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Reviews & Quotes

Havergal Brian's "Gothic Symphony" at BBC Proms on Sunday 17 July 2011, at Royal Albert Hall.


"the massed choirs intoned the wonderfully unexpected hushed chords"

– Daily Telegraph

"Martyn Brabbins and his hordes did a truly magnificent job, and those who were there are unlikely to forget the experience".

– Guardian

"this impressively well-drilled performance under Martyn Brabbins, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Concert Orchestra."

- Evening Standard

"Brabbins did a superb job in controlling orchestras and choirs alike to capture so astutely the required array of effects."

– Music OMH



"The massed ranks of eight separate choirs managed what are fiendishly challenging parts with aplomb and deserve to be listed accordingly: Eltham College Boys Choir, CBSO Youth Chorus, Southend Boys and Girls Choirs, Brighton Festival Chorus, Huddersfield Choral Society, London Symphony Chorus, BBC National Chorus of Wales, The Bach Choir, Cor Caerdydd. Two aspects particularly seem worthy of record – the moments where different sections seem to be singing different lines determinedly against each other – not as cacophonous as one might imagine and the near unaccompanied section which as the pre-prom radio feature noted harks back to the world of Tallis."






19th July Kashif - Queen Symphony with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 2006

' It was a delight to have performed The Queen Symphony with the Southend Boys and Girls' Choirs providing such a clear and beautiful sound. Under the direction of Roger Humphrey and Rosemary Pennington, they exemplified the best qualities present in youth singing today - many thanks' -
Tolga Kashif conductor and composer of 'Queen Symphony', which we performed with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra last month.

Written to mark the Queen's 80th birthday, and performed by 250 children from top youth choirs, plus the bearskinned trumpeters of the Scots Guards and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Jiri Belohlavek, it celebrates royal constancy ('the golden rule', as Motion calls it) in an all-too-inconstant world..........and the writing for the excellent young singers ........ The TimesWith the BBC Symphony Orchestra boosted by the Fanfare Trumpeters of the Scots Guards and by 250 children's voices from various Chapels Royal, schools and youth choirs, the ending was aptly rousing..... Daily Telegraph


Take Harlow Chorus, Britten Sinfonia, Southend Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs and pupils from three Harlow schools, add a generous helping of Stravinsky and top it all with two world premieres and you have the richly rewarding gourmet feast that was Sunday’s concert at Harlow Sportcentre.

The evening’s entree was Stravinsky’s unusually scored and rarely performed Symphony of Psalms - served to perfection from expansive opening, via fanfare and gently pulsing rhythms, to quiet, contemplative finale.

Syzygy, pronounced ‘sizzer-gee’, was the first of composer Cameron Sinclair’s contributions to the evening. Influenced by Sufi music and the poetry of Rumi, the 13th century mystic and founder of the Whirling Dervish cult, Sinclair’s music is brim full with energy and drama. Pulsating rhythms are his trademark and the first movement of Syzygy (it means a pair of connected or correlated things) quite literally had them dancing in the aisles. ‘Realised by Cameron Sinclair’ the piece evolved from an extensive education project involving Essex Music Services and musicians from Britten Sinfonia. 130 pupils from Harlow’s Abbotsweld, Henry Moore and Passmores schools explored exotic rhythms through movement, voice, percussion, wind instruments and the occasional electric guitar. Ethereal arcs of sound introduced the newly formed Passmores choir and the rousing finale brought together the combined forces of Chorus and orchestra to conclude a rich and memorable experience.

‘say i am you’, the finale to the evening, introduced Sinclair’s stunning and exuberant companion piece to Symphony of Psalms. Under the inspirational leadership of Sarah Tenant - Flowers the ‘connections’ of the title were explored still further, this time through the dynamic communication between instruments and voices. At one moment grandly sweeping crescendos at another intimate conversations with pulsating rhythms building to the thrilling climax.

The evening was a triumph for Harlow Chorus and left the audience replete and well satisfied.

Laurence Sach


'Just wanted to say what a wonderful evening we had on Friday. The three choirs performed magnificently, both together and individually. We were highly impressed not only by their singing and repertoire but also by the disciplined way in which they conducted themselves, particularly when getting on and off the stage.

We feel very proud to have such a talented group of singers within the Southend Borough and look forward to attending another of their performances soon.

With all good wishes to everyone involved.'

Gareth & Jan Lewis


In choosing to perform Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem at this season of Remembrance, Hutton & Shenfield Choral Society set itself possibly its greatest ever challenges.

The obvious one, of balancing the books, in view of the enormous resources required, was overcome with the help of a bequest from a former member. By far the greatest challenge however was to bring off a performance of this masterpiece worthy of the composer’s musical inspiration and the harrowing poetry of Wilfred Owen.

We need not have worried. Under the assured guidance of conductor Tim Hooper, the performers held the audience spellbound as ever more imaginative music for the Requiem texts and ever more heart-rending setting of the poems were presented.

The splendid soloists stood comparison with the original creators of their roles. The immaculate diction and poignant interpretation of the men, tenor Mark Wilde and baritone Simon Preece, and the finely controlled power of soprano Carolyn Cook were exemplary.

The Aurelian Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra excelled themselves with their confident solos and shattering ensembles. The Southend Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs, directed by Roger Humphrey, sounded as accomplished as ever.

By no means least, credit must go to the Choral Society for tackling what must have seemed such daunting music in the early stages of rehearsal and seeing it through to such an impressive standard. The long silence at the end and the ensuing acclamation from the audience should have left them in no doubt as to the high quality of the performance.

Bruce Pennick, Brentwood Gazette

PROMS 2003

“The chorus took up the messages, and the music rose to a dissonant climax before subsiding to quiescence. It was a beautifully judged translation into the sound of the way love and memory persist after brutal loss.” Daily Telegraph – 28.7.03

“The fragmentation of the text (mesmerising ostinati impressively delivered by the Southend Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs) … contribute to an etherealised meditation on the tragedy, the more moving for its ritualised distancing.” Evening Standard – 28.7.03

“…the brass blazed triple forte and the Southend Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs and BBC Symphony Chorus exploded with Light and Love”.

“A pensive drifting atmosphere …. and in the Albert Hall’s domed splendour all elements of the well rehearsed Southend Choirs … sounded triumphantly at home. The Times – 29.7.03

'The fact that Adams was conducting it for the first time added weight to the occasion, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, augmented by the Southend Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs, responded with enthusiasm and finesse.” Financial Times – 29.7.03

“…a broken hearted farewell there; those are allotted to the choruses (Southend Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs and the BBC Symphony Chorus here)…..The single fierce climax, which arrives out of a nimbus of choral lines and then builds in an elemental Sibelius-like way, is a fine moment.” Guardian – 28.7.03


'The heavenly voices of the Southend Boys' Choir.' Daily Telegraph

'The singers made an impressive sight and sound.'

'The crisp Southend Boys' Choir made a healthy descant.'

'Especially poignant was the Southend Boys' Choir in the Gallery. A sorrowful purity informed their Chorister Chant.' Evening Standard

'Overwhelming fusion of physical impact and emotional power.' The Independent

'I have never in years heard such fantastically clear diction from any Choir.' The Guardian

'The brightest singing of the Southend Boys' Choir is among the best on any recording.' The Gramophone

'The Southend Girls' Choir is simply the best youth choir around for all sorts of music.'Ian Hughes, composer, director & arranger

'… a wonderful positive bright sound, musically shaped and always with clear words … 'Jasper Thorogood, Director of Music, Felsted School

'The Southend Girls' Choir has a perfect combination of subtlety, energy and character …'Jim Papoulis, composer, director & producer (New York) Sydney Opera House, Australia - 1998


'This concert, which includes a lot of the music from the two CDs made by the choir under the Angelis title, exemplified the growing strengths of the two choirs, which numbered nearly 100 when they joined together in song.

It showed the family togetherness, which is such a feature of the choirs work under their director, Roger Humphrey, and his assistant and accompanist Rosemary Pennington, and also showed some of the real strengths of individual members of the choirs with plenty of the feeling of fun shown in some of the readings and a marvellous performance of Flanders and Swann in a duet by two of the seniors among the boys. in the famous zoo number 'The Gnu'.

Courtesy of John Giles

Corporate Event, Wednesday 10th October 2007

Aprehensive but very excited, a group of boys set off straight after school, to sing for a corporate audience in London’s Hyde Park Hotel. The boys sang beautifully, bringing their magic with songs including The Lord Is My Shepherd, When a Knight Won His Spurs and Vivaldi’s Gloria to an audience all the way from Texas and came home full of the hearty applause and compliments of their attentive American audience.

Blue Peter Proms 2007, Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd July 2007

Note perfect, a crisp beautiful sound came from the happy voices of the Southend Choirs; these words came from a young colleague of mine who was bowled over by the Southend Choirs at the Blue Peter Proms this summer. Working with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Tecwyn Evans, and in line with the Shakespearean theme of this year’s proms, the children sang Shakespeare’s Song of Winter: When Icycles Hang By The Wall, this contrasted happily with music from the Sound of Music, as the children accompanied Connie Fisher on My Favourite Things. My favourite moment, though, has to be the childrens’ spirited rendition of Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory, which was truly moving. With the Blue Peter brand behind them, these concerts have doubled in size, originally being just one performance. My boys were just three and five years old when we first went to the Blue Peter Prom, we could not imagine that in a few short years they would be performing in them. A true privilege. It’s great to see so many children enjoying music of the calibre of this occasion, their guardians relaxed knowing that the event is designed for youngsters, and a bit of fidgeting will not even be noticed, it’s a childrens’ concert after all.

Music for a Summer’s Evening, Sunday 8th July 2007

The awe inspiring surroundings of the Priory Museum were the perfect backdrop for the ethereal sound of the Boys Choir as they treated us to their end of term concert. Their rendition of Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo was entrancing, and set the tone of the evening. An added bonus came in the form of instrumental solos, including piano, violin and the amazing pipes. This choir is just bursting with talent.

Carmina Burana, 28th October, 2007

Once again representing the town on an internationally recognised stage, on Saturday 28th October Southend Boys’ Choir reprised their role in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Their annual trip to the Royal Albert Hall to perform in this timeless piece was, again, a rich demonstration of clarity, spirit and professionalism. The reaction of the crowd said so much, it’s rare to see so much applause from so many people


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