on television, recorded four CDs, appeared on the Radio 3 programme Choirworks and sung for the Queen and Prince Philip in Malmesbury Abbey.

In January 2008, the choir gave the World Premiere of the Missa Brevis by David Bednall to the acclaim of a capacity congregation in Notre-Dame de Paris. The work was subsequently enlarged into a 45-minute Requiem for upper-voice choir, viola and organ recorded on the Regent label. The Requiem received its American premiere on the Choir’s East coast tour in March 2009 and was performed again on the Choir's tour of Italy in March 2010.

Future plans include a recording of German music, and the first performances of several specially commissioned works including a piece by the celebrated Film Music composer - Joby Talbot.

David Bednall's personal account.

David BednallIn 2007, Edward Whiting approached me to ask if I would be interested in writing a Requiem for the Chamber Choir of St Mary’s Calne. The idea was immediately appealing and having heard the choir sing, I knew that it had the potential to be a very exciting project indeed.

Edward and I have worked together on many musical ventures over the years but this was to be by far the largest to date. The idea started to become reality with the performance of the ‘proper’ movements of the Requiem mass as a Missa Brevis in Notre-Dame de Paris in January 2008. However, the intention was always to write a full Requiem for upper voices alone, making this piece unique as far as we are aware.

Following the Missa Brevis performance, we decided it could be very effective to include a solo instrument along with the organ. The viola has long been a favourite of mine for its haunting and melancholy tone and it would also work well in combination with the girls’ voices to provide an instrumental part that could sit equally well below and above them. Once Philip Dukes agreed to be involved in the project, the instrumental part grew in scale to include two instrumental movements to provide some respite for the singers and to provide suitable cover were the piece to be done liturgically. The writing of the remaining movements was done during the spring and summer of 2008.

The writing of a Requiem is a considerable challenge to a composer – there are a number of great precedents and there is huge variety of mood in the text which must be reflected in the music. The texts used are from the Latin Requiem Mass and are the same as those used by both Duruflé and Fauré.  I wanted to write a work that would prove satisfying for listeners and performers in both liturgical and concert contexts. In addition, I wanted it to be highly positive and full of light so that it might bring comfort. I very much hope that this has been achieved, and that it may be as satisfying and enjoyable to sing and hear as it has been to write.

David Bednall, September 2008