Singing on a Summer Afternoon in Sussex

Ola Gjelio Sunrise Mass
George Shearing Songs from Shakespeare

A perfect summer afternoon in a field in Sussex with music floating over the fields, what a perfect way to forget for a moment the strictures of the recent months. That is certainly what the 70 or so members of the Brighton Festival Chorus felt as they gathered to sing together the music they had been rehearsing since the end of March at the other end of a live Facebook video.

No longer alone in a spare room with one eye and ear fixed on James (Morgan, Music Director) as he took us through the music, the other eye fixed on the comments rolling down the side – ‘James where are we?’ ‘Please can the altos have bar 29 again’ ‘hello everyone, are you alright?’

Walking through the sunshine in our masks to take our places on an individual dot in a field there were cries of ‘Oh this is so exciting’ ‘At last I can hear what that note is supposed to be’, ‘I love this one the best’.

The last remark was referring to the gorgeous arrangement of Who is Sylvia? by George Shearing, one of his cycle of the Songs from Shakespeare, all of which we had been rehearsing each week and all fallen in love with. One day we will definitely make them part of a concert!

A long-held ambition of the Chorus has been to sing the wonderfully imaginative piece Sunrise Mass by the young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo at dawn on the downs. Maybe one day we will, but meanwhile we were delighted to have the chance to be in such a perfect setting to sing this piece so perfectly suited to the outdoors. As the music moved from the spiritual and contemplative Spheres, through subtle dreamlike incantation changing to joyous Sunrise, finishing with the peace, tranquility and relief of Ground it felt so apt for the time as we all began to take tentative steps back to communal activity. Thank goodness for such small treasures as Sunrise Mass and the songs of George Shearing.