University of Essex Choir

Our History

The University of Essex Choir had its origins as the Wyvern Singers, around 1977/8. When the University of Essex was founded in 1963 with no music department (as is the case now) there was considerable interest in starting up musical activities within the University and the choir started life.

  • Stephen Marlowe, a gifted clarinet player, provided the impetus by persuading Nigel Hildreth to direct an embryo orchestra and Bryan Barnes, an able populist musician on the staff of the Colchester Institute, to direct a choir.
  • Choir members were drawn from staff and students at the University and from the locality.
  • Tom Hughes and Stephen Smith of the Physics Department became Chairman and Treasurer respectively.
  • After two seasons the choir gave its first concert, which included Fauré's Requiem.

1979

Bryan Barnes resigned. The choir committee and members decided that they wanted his successor to have seriously exacting standards and a more classical approach to music.

  • Graham Barber was then appointed director of the choir, which became the University of Essex Choir with Stephen Smith as its first Chairman. Graham (a member of staff at Colchester Institute) was an excellent, classical musician with extremely high standards, and a distinguished organist.
  • His first concert with the choir was Handel’s Messiah performed with baroque instruments in the University’s Lecture Theatre Building 6/7.
  • Later performances included Brahms Requiem and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (1978), Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (1979) and Haydn’s Nelson Mass (1980)
  • Graham’s his last concert was Handel’s Solomon (1981). His time with the University Choir set the high standard that the Choir has achieved ever since.
  • In 1981 Graham secured a post teaching organ at Leeds University
  • By the time Graham resigned, Ian Cook (Maths Dept) had joined the University Choir and become its Vice-Chairman, then Chairman. He was to act as Chairman for many years.

1981

Richard Cooke was appointed as Graham Barber’s successor in 1981 and set exacting standards for the choir, conducting his first concert in December 1981 which was Haydn’s Creation.

  • Richard was Music Director of the University of Essex Choir for thirty-nine seasons from 1981-2020
  • During his tenure he nurtured the choir’s development and played a pivotal role in creating a strong ensemble which has gained an enviable reputation in the East of England performing a wide repertoire with excellent professional musicians, both orchestra and soloists.
  • Richard gave the choir the opportunity to sing all the major choral classical works, including Verdi's Requiem, Bach's St John Passion and B Minor Mass, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Britten’s War Requiem, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius - for a full list see below
  • The concerts attracted audiences of up to eight hundred and were recognised as some of the best choral concerts in East Anglia, winning well deserved critical acclaim.
  • Richard’s mission was (and is) to educate and inspire people of all ages to gain fulfilment through high-quality music-making.

Richard brought ambition to the choir’s musical programmes, energy, and humour to the rehearsals together with musical integrity and uncompromising standards to performances. Having developed his craft as music director for several prestigious London choirs and orchestras, this wealth of experience made him a highly regarded professional amongst singers in the choir and the professional soloists and orchestras who played with them.

Richard Cooke had an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law conferred on him by the University of Essex in 1996 in recognition of his work for the musical life of the University. He was similarly honoured in 2010 by the University of Kent (Doctor of Music) in Canterbury Cathedral.

2020 marked Richard’s last year as Music Director with the University of Essex Choir. His final performance with the choir was to have been Bach’s Mass in B Minor accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra at Snape Maltings in May 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic this did not take place.

Highlights of Richard’s time with the Choir have been many, but particularly notable were the performances of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, in collaboration with the Royal Choral Society and Canterbury Choral Society (both directed by Richard Cooke) in Canterbury Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall and also in Lille.

Richard Cooke 1980s
Richard Cooke 1980s
Richard Cooke 1990s
Richard Cooke 1990s
 Richard Cooke 2000s
Richard Cooke 2000s
Richard Cooke present day
Richard Cooke present day

Past concerts

2022

Christmas Concert

University of Essex Choir with conductor Ben Vonberg-Clark presented a beautiful Christmas Concert of contemporary music:

  • Motets pour le temps Noel – Francis Poulenc
  • Mass of the Children – by John Rutter
  • Make We Merry – David Bednall

Soloists - Milly Forrest (Soprano) and Felix Kemp (Baritone)
Organist - Matthew Jorysz (assistant Organist, Westminster Abbey)
and featuring the debut performance of Wivenhoe Youth Choir.

Spring concerts

Mendelssohn: Wie der Hirsch schreit (psalm 42)
Bernstein: Chichester Psalms
Haydn: Paukenmesse (Missa in tempore belli)
Saturday 30th April 2022 7pm
Snape Maltings Concert Hall
University of Essex Choir
London Mozart Players
Milly Forrest
Amy Lyddon
James Way
Michael Lafferty
Ben Vonberg Clark, conductor

2021

Recording for Good Friday 2nd April 2021

Chilcott: St John Passion
Choir of St John the Divine, Kennington
University of Essex Choir
One Tree Hill Choir
UBS Choral Society
Ben Vonberg-Clark, conductor

2020

Christmas Virtual Concert

December 2020
IN AID OF ST HELENA HOSPICE
McDowall: Christus Natus Est A Cantata for Christmas
University of Essex Choir
Milly Forrest, soprano
Children of Year 5, Millfields Primary School, Wivenhoe
Iestyn Evans, organ
Ben Vonberg-Clark, conductor

Watch the video here

15th February: Chelmsford Cathedral
Requiem (Fauré)
Cantique de Jean Racine (Fauré)
The Snow (Elgar)
Hear My Prayer (Mendelssohn)
Pulcinella Suite
London Mozart Players
Richard Bannon
Nicola Corbishley
conductor Richard Cooke

2019

5th May: Snape Maltings
Dream of Gerontius (Elgar)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Madeleine Shaw
Jamie MacDougall
Edward Grint
conductor Richard Cooke

2018

8th December: Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall, University of Essex
Magnificat (Durant)
Mass in G (Schubert)
Fantasia on Christmas Carols (Vaughan Williams)
Christmas Concerto (Corelli)
Holberg Suite (Grieg)
London Mozart Players
Robyn Allegra Parton
Robin Bailey
Edward Grint
conductor Richard Cooke

5th May: Snape Maltings Concert Hall
Mass in C minor (Mozart)
An Oxford Elegy (Vaughan Williams)
London Mozart Players
Robyn Allegra Parton
Susanna Hurrell
Guy Cutting
Stephen Varcoe
conductor Richard Cooke

3rd February: Chelmsford Cathedral
Requiem (Duruflé)
Five Mystical Songs (Vaughan Williams)
Appalachian Spring (Copland)
London Mozart Players
Hannah Cooke
Dominic Sedgwick
conductor Richard Cooke

2017

6th May: Snape Maltings Concert Hall
A Sea Symphony (Vaughan Williams)
Enigma Variations (Elgar)
Essex Sinfonia
Alice Privett, soprano
Edward Grint, bass
conductor Richard Cooke

30th January: Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall, University of Essex
Four Quartets Op.92 (Brahms)
Vårnatt (Stenhammar)
Choral Hymns from Rig Veda (Holst)
Three Folk Song arrangements (Grainger)
The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard (Britten)
London Handel Orchestra
Richard Pearce Pianist
Jonathan Beatty Pianist
conductor Richard Cooke

2016

30th April: Snape Maltings Concert Hall
Nelson Mass (Haydn)
Gloria (Vivaldi)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Mozart)
London Mozart Players
Zoe Brown
Anna Huntley
William Morgan
David Shipley
conductor Richard Cooke

30th January: Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall
Requiem (Mozart)
Insanae et Vanae Curae (Haydn)
Symphony no. 39 in E Flat (Mozart)
London Handel Orchestra
Katherine Watson
Esther Brazil
Robin Bailey
Robert Macdonald
conductor Richard Cooke

2015

2nd May: Snape Maltings
The Kingdom (Elgar)
Essex Sinfonia
Sarah Fox
Gaynor Keeble
Jamie MacDougall
Benjamin Bevan
conductor Richard Cooke

7th March: Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall
Carmina Burana (Orff)
Suit no.2 op. 17 for two pianos: Romance and Tarantella (Rachmaninov)
Richard Pearce, Jonathan Beatty, pianists
Percussion Ensemble Of London
Grace Davidson
Peter di Toro
Alexander Robin Baker
conductor Richard Cooke

31st January: Chelmsford Cathedral
Vespers 1610 (Monteverdi)
London Handel Orchestra
Julia Doyle
Kirsty Hopkins
Nicholas Mulroy
Nathan Vale
Robert Rice
Robert MacDonald
conductor Richard Cooke

Ken Burton singing workshop November 2015

The workshop was a great success and attracted singers from different musical backgrounds from all over Essex. Feedback was extremely positive and we hope to run a similar event sometime in the future.

“Thanks for a wonderful day…I ended up with a better singing voice than I started with!”
“I went home feeling I’d been to something really special and the memory of the day will stay with me for a long time”
“What an amazing day, please come back!”
“Get Ken Burton back again!”
“The best day I have had for ages!”
“A most enjoyable day – very uplifting and a great deal of fun”

Have a look at this compilation video of the day.

KEN BURTON SINGING WORKSHOP

Saturday 14th November 2015
10am – 5pm
Lecture Theatre 6 (LTB6)

Ken Burton is a performer, composer, recording artist and conductor as well as judge and adjudicator for BBC Television series The Choir and Musical Director for BBC’s Songs of Praise. The workshop aimed to excite people about choral singing and to help participants find their voices. Different types of choral singing were explored, discovering the common threads running through choral singing, regardless of genre. The workshop included spirituals, gospel songs, close harmony/jazz songs, songs from the Cameroon Baka tribe tradition as well as classical music such as that created by Bach and Vivaldi.

2014

3rd May: Snape Maltings
War Requiem (Britten)
Essex Sinfonia
Alwyn Mellor
Benjamin Hurrell
Benjamin Appl
conductor Richard Cooke

1st February: Charter Hall
Coronation Mass (Mozart)
Coronation Anthems (Handel)
Music for the Royal Fireworks (Handel)
London Handel Orchestra
Susanna Hurrell
Grace Durham
Bradley Smith
Dominic Sedgwick
conductor Richard Cooke

2013 - 2005

2013

26 January: St Edmundsbury Cathedral
The Creation (Haydn)
4 May: St Edmundsbury Cathedral
Eine Deutsches Requiem (Brahms)

2012

5 May: Snape Maltings
Mass in B Minor (Bach)
28 January: Charter Hall, Colchester
Carmina Burana (Orff)

2011

21 May: Snape Maltings
4 June: St Albans Cathedral
Missa Solemnis (Beethoven)
19 February: Chelmsford Cathedral
St John Passion (Bach)

2010

5 May: Snape Maltings
Paulus (Mendelssohn)

30 January: Chelmsford Cathedral
Israel in Egypt (Handel)

2009

3 May: Snape Maltings
Requiem (Verdi)

31 January: Chelmsford Cathedral
Vespers 1610 (Monteverdi)

2008

3 May: Snape Maltings
The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar)

26 January: Charter Hall, Colchester
Harmoniemesse (Haydn)
Messiah, Part I and Hallelujah Chorus (Handel, arr Mozart)

2007

5 May: Snape Maltings
Elijah (Mendelssohn),
(in the original German)

27 January: Charter Hall
Schiksalslied (Brahms)
Symphony No 7 (Beethoven)
Mass in F minor (Bruckner)

2006

29 April: St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich
6 May: Snape Maltings
Mass in B minor (Bach)

28 January: Charter Hall
Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart)
Symphony No 39 in E flat (Mozart)
Requiem (Mozart)

2005

7 May: Snape Maltings
A Sea Symphony (Vaughan Williams)
Double Concerto for Violin and Bass (Brahms)

23 January: Charter Hall
Christmas Oratorio parts 4,5, and 6 (Bach)

2004 - 2000

2004

1 May: Chelmsford Cathedral
2 May: Snape Maltings
The Kingdom (Elgar)

2003

29 November: Chelmsford Cathedral
Overture: Don Giovanni (Mozart)
Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola (Mozart)
Mass in C Minor (Mozart)
11 May: Snape Maltings
Die Meistersinger Overture (Wagner)
Alto Rhapsody (Brahms)
Alexander Nevsky (Prokofiev)
Polovtsian Dances (Borodin)

2002

7 December: Charter Hall
Requiem (Fauré)
St Nicholas (Britten)

12 May: Snape Maltings (with Canterbury Choral Society)
Ein Deutsches Requiem (Brahms)
Symphony No 8 in G (Dvorak)

2001

1 December: Charter Hall
Russian Easter Festival Overture(Rimsky Korsakov)
Four Choruses (Mussorgsky)
Sleeping Beauty Suite (Tchaikovsky)
The Bells (Rachmaninov)

12 May: Snape Maltings ( with The Royal Choral Society)
Missa Solemnis (Beethoven)

2000

2 December: Charter Hall
Creation (Die Schöpfung) (Haydn)

6 May: Snape Maltings
Greater Love Hath No Man (Ireland)
Serenade to Music (Vaughan Williams)
Sea Pictures (Elgar)
Spring Symphony (Britten)

1999 - 1995

1999

4 December Charter Hall: Colchester
Requiem (Verdi)

27 March: St Edmundsbury Cathedral , Bury St Edmunds
Stabat Mater (Dvorak)

1998

5 December Charter Hall, Colchester
Fantasia on Christmas Carols (Vaughan Williams)
Harmoniemesse (Haydn)
The Snow (Elgar)
Violin concerto in G Minor (Bruch)

2 May: St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds
9 May: Snape Maltings
Paulus (Mendelssohn)

1997

6 December: Charter Hall, Colchester
Mass in C, Op. 86 (Beethoven)
Te Deum in C (Haydn)
Scottish Symphony (Mendelssohn)

25 October: Canterbury Cathedral
27 October: Royal Albert Hall
7 November: Palais de Congrès, Lille
8 November: Palais de Congrès, Lille
Symphony No 8 (Mahler)
with The Royal Choral Society, Canterbury Choral Society, Tiffin Boys’ Choir

18 May: Snape Maltings
Mass in F minor (Bruckner)
Gesang der Parzen (Brahms)
Violin Concerto in D (Brahms)

1996

7 December: Charter Hall
CARMINA BURANA (Orff)
TOWARD THE UNKNOWN REGION (VaughanWilliams)
FANTASIA ON A THEME BY THOMAS TALLIS (Vaughan Williams)

27 April: Norwich Cathedral
18 May: Snape Maltings
THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS (Elgar)

1995

9 December: Charter Hall, Colchester
ELIJAH (Mendelssohn)

6 May: Snape Maltings
SEA SYMPHONY (Vaughan Williams)
SYMPHONY No 8 IN G (Dvorak)

1994 - 1990

1994

4 December Charter Hall
MESSIAH (Part 1); HALLELUJAH CHORUS (Handel)
NELSON MASS (Haydn)

1 May: Charter Hall, Charter Hall, Colchester
7 May: & Snape Maltings
THE BELLS (Rachmaninov)
Choruses: THE DEFEAT OF SENNACHERIB, SALAMMBO, JOSHUA, OEDIPUS (Mussorgsky)
SYMPHONY No 5 (Tchaikovsky)

1993

11 December: Charter Hall, Colchester
A CHILD OF OUR TIME (Tippett)
A SURVIVOR FROM WARSAW (Schoenberg)
SYMPHONY No 5 (Beethoven)

20 March: Charter Hall, Colchester
22 May: Norwich Cathedral
THE APOSTLES (Elgar)

1992

12 December: Charter Hall, Colchester
EIN DEUTSCHES REQUIEM (Brahms)
SYMPHONY No 6 (PATHETIQUE) (Tchaikovsky)

21 March: Charter Hall, Colchester
REQUIEM (Verdi)

1991

5 December: Charter Hall, Colchester
REQUIEM (Mozart)
CHORAL FANTASIA (Beethoven)
EMPEROR CONCERTO (No 5) (Beethoven)

27 April: University of Essex
5 May: Snape Maltings
MISSA SOLEMNIS (Beethoven)
with Colchester Institute

20 January: University of Essex
THE KINGDOM (Elgar)

1990

28 April: Snape Maltings
MISSA IN TEMPORE BELLI (Haydn)
SHICKSALSLIED (Brahms)
ALTO RHAPSODY (Brahms)

1989 - 1985

1989

10 December: University of Essex
ST NICOLAS (Britten)
THE KING SHALL REJOICE (Handel)
CONCERTO FOR DOUBLE STRING ORCHESTRA

29 April: University of Essex
6 May: Snapre Maltings
THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS (Elgar)
with Colchester Institute

1988

11 December: University of Essex
FANTASIA ON CHRISTMAS CAROLS
(Vaughan Williams)
GLORIA (Poulenc)
SYMPHONY NO 9 IN D MINOR (CHORAL)(Beethoven)

23 March: University of Essex
SEA SYMPHONY (Vaughan Williams)
PIANO CONCERTO IN A MINOR (Grieg)

1987

13 December: University of Essex
MASS IN C MINOR (Mozart)
TE DEUM (Dvorak)
VIOLIN CONCERTO (Sibelius)

2 May: University of Essex
9 May: Snape Maltings
WAR REQUIEM (Britten)
with Colchester Institute

1986

7 December: University of Essex
CARMINA BURANA (Orff)
POLOVTSIAN DANCES (Borodin)
PAGANNINI RHAPSODY (Rachmaninov)

15 May: Canterbury Cathedral
SYMPHONY No 8 (Mahler)
(with London Philharmonic Choir, Canterbury Choral Society,
Tiffin School Boys’ Choir)

1985

8 December: University of Essex
EIN DEUTSCHES REQUIEM (Brahms)
ENIGMA VARIATIONS (Elgar)

17 March: University of Essex
SPRING SYMPHONY (Britten)
ZADOK THE PRIEST (Handel)
NEW WORLD SYMPHONY (Dvorak)

1984 - 1977

1984

8 December: University of Essex
ELIJAH (Mendelssohn)

6 May: University of Essex
12 May: Chelmsford Cathedral
REQUIEM (Verdi)
with Colchester Institute

1983

11 December: University of Essex
MASS IN C (Beethoven)
ALTO RHAPSODY (Brahms)
SCHICKSALSLIED (Brahms)
SIEGFRIED IDYLL (Wagner)

20 March: University of Essex
A CHILD OF OUR TIME (Tippett)
SYMPHONY No 7 in A (Beethoven)

1982

12 December: University of Essex
REQUIEM (Mozart)
MAGNIFICAT (Bach)
BRANDENBURG CONCERTO No 2 IN F (Bach)

14 March: St James’ Church, Colchester
ST JOHN PASSION (Bach)

1981

6 December: University of Essex
CREATION (Haydn)

CONDUCTOR: GRAHAM BARBER
15 March: University of Essex
SOLOMON (Handel)

1980

7 December: University of Essex
ST NICOLAS (Britten)
IN TERRA PAX (Finzi)
DIES NATALIS (Finzi)

16 March: University of Essex
NELSON MASS (Haydn)
AVE VERUM (Mozart)
SANCTA MARIA MATER DEI (Mozart)
ORGAN CONCERTO NO 2 (Haydn)
ORGAN CONCERTO No 4 (Handel)

1979

9 December: University of Essex
CHRISTMAS ORATORIO
Parts 1, 2 & 3 (Bach)

17 March: Moot Hall, Colchester
MASS (Stravinsky)
PSALM 8 “Herr unser Herrscher” (Schutz)
SIX MOTETS (Bruckner)
FRENCH SUITE No 5 (Bach)
SUITE FRANCAISE (Poulenc)

1978

10 December: University of Essex
EIN DEUTSCHES REQUIEM (Brahms)
VIOLIN CONCERTO (Mendelssohn)

18 March: St Botolph’s Church, Colchester
REQUIEM (Duruflé)
CHICHESTER PSALMS (Bernstein)

1977

11 December: University of Essex
MESSIAH (Handel)