Working with the composer: Russell Hepplewhite

The Chamber Choir was delighted to welcome composer Russell Hepplewhite to its regular rehearsal this week, to work on Russell’s carol, Star of the East, ahead of its performance in Canterbury Cathedral next month. The Choir will sing it at the University Carol Service in front of an audience of over a thousand on December 11, and Russell came down from London especially to be a part of the rehearsal process.

It’s a real treat to be able to work with the person who has created the music – daunting, too, to have to perform it when they are present and scrutinising every nuance – but it affords insights direct from the mind that wielded the pen. Part of the thrill of contemporary music is the opportunity it offers to connect directly with the composer – never mind the fact that they know the piece inside-out and you’re hoping they approve of the manner in which you’ve realised it!

Russell’s carol is a beautifully-crafted piece that moves from broad strokes to a wonderfully intimate second verse, before opening the doors to a richly vibrant final verse; part of the rehearsal was spent exploring the full range of contrasts; Russell also shared the inspiration behind the work and its creation, and different ways in which it can be realised.

Huge thanks to Russell for coming down to work with the Choir; armed with Composer Approval, we’re looking forward to launching the piece into the soaring Nave of the Cathedral as part of the University’s annual Carol Service in two weeks’ time.

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