April 3, 2001

St. Margaret’s Choir to perform two dates at Middlebury on national tour

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—The choir of St. Margaret’s, the historic parish church in Great Britain’s Westminster Abbey, will spend two evenings performing at Middlebury College during its current national tour. The group will participate in an Anglican evensong service at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, in Mead Chapel on Hepburn Road off College Street (Route 125). The following night, Friday, April 20, the choir will present a concert at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall on South Main Street (Route 30).

St. Margaret’s organist, Thomas Trotter, will open Thursday evening’s event with a short recital. The choir then will offer an Anglican evensong—a service of lessons, prayers and music. The service will include the premiere of "Middlebury Venite," a special piece commissioned to mark the College’s 200th anniversary. Created by Andrew Gant, the newly appointed composer to the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace, "Middlebury Venite" includes the phrase "The Strength of the Hills is His Also"—a passage especially familiar to the College community since it is carved above the entrance to Mead Chapel.

Friday’s concert will include both a cappella and accompanied selections by the 16-member chorus in a program titled "Royal Peculiar" directed by Simon Over, director of music at St. Margaret’s. Over explained: "A few of the ancient churches of England have remained outside the domain of the diocesan system, falling instead under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch. As these special—or ‘peculiar’—churches include the Chapels Royal and Westminster Abbey, they have always attracted the finest musicians. Over almost 500 years, that provides a vast and very rich store of material to choose from.

"The choices are many—from early anthems by Byrd or Fayrfax to great classical composers from outside England such as Handel, Mozart and Haydn, who have Abbey associations, and even Wagner, whose works often premiered in England on St. Margaret’s organ. An example of a contemporary musician whose work has been performed at the church is John Tavener, whose powerful composition was heard at the funeral of Diana Princess of Wales."

The choir’s members are all accomplished professionals in their own right, and also perform with other groups, including the Monteverdi Choir and the BBC Singers. Trotter is a visiting professor at the Royal College of Music in London, where he trained. He regularly tours, performing at festivals around the world and with leading orchestras such as the Royal, London, Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. His award-winning recordings include selections by Mozart and Liszt. Over’s independent ventures vary from working with the Royal Opera to accompanying and directing singers and instrumentalists in a variety of venues.

As part of Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Church dates back to the late 11th century and is familiarly known as the parish church of the House of Commons. The choir often performs at state and royal occasions and sings for scores of weddings, memorials and special services held in the church each year. In recent years, the choir sang for a papal audience during a tour of Europe and visited 11 locations on the East Coast of the United States. Its current tour began in New York and, after leaving Vermont, will continue in Colorado and on the West Coast.

Admission to the Thursday evening service is free. Tickets to Friday’s concert are $10 for general admission and $8 for senior citizens. For information or tickets, call the College box office at 802-443-6433.

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