Christmas Concert 2023

He is Born – “Il est né”!   The title of our Christmas Concert on 9th December 2023 gave a strong clue as to the content of the programme.  We performed in our regular venue of St John the Evangelist Church, at the kind invitation of the Parish Priest, Fr. Brendan Clover, and there was a distinct French theme in some of the items we sang.  With our strong tradition in this country of ‘Services of Nine Lessons and Carols’ we can forget that the word “Noël” is French, and their tradition of singing Carols at Christmas goes back a long way.

The main item in the programme, however, was not a Carol, but Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “Messe de Minuit pour Noël” – “Mass for Christmas Midnight”.  Charpentier (1643 – 1704) lived a generation before J. S. Bach, and this lovely work, composed around 1694, came as a joyous discovery to many of us.   The Mass follows the usual pattern, but Charpentier manages to interweave themes from ten French Christmas Carol into the music he wrote for the Latin text.  This was despite the fact that the use of secular elements had been strictly forbidden for used in religious worship by the Council of Trent in 1545!

The “Messe de Minuit” concluded the first half of the programme which began with J. P. Sweelinck’s “Hodie Christus Natus Est”.  This five-part motet, composed in 1619 for the evening of Christmas Day featured joyous fanfare-like sections that set the appropriate note of celebration for the occasion.

After that the Choir sang three French Carols: “Il est né, le Divin Enfant” and “Quittez Pasteurs”, both arranged by John Rutter, between which the Choir sang a David Willcocks arrangement of “Masters in this Hall” with its repeated refrain reminding us of its French origins.  This was followed by William Mathias’s rousing setting of the 16th century text “Sir Christémas” with its refrain of “Buvez bien” “Drink ye well” – which is exactly what we did after the Charpentier Mass!

The second half featured carols by five English composers – Gustav Holst, Michael Head, William Walton, John Gardner and Alexander L’Estrange, and one born in South African but educated in England – John Joubert.  There were also two favourite Carols for the congregation to sing – “O come, all ye faithful”, and “Hark, the Herald Angels sing”.

Most featured was Holst, whose carol “Christmas Day” opened the second half.  Though most well-known as the composer of “The Planets” and other orchestral works, Holst honed his craft as a song-writer as the music-master at St Paul’s Girls’ School and Morley College.  We also sang his setting of “This have I done for my true love”, and his arrangements of “Four Old English Carols”, namely “A Babe is Born”, “Now let us sing”, “Jesu, Thou Virgin born” and “The Saviour of the World is born”.  This proved a delightful collection of mainly new items to us, and they were enjoyed equally by our enthusiastic audience of about 100 – an encouraging number for such a busy evening.

Next the choir sang Michael Head’s delightful “The Little Road to Bethlehem”.  This was followed by Walton’s “All this Time” whose plangent tones are resolved beautifully in the joyous final cadence, and then John Joubert’s “There is no Rose”, which offered a delightfully lilting contrast.  

The final three carols began with John Gardner’s “Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day”, its highly rhythmic jauntiness and constantly changing metre keeping the singers and audience alike engaged and enthralled.  By now the audience was ready to stand and sing “Hark the Herald Angels sing” before the evening ended with Alexander L’Estrange’s “Song of the Angels”.  This features deliciously jarring harmonisations of the famous Orlando Gibbons’ ‘Tune 34’ familiar to many as the tune for “Forth in thy Name, O Lord, I go”, and was perfectly calculated to bring the audience to its feet with enthusiastic applause.

As always we were accompanied by the extraordinarily talented Richard Lennox on the piano, who offered his own “mash-up” of popular and some lesser-known Christmas tunes in the middle of the second half.  But the greatest credit must go, as always, to our ever-inspiring Music Director, Matthew Clark, whose interesting programme building is matched by his highly inspiring direction.  

Our next Concert, on 4th May 2024, again in St John’s, features some equally interesting programming, including a Choral version of Elgar’s famous “Sea Pictures”, arranged by Donald Fraser, and four items to commemorate the centenary of Gabriel Fauré’s death in 1924.  These will include his well-known “Cantique de Jean Racine”, his song “En Prière” arranged for chorus by Matthew, and his rarely heard Ode “The Birth of Venus”.  These, and items by Louis Vierne, Camille Saint-Saëns and Vaughan Williams’ ravishing setting of the 18th century folk-song “The Turtle Dove”, make it an evening not to be missed by lovers of choral music.  We hope you can join us.  

Summer Concert 2023

On 8th July the weather forecasts were such that we were still hoping (up to the eleventh hour) that we might sing in Sunhill Gardens but there was a marked change in the forecasts during the late morning and, as we assembled in Sunhill Gardens for a pre-Concert rehearsal, one could almost smell the rain in the air.  The venue was hastily changed to our wet weather alternative, the Church Hall at St John’s, and the Concert started there promptly at 2 pm.

The Concert began with three folk songs, two arranged by Gustav Holst and one by C V Stanford. The first set was then rounded off with the beautiful My Spirit Sang All Day by Gerald Finzi.  

We were then treated to a set by an excellent Quintet of singers, organised by Stephen Barton, after which we were privileged to hear a baritone solo by our conductor, Matthew Clark.  It was absolutely delightful.

The choir’s second set consisted of several amusing songs, choral arrangements of Nellie the Elephant and The Animals Went in Two by Two followed by three of Edward Lear’s nonsense limericks arranged for SATB.

Richard Lennox our amazing Accompanist then performed a solo set.  As always it was full of the pyrotechnical wizardry that only Richard can produce.

The concert was then rounded off by the choir singing Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns and Burt Bacharach’s Close to You.   The audience were very appreciative.

Our very grateful thanks to Father Brendan Clover (and his ever helpful wife, Lynn) for enabling us to perform in the Hall.  We all had a wonderful time!

May 2023


on 13th May 2023 in St John’s Church, Clevedon

The special feature of our Spring Concert on 13th May 2023 was indicated by the title “Sound the Trumpets!”.  For the first time in many years, in addition to our phenomenally gifted accompanist Richard Lennox on keyboard and organ, we had an octet of professional instrumentalists from Bristol.  To a string quintet of 2 violins, viola, ‘cello and double bass were added two trumpets and timpani.  In St. John’s resonant acoustic they gave added lustre to a splendidly varied programme featuring music by Byrd, Mozart, Haydn, Mendelssohn and Bairstow.  

Under Matthew Clark’s committed and inspiring direction the choir has grown to more than 40 in number, and they were joined by four excellent soloists:  Heather Wardle – Soprano, Juliet Curnow – Alto, Archie Playdon – Tenor, and William Stevens – Bass.  

The concert opened with Joseph Haydn’s great “Te Deum in C”, a paean of praise to God which he composed at the request of the Empress Maria Theresa.  She was a music-lover and keen singer and, accompanied by the full ensemble, it provided a fitting opening to a programme of richly contrasted choral favourites.  This was followed by two very different settings of the ancient Latin text “Ave Verum Corpus”.  The first, accompanied by Richard Lennox on the organ, was the mini-masterpiece by Mozart.  One of his final compositions, it is a much-loved staple of church and cathedral choirs. The Choir then sang the same words in an unaccompanied setting by William Byrd, written some 180 years earlier, which was chosen to commemorate the 400thanniversary of the death of one of England’s greatest composers.  

This was followed by one of Edward Bairstow’s most dramatic and arresting anthem’s, “Blessed City, Heavenly Salem”.  Composed to show off the power of a great cathedral organ and choir (he was organist at York Minster from 1913 till his death in 1946), he juxtaposes bold climaxes with deliciously delicate passages.  One oddity of Bairstow’s setting of J. M. Neale’s text is that he omitted the last verse.  Happily, that has been made good by Dr Rob Waters, who brings Bairstow’s work to a glorious conclusion with a coda composed for Gloucester Cathedral Choir, where Matthew is a Bass Lay Clerk.  

Three further works completed the first half of the concert.  The first was another tribute to Willam Byrd, the “Agnus Dei” from his “Mass for Four Voices”.  It is quite remarkable that he could write such a serene setting at a time of such political and religious unrest.  That was followed by Mendelssohn’s anthem “Verleih uns Frieden” (“Lord, in your mercy, send us peace”), written in the wake of his discovery and promotion of J. S. Bach’s “Passions”.  Despite Robert Schumann saying “This small piece deserves to be world famous” it was, for many, a delightful discovery.   To conclude, the Choir sang Haydn’s rousing early anthem “Insanae et Vanae Curae” (“Vain and raging cares invade our minds”).  Two furiously dramatic sections, hammering out the futility of man’s vain ambitions, are followed by two sections in which the peace-filled text “If God is for you, all things are favourable for you” conjures a quiet hope after the furies that went before, and the piece ends peacefully.  After all that it was time for some refreshments.

The second half of the concert featured just one work – Haydn’s magnificent “Missa in Angustiis”, otherwise known as “The Nelson Mass”. The great musicologist and Haydn authority, H. C. Robbins Landon, describes this masterpiece as “arguably Haydn’s greatest single composition”, and it certainly wowed performer and audience alike.  Here the Choir, the excellent band of soloists, the chamber ensemble and Richard Lennox on the organ had the scope to revel in great music-making, and they did so to thrilling effect – the magnificent trumpet playing and resounding timpani adding a blaze of colour and splendour.  It was a fitting ending to a memorable evening, and the delighted audience showed their appreciation to the echo!

Christmas 2022

Handel’s “Messiah” at St John’s, Clevedon

Saturday 10th December 2022

December 10th 2022 was bitterly cold, and England were playing France in a crucial World Cup Quarter Final match, but a large and expectant audience greeted Clevedon Choral as we gathered in St John’s Church for our Christmas Concert, Handel’s great Oratorio “Messiah”.

We were joined by four excellent soloists: Freya Holliman (Soprano), Nicole Boardman (Mezzo-Soprano), Deryck Webb (Tenor), and Stephen Hamnett (Bass).  Each sang with great character and beauty of tone, and their joining the choir in the ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Amen’ Choruses added lustre to those climactic moments.

As usual we were accompanied by the extraordinarily gifted Richard Lennox on a digital keyboard, from which he conjured a palette of sounds each chosen according to whether it was a recitative, aria or one of the great choruses. 

Afterwards some audience members who have attended our concerts for many years said that Clevedon Choral had reached new heights of tonal quality and ensemble that they had never heard before.  That was all thanks to Matthew Clark’s expert and very enjoyable coaching methods and to his inspirational conducting on the night, so that the performance built steadily towards the thrilling climax of the final triple chorus, which was greeted by a well-deserved standing ovation lasting several minutes.

Christmas Concert at Tyntesfield

Saturday 17th December 2022

One week later a section of Clevedon Choral performed a programme of Christmas Anthems and Carols in the Chapel at Tyntesfield.   Once again a full house braved the biting cold to welcome us as we sang a 50-minute programme ranging from Victoria and Handel to modern music and carols.  

These included James MacMillan’s “O Radiant Dawn”, Morton Lauridson’s “O magnum mysterium”, and Henryk Górecki’s “Totus Tuus”, with plenty of familiar items in the mix as well!  The Chapel’s size limits us to 25 singers, but the resonant acoustic helps enormously, and the audience was delighted by our sound and the variety of the programme, with many very complimentary remarks being offered afterwards

Christmas Concert 2021

‘Fear Not…Be Glad and Rejoice!

Saturday 11th December 7.30pm

St Peters Church, Alexandra Rd, Clevedon

Tickets £12 (includes drink and mince pie on entry)

Tickets now available here, book early to avoid disappointment

Book tickets

Our Christmas Concert under new Musical Directorship. Matthew Clark has chosen inspiring choral music on a festive theme -with a twist. Featuring Richard Lennox on the organ.

Concert Programme

  • Once in Royal Gauntlett with audience

Fear not, for thou art highly Favoured

  • Magnificat in D Dyson
  • Bogoroditse Dyevo (Ave Maria) Rachmaninoff
  • The Crown of Roses Tchaikovsky
  • The Infant King arr. Willcocks
  • Angleus ad Virginem arr. Willcocks

Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife

  • Cherry Tree Carol, arr. Willcocks
  • Coventry Carol arr. Walford-Davies
  • God rest ye, merry Gentlemen arr. Willcocks
  • Fear not, O Land Elgar
  • O Come, all ye Faithful Latin Hymn with audience


  • Oh how Amiable Vaughan Williams
  • While Shepherds watched with audience

Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great Joy

  • O thou the central Orb Wood
  • The Shepherds Farewell Berlioz
  • Quell est cette Odeur? arr. Willcocks
  • Nativity Carol Rutter
  • Sussex Carol arr. Willcocks
  • Finale from Dona Nobis Pacem Vaughan Williams
  • Hark the Herald Mendelssohn with Audience
Continue reading “Christmas Concert 2021”

Time and Tide – Community Opera

Time and Tide

On 24 and 25 October an exciting new community opera, ‘Time and Tide’, will be performed at Clevedon Community Centre to mark the 150th anniversary of the building of Clevedon Pier.

Time and Tide will celebrate the Pier and enrich the artistic, particularly musical, culture of Clevedon. The project will combine children and students in performance alongside adults.  Amateurs will perform with professionals. The music will reflect songs of the sea and the Victorian sea-side in a classical, yet contemporary, style. The words will include ideas from participants and convey, with the music, a sense of the winds, waves and tides. The choir will narrate the moving story of the pier, from its conception to its Victorian heyday, through its neglect, damage and near demolition in the 1970s. We will finally arrive at the pier’s rescue and restoration; a moving story of survival against the odds.

Time and Tide is to be a large-scale, intergenerational music theatre project, an innovation which will bring together the community of this small seaside town in a high quality artistic enterprise, led by an experienced artistic team. Students from Clevedon School and children from local primary schools, will perform alongside professional soloists and musicians.

Time and Tide music is by Mark Lawrence with words by Claire Williamson, known for the recently performed community operas ‘Home at Last’ performed at St Mary Redcliffe and ‘The Hall on the Hill’, performed at St George’s, Brandon Hill, in Bristol.

We have been promised support from other local singing groups, so there will be a core of singers accustomed to performing. Teach tracks will be available for participants to practice at home. If you would like to be part of the Open Access Community Choir, and are able to attend rehearsals weekly in the run up to the performances for around an hour, please come along and have a go. You don’t have to pay a subscription to do so.

Rehearsals:                          Monday 9, 23 and 30 September and 14 October. (Additional dates may be added if appropriate).

Place:                                     Kenn Road Methodist Church, BS  (opposite Tesco)

Time:                                      7.20 to 9.30

Dress Rehearsals:              19 and 23 October at Clevedon School and Princes Hall

Please email to register your interest, stating SATB voice part if known.

Time and Tide is sponsored by the Arts Council. We welcome additional offers of sponsorship and assistance