Chorus History

Brighton Festival Chorus was founded for the 1968 Brighton Festival by our first Music Director, László Heltay. Our first performance, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer himself, brought overnight success. It propelled us to become one of the most sought-after and versatile choirs in the UK.

50 years on, we continue to enjoy a busy schedule of concerts, recordings and tours both at home and abroad. We have regularly appeared at the BBC Proms, the Brighton Festival and in all the major concert halls across the UK and Europe.

Image : B Minor Mass rehearsal with Karl Richter 1970

We work with the most exciting conductors, which in recent years have included Vladimir Ashkenazy, Leonard Slatkin, Sir Andrew Davis, Edward Gardner, John Wilson and Roderick Cox. We have appeared with over 100 of the world’s leading orchestras including the Hallé Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

We have performed with the finest soloists and musicians of the last 50 years, too numerous to mention. And we have supported artists as diverse as Armstrong and Miller, Katherine Jenkins, Dame Edna Everage, Chris de Burgh and Alfie Boe.

Image : László Heltay, BFC’s Founder

Laszlo Heltay, BFC Music Director

Our work is extensive and wide-ranging. It encompasses the entire traditional choral repertoire which we perform with unrivalled commitment. It includes new commissions and live, film soundtrack performances like Eisensten’s Alexander Nevsky and Olivier’s Henry V. It incorporates spellbinding off-book and semi-staged performances, amongst them Bach’s St. John Passion, Britten’s War Requiem and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. We have also taken on epic large-scale productions such as Tavener’s Veil of the Temple and Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony.

We are proud of the awards and accolades our recordings have received as an acknowledgement of the ways in which we have pushed boundaries. Our Grammy-nominated performances of Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass and Tippett’s A Child of Our Time under André Previn stand out amongst our extensive back catalogue and have been re-issued time and again. Our recording of Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien was awarded ‘Le Choc de la Musique’ by Le Monde. We provided the choral backing for a commemorative album which was released in 2017 for Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th birthday, Vera Lynn 100, which reached the top 10 in the UK album chart and won a Classical Brit.

Image : Bach’s St John Passion Off-Stage Rehearsal

We do regular commercial work. Recent clients have included Walkers Crisps, Loewe and Pete Townshend.

Today our eyes are still wide open to new possibilities. We sing for love, for the power and creativity we bring to our audiences and to reimagine the symphony chorus for tomorrow.

Image : Recording Ecce Sacerdos by Edward Elgar with BBC Concert Orchestra