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Sainsbury s Choir of the Year 1998

Mixed Voice Semi-final - Buxton Opera House, November 21st 1998

Kingfisher Chorale, Musical Director David Fisher

Kingfisher Chorale, formed by David Fisher in 1992, featured a talented group of friends from Leicestershire and beyond with the intention of performing a broad range of secular and sacred music. They were very flexible in their programming and developed a large repertoire which encompassed music from the 13th to 21st centuries. They performed in different styles at a great number of events including evensongs, weddings or invitation concerts. Kingfisher Chorale also entered the prestigious Sainsbury s Choir of the Year Competition on three occasions and, in 1998 alongside three hundred choirs, was the Choir of the Day at the Manchester heat. The choir subsequently won through to the national selection stage to get through to the finals weekend at Buxton Opera House. Their performance was broadcast on BBC 2. The choir recorded a CD of Christmas Music from the 16th century to the present day and this was released just before Christmas in 1999. In 2000 the choir, against stiff competition, won the distinction of again being Choir of the Day at the Royal Northern College of Music heat. Many of the choir members, who joined by invitation, were soloists in their own right. The Musical Director was David Fisher who was also Musical Director of the Derby Choral Union from 1992-2004.

The comments on the pieces perfomed by Kingfisher Chorale at the televised sem-final of the Sainsbury s Choir of the Year 1998 are below. In order to access the recordings, simply click on the titles of the four pieces. The recordings can then be downloaded from Dropbox for study purposes only and are not to be retransmitted in any form. The adjuducator s comments from the 2000 competition are added at the end of this feature.

The Adjudicators were:

Ralph Allwood: Precentor and Director of Music at Eton College

Gabriel Crouch: Ex-Westminster Abbey chorister, now a member of the King s Singers

Susan Digby: Founder and Director of the Voices Foundation

Simon Halsey: Chorus Director of the CBSO Chorus, Artistic Director of the BBC National Chorus of Wales, Conductor of the City of Birmingham Touring Opera

Richard Morrison: Arts Editor of The Times

AVE MARIA by Tom s Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

This little gem was a favourite of the choir and it allowed the listeners at the semi-final to cleanse their aural pallettes after the final piece of the previous choir. Sung in Latin.

Ralph Allwood: I love your light, gentle phrasing. Occasionally quaver detail was lost in the texture. You need a bit more warmth in your quiet singing.

Gabriel Crouch: Difficult piece for the acoustic, but you could have found more space in the sound. Don t compensate for the lack of cathedral acoustic by singing it quickly - be daring and pretend you are in a cathedral, otherwise a beautiful motet ends up sounding like a madrigal. The quick sections worked O.K., but you need to find a more magical, sombre quality and colour for slow sections. Experiment with less vibrato at opening?

Susan Digby: Intoning - more solid at opening - blend and balance could be better. Well paced and phrased. Tuning insecurities in the final cadence. Nice contrasts in lightness and solid Sancta Maria .

Simon Halsey: Very nice sense of phrasing. Sopranos occasionally unblended. Some inaccuracies of A/T intonation - tiny details that could easily be tidied up. Well blended. Good dynamics.

Richard Morrison: Well varied, fine contrasting f in middle. Slight tuning problem in final couple of bars. Perhaps try for a more austere tone for a contrast in the repertoire?


One of the pieces that we sang towards the end of our variety concerts. It is fast, superbly written with clever changes of key, and tests all parts of the choir.

Ralph Allwood: A lovely nimble performance. Occasionally the chording was unclear in your quiet singing.

Gabriel Crouch: Bright, lively, accomplished. Great words in upper voices with convincing character. Not so good amongst the chaps.... Largamente cantabile section needs to be warmer. Sounded a bit too measured.... by using more breath in the sound, and challenge yourselves to reach even softer pps. Lower voices - E natural often flat.

Susan Digby: I felt this was too fast. More fluid phrasing - diction could be clearer at times. Nice light textures. Perhaps you could be more responsive to the text - sounded a bit pedestrian in places. Not enough blend page 27. Nice simple and unaffected quality.

Simon Halsey: S/A too staccato in this acoustic. Is it all so well-phrased that it s a little precious? Soprano blend, legato, warmth a problem. Not all chording accurate enough and moments that need warmth are underplayed. On the edge of maximum tempo.

Richard Morrison: Fun, but try for a little more dynamic contrast. Fast notes tucked in neatly. Watch ends of phrases, too, they sometimes fall away. A little too fast perhaps?

MY CHOICE IS MADE by David Fisher (b.1952)

This wedding motet was written in 1997. The choir loved the piece and it remained a firm favourite with its strong melodies, unusual chording and dynamic contrasts.

Ralph Allwood: A beautifully sensitive performance bringing out, I felt, a sense of resignation.

Gabriel Crouch: Lovely warm passionate sound. Well written for this choir. Pitch sagged a whisker. Would be helped by brighter sounding sopranos.

Susan Digby: Soprano blending. Could be even warmer in tone quality - more emotional and flexible. More marcato to create textural contrast. Some tuning insecurities bar 19 Could have created more atmosphere by exploring colour and dynamic flexibility.

Simon Halsey: Opening unison betrayed intonation problems. Sopranos (and now tenors) have blend problems. Work at diphthongs e.g. choice which is not the same around the group. In fact some work on vowels only in legato would help the entire programme. Interesting choice.

Richard Morrison: Lush and pleasing singing of lush harmonies! Well sustained in middle section, excellent crescendo, and lovely final cadence.

VORSPRUCH by Hugo Distler (1908-1942)

A little-known composer in Britain, Distler was a composer who, having been persecuted by the Nazis, committed suicide. He left some brilliant choral works of which this, the first of his Op. 19 is typical - cross rhythms, harmonic felicities and a brilliant fanfare ending. Sung in German.

Ralph Allwood: You displayed an excellent range of dynamics and articulation, bringing out the archaic but fresh sense of this setting.

Gabriel Crouch: Very accomplished, but you didn t sell it. The piece has a madrigalian quality (short answering phrases etc.) which wasn t harnessed. Needs contrasts. Experiment with colour....

Susan Digby: Needed even more precision page 143. Some blend and balance problems. A very demanding piece. An effective performance. More warmth and roundness could be developed both in lighter a more solid passages.

Simon Halsey: First two bars a major problem in the sopranos. German not good: closed vowels sufficiently evenly closed, Z not correct, final chord badly tuned (is flat), glottals on words starting with vowels not clean enough. It s too fast. You must work at legato and not pick out all the notes. There is not enough tone or variety of tone.

Richard Morrison: Antiphonal passages needed a little more crispness. A very clear and tuneful final melisma, though.


Susan Digby: Thank you for an enjoyable well-presented programme. Good choice of music.

Simon Halsey: A distinguished choir.

Richard Morrison: Appealing choice of music - well done!

The Sainsbury s/BBC Choir of the Year judges gave their honest opinions and Kingfisher Chorale did not, alas, progress to the final but we did ask four notable choir trainers and soloists for their opinions on the pieces. These, perhaps because there was more time to write comments, are just as illuminating:

AVE MARIA by Tom s Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

1: A touch on the fast side, though I liked it. Ends of phrases seemed a bit clipped.

2: A fraction fast at the beginning and the echo effects were well managed.

3: Fine sound - wonderful ethereal singing.

4: I would have taken this half speed, but then I am used to a vast acoustic! Adapted to the conditions on offer it still seemed a little fast as the lines did not all come through clearly.


1: Slick, fine interpretation. Blend of T & B not happy pages 18-19.

2: Delicacy and precision were evident - the music tripped off the tongue especially the S & A. Dynamics especially the crescs and dims beautifully managed.

3: All parts heard to perfection.

4: Diction was incredible at this speed - excellent and the sops were good.

MY CHOICE IS MADE by David Fisher (b.1952)

1: Chording in the last four bars needs placing better. Soprano blend not as good here. Really good otherwise.

2: Tenors too prominent bars 7-8. Last two bars more bass needed. Crescs and dims could have used to better effect. Hesitancy in the sops in 28.

3: Enjoyed this very much - tenor prominent in two places.

4: Sops had problems sustaining. The tenor A flat jarred. The dynamic range was particularly fine and the basses were superb on of gentle blood in the middle of the piece. Herbert Howells would have been proud of the last few bars - beautiful.

VORSPRUCH by Hugo Distler (1908-1942)

1: Liked it very much.

2: Didn t like this one though it was very well done. Ensemble bars 3-4 on 142 could have been better. Second time around the fanfare in last six bars could have been a bit more accented, though this was excellent, restrained rhythmic singing.

3: This piece was lovely though I didn t really enjoy it. Technically accomplished.

4: Interesting and quite successful finale to the programme. Sops were clear and better here. Good chording from the choir.


1: Difficult to fault - superb singing. Not worth criticising as comments made will be subjective at this level.

2: Fresh, vibrant, young sound - terribly impressed & better than many commercial CDs. Enjoyed singing immensely - tone of the choir was gorgeous and the diction was superb! I listened once, made comments as a judge would and then listened nine more times to be really sure of my comments. So bloody good at every tiny detail. The programme was excellent - broadest possible taste and quite international. Well balanced in periods and techniques. Was this too refined for the judges? Would be a perfect sound with better acoustics. Please can I keep the tape?

3: Not excited by the programme though it was well balanced. In none of the pieces did the sopranos seem to be stretched - even if the blend didn t work on occasions. There was much energy and the diction was excellent - every word expressed to perfection.

4: Overall this was very good. It is always a mistake to hear one s performances afterwards as they always encourage one to look for mistakes and ignore all that is good. That is confirmed by the quality of performance here. Blend from the ATB could not be bettered, though sops need just a bit more work on blend in the sustained pieces such as the Fisher. In the faster pieces like the Rutter they were very good.

Sainsbury s Choir of the Year 2000

Adjudicator s Comments - Sunday 30th April 2000

Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester

On this occasion, Kingfisher Chorale was again awarded Choir of the Day at the Manchester heat of the competition but, to our disappointment, was not selected for the semi-final stage.

The Adjudicators were:

Susan Digby & Jeremy Patterson

LET MY PRAYER COME UP by John Blow (1649-1708)

Susan Digby: A beautifully sustained opening (a brave start!) well blended and balanced. You achieve good line perhaps you could intensify into the centre of phrases even more.

Jeremy Patterson: A beautifully controlled sensitive opening. Lovely relaxed tone & musical phrasing. Soprano line not blending quite as well as ATB.

MASS TO THE TRINITY: Credo by David Fisher (b. 1952)

Susan Digby: A rich and robust start. Very slight blend weaknesses in sop line. A very powerful effect b.23 which was sustained well through the section. You explore good dynamic range. Again could be refined. Sound intonation. An excellent piece impressively delivered.

Jeremy Patterson: An impressively secure and accurate performance. Your pitching is highly commendable and you brought out the dramatic changes in mood and dynamics. Very satisfying to the audience &, I trust, to the composer.

BOGOR DITSE DEVO by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Susan Digby: You could work on a more Russian change of colour. You paced and controlled this beautifully. A good tempo. Some intonation insecurity in alto b.13, but it settled well. A powerful crescendo to ff. Good present basses. You could whisper the final ppp even more in this acoustic.

Jeremy Patterson: Great control of breathing over these long phrases. You are blessed with basses who can do justice to this. Your general timbre remained British rather than a darker Slav.

IN DULCI JUBILO arr. Peter Crump (1928-2009)

Susan Digby: A lovely arrangement full of challenges which were expertly met. Beautifully moulded with many exciting moments. Very well paced with tremendous impact.

Jeremy Patterson: A lovely contrast with delicate and dance-like rhythmic impetus. I loved your bounced quavers and shape to the phrases. Excellent.


Susan Digby: Thankyou.

Jeremy Patterson: A well constructed programme that gave different styles and technical requirements. Highly proficient and rewarding.