After the Summer break we are restarting our rehearsals for Autumn 2023. Owing to the forthcoming regeneration of the District Centre, the Community Centre where we have previously been rehearsing has closed, and so we are now regrouping just round the corner at the Church of the Holy Family church hall, with the rehearsal day changing to Mondays to fit in with availability of the church hall.
A spot of carol singing at Sainsbury’s Heyford Hill to entertain people while they shopped for their Christmas food.
St. Gregory the Great Catholic School held a Christmas Fair on Saturday 4 December. As part of this, the Choir was invited to sing some carols and other music in the school hall. Although it was draughty because of ventilation to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, we welcomed this as our first (somewhat informal) concert since the start of the pandemic, and sang a selection of both popular and more obscure carols intermixed with a few ‘world music’ inspired pieces from about 12:30pm (after an intervention from a troupe of majorette dancers).
In the middle of a pandemic, on a cold December afternoon in a rain shower, we lifted our spirits by singing some socially distanced outdoor carols outside the Church of the Holy Family in Blackbird Leys.
The Royal Society in London hosted a Summer Science Exhibition featuring a couple of dozen hands-on exhibits by research teams from universities around the country explaining how they are contributing to science and technology. A research team from Oxford University asked us to help them with their exhibit about how your brain influences the way you breathe, by putting on a few short demos of choral singing as an example of a discipline in which breathing is important.
The charity Home-Start Oxford asked us to provide some musical entertainment at their stand at the Summer Leys Funday in Blackbird Leys Park, on what turned out to be the hottest day in June.
We gave a private performance to the residents at Brookfield Care Home in Greater Leys. This was our second visit there.
Some members of the choir got up early on the Friday morning of Red Nose Day in order to appear on Radio Oxford as part of their project to record and broadcast choirs around Oxford during the day.
On a Saturday afternoon before Christmas we presented an audience-participation concert in which we sang some of our repertoire and invited the audience to join in with some well-known traditional Christmas carols.
On St Cecilia’s Day, the twenty-second day of November, Blackbird Leys Choir joined several other choirs at Oxford Town Hall to celebrate the patron saint of music and Oxford’s twin cities. Featuring ‘Cecilia’s Travels’, a cheerful cantata specially written for the occasion by Arne Richards with words by Pat Winslow and Isabel Knowland, as well as a performance from each choir’s repertoire.
Our main summer concert, as last year, took place in the evening at the Parish Church of St Andrew in Sandford-on-Thames, south of the Oxford ring road. It featured both sacred classical pieces and popular music; spirituals and a hit song from a blockbuster film.
Blackbird Leys Choir shared a concert with a range of other talented musicians from the local area.
The Choir was invited to help Oxford Central Library celebrate its reopening in the new Westgate Centre. We sang in the library one evening with a few Christmas carols and other songs.
On the third weekend in November, the city of Oxford held its Lights Festival. Dozens of local choirs took part in ‘Sing Christmas’ at locations around the city. Blackbird Leys Choir appeared at 2pm on Saturday at the Covered Market and also 3pm on Sunday at the recently reopened Westgate Shopping Centre.
Our main summer event this year was a Saturday evening concert at the Parish Church in the village of Sandford-on-Thames, south of the Oxford ring road. Our theme for this concert was music for, and about, the stage. We presented some Shakespeare-themed songs, some opera, some songs from musicals, and a piece from Purcell’s Fairy Queen.
A relaxed Sunday afternoon with tea and cake in aid of Restore, the mental health charity. We offered a preview of our July summer concert programme.
Members of the choir sang for the over-50s club on a Thursday afternoon at St Michael and All Angels Church in Marston.
A spring concert in the Norman church in Iffley village on the outskirts of Oxford. We featured music from Britain through the ages.
A large Christmas tree was installed outside the church opposite Blackbird Leys shops and the lights were turned on in an evening community event featuring the three local primary schools, a brass band, and of course participation from Blackbird Leys Choir.
Blackbird Leys Choir was joined by Cantare Ladies’ Choir for a summer concert in the Glow Hall at Blackbird Leys Community Centre.
Cantare’s conductor Michael Betteridge composed a new piece called Sing! Sing! especially for both choirs to perform at this concert.
St Michael’s is running a varied stream of free lunchtime concerts on Mondays and we were pleased to have been invited to perform in June. The choir performed a mixture of madrigals and spirituals and some unusual hymns that you don’t normally sing in church. This concert raised £270 for a local charity: Cowley Child Contact Centre.
This concert included performances by local choirs Wox Vox, EOCC Children’s Choir, Oxford Analyrical and The Ad Hoc Singers, as well as Blackbird Leys Choir. It finished with a massed choir performance of Handel’s Zadok the Priest accompanied by the Hinksey Hill Farm Quartet.
An invitation was opened to anyone interested in singing to join us in an afternoon workshop to learn some basic techniques and prepare a piece to sing in concert. This turned out to be a very educational and productive afternoon.
In the evening we put on a concert including music both ancient and modern during which we invited our extra members for the day to take part in the piece we learned at the workshop. The programme included madrigals, traditional songs and other folkish music, a few solos from choir members, and a medley of popular gospel numbers.
View the archived event page.
Our final concert with Elisabeth at Magdalen College Chapel: upon the arrival of Spring, we imagined walking through the Salley Gardens and saw love as a flowering rose in a short selection of folk songs.
A Christmas themed concert, with a few traditional carols for the audience to join in and some of our folkish pieces including a couple of lesser known carols.
As part of the Christmas Light Festival, the Day of Song featured several of Oxford’s community choirs in venues in the city centre. Blackbird Leys Choir sang from the balcony to passers-by in the Pitt Rivers Museum.
Blackbird Leys Productions presents the greatest story ever sung: Rock Nativity! A musical by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, with words by David Wood. The production featured choirs from Windale, Orchard Meadow and Pegasus primary schools with the Blackbird Leys Choir.
Venue: Church of the Holy Family, Blackbird Leys OX4 6JH.
The Choir helped the community of East Oxford get into the Christmas spirit with a mixture of sacred and secular Christmas music at Saints Mary and John Church on Cowley Road.
A DVD was produced from both performances, and also featured a "making-of" documentary. This was a limited production run and is now sold out.
The next in our series of county church concerts took place at St Peter’s Church, Wolvercote where we joined forces with the choir of Worcester College, Oxford. The programme included Vivaldi’s Gloria and some of our favourite anthems by Mozart, Bach, Purcell and Beethoven. Our guests also performed three anthems by Bruckner, Pitoni and Parry.
A CD of this concert is available — please contact Trevor (see Contact page).
The event was not well attended by the community, but the choir did learn several new pieces for our repertoire selected from the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The next venue in our series of county church concerts was St Mary’s, Garsington. The programme included a selection of short classical choral works and concluded with Vivaldi’s Gloria accompanied by organ.
Blackbird Leys Choir celebrated its fifth birthday in style by singing Vivaldi’s Gloria with a chamber orchestra and guest soloists in the Jacqueline du Pré building, one of Oxford’s premier classical music venues. To lead up to this were two instrumental numbers and four shorter sacred choral pieces, followed by birthday cake and speeches. Ivor Setterfield, the conductor who launched the choir on Channel Five back in 2006, was invited to join the audience for the event and ended up taking a guest spot as the alto soloist in Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, the eighth movement of the Gloria. The High Sheriff of Oxfordshire and the Deputy Mayor of Oxford were also in the audience.
If you missed this event, you missed a real treat — but there may be a chance to relive the birthday celebration because the whole thing was videoed. In addition, we are repeating the Gloria at future events (see above).
Oxford City Council ran an event in Blackbird Leys to provide information on recreation, education, training and employment. Activities took place at the Community Centre, the Leisure Centre and the Barn. The Choir performed for about 50 minutes at the Barn with pieces from our repertoire and introduced one of our new pieces — an English madrigal.
A free community concert in the centre of Blackbird Leys, our home estate.
The choir performed a half-hour programme of favourites from our existing repertoire and then concluded the event with a complete performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria — the first time we performed the full work in concert before taking it on tour.
A half-hour performance by the choir at St Leonard’s Church, Eynsham included three sections of Vivaldi’s Gloria together with our favourite sacred pieces and American folk songs. Other performers at the event included Oxford Gospel Choir and members of Eynsham Choral Society. This event was to support a rider taking part in Cycle For Hope and raised well over a thousand pounds.
Incorporating Sing Hallelujah.
The choir performed a mix of sacred and secular music to a full church of about 60. Programme included: Vivaldi’s Gloria (opening movement); Jesu Joy (Bach), Ave Verum (Mozart), Steal Away (Tippett), folk songs and shanties, Da doo ron ron, Stand by me, Money Money Money, Bridge over Troubled Water, and of course Hallelujah. At the end of the concert about a dozen audience members joined the ranks of the choir for an encore of Hallelujah. A collection during the concert raised over £350 for Children in Need.
A subsection of the choir joined forces with performers from Oxford Improvisers and Joined Up Singing on stage at the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building in an improvised mix of sounds and musical themes. [Extract on YouTube]