Reviews and Reports

Come and Sing Handel’s Messiah – Holy Trinity Church, Malvern, Saturday 25 June 2022

To mark the end of what had been a very challenging season, with regular concerts hard to organise and audiences still a little wary of coming out, Malvern Festival Chorus held a Come & Sing version of Handel’s Messiah at Holy Trinity Church, Link Top. The choir was joined by members of Leominster Choral Society and other local singers.

One of the many things which made the day special was the presence of a chamber orchestra and four young soloists from Birmingham Conservatoire. Everyone had the benefit of an afternoon rehearsal with MFC conductor Jonathan Brown to iron out tricky corners.

After an excellent tea, they were joined by a small audience for the performance.

One of our members, Deirdre Brook, who came for the concert wrote:

“Having suffered COVID and its after-effects I was unable to sing but was so glad I came. There was a kind of magic in the way things came together so well. The choir was lifted by the orchestra and we could see that the soloists were encouraging each other. We in the audience were clearly appreciative too, and responded with enthusiasm, which had an effect on everyone. At the centre of things throughout was Jonathan who spoke movingly at the end about the power of live music to move us and bring us together, especially after such a difficult time. We all felt it. The real winner was Handel’s great work, which never fails.”

Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man A Mass for Peace – Saturday 7 May 2022

Timely performance of The Armed Man

THE performance by Malvern Festival Chorus of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace was poignant for two reasons. Firstly, it was the choir’s first public performance since lockdown caused the last-minute cancellation of their centenary performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in Worcester Cathedral in March 2020. Secondly, no one could have anticipated, when the music was chosen, how painfully relevant it would be.

The work was commissioned for the beginning of the new millennium, and dedicated to the victims of the conflict in Kosovo. This performance was dedicated to the victims of the war in Ukraine, with a collection which raised over £500 for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

The performance was preceded by a workshop, for which MFC was joined by singers from other choirs. Under the skilful direction of their conductor and musical director Jonathan Brown, the singers took the audience on an emotional journey from armed preparation and prayer before action to the inexorable outcome of the charge, followed by a spine-chilling wail of grief and horror. Evocations of the horrors of Hiroshima and an ancient Hindu conflict, and the grief of bereaved survivors, were followed by the consolations of the Agnus Dei and Benedictus, the latter with an exquisite cello solo.
The mezzo-soprano soloist Katie Leaver sang with great clarity, beauty and commitment. The excellent flautist was also nimble on the piccolo, and
the percussion and brass of the Regency Sinfonia were magnificent.

The irony of the piece lies in the false optimism of the final chorus, “Better is peace than evermore war, ring out the old, ring in the new, ring out the false, ring in the true, ring in the thousand years of peace”, sadly belied by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The only enduring consolation offered is in the words of the beautiful final chorale, “God shall wipe away all tears and there shall be no more death.”

Heather Williamson – Malvern Gazette, 20 May 2022

Verdi Requiem, Southwark Cathedral – 09 November 2019


Could I ask you to convey my thanks to the 24 MFC singers who joined my choir for the Southwark Cathedral Verdi Requiem concert.
It was a fabulous occasion. I was personally delighted with the choir, soloists and orchestra and atmosphere. Many people commented that it was both exciting and moving.

Alison Hunka, Musical Director 1885 Singers

NSSO 25th Anniversary Concert – Birmingham Symphony Hall

Malvern Festival Chorus was delighted to be invited to join the National Schools’ Symphony Orchestra in Verdi’s Requiem as they celebrated their 25th anniversary.

Click here to experience the concert

Handel’s Messiah at Malvern Priory was a resounding success

What a delight it was to hear young voices singing the solos in Handel’s Messiah, composed over 250 years before they were born, and performing with Malvern Festival Chorus in the beautiful Great Malvern Priory, built 600 years before Handel was born. The young soloists had successfully auditioned earlier in the year through the choir’s Young Voices project, a new initiative to encourage young people to participate in the great choral tradition. The talent and composure of Molly Stokes, Emily Evans, Amy Heptinstall, Holly Gowen, Beth Rabjohn and Michael Burgess certainly belied their youth.

Performing to a packed Priory, Malvern Festival Chorus was accompanied by the accomplished organist, Julian McNamara, who had last played in that lovely venue some 20 years previously, and trumpeter Richard Powell.

Conductor Jonathan Brown, Director of Music at Malvern College, said “Clearly having the young voices being part of the concert was an excellent project coming to its culmination and very impressive they were too; they really added to the occasion.” He also praised Malvern Festival Chorus for their absolutely first-class vocal and emotional commitment in the performance.

With the concert taking place the evening before Palm Sunday, Parts 2 and 3 of Handel’s sublime work set the perfect tone for Holy Week and the buzz at the end suggested that both audience and performers were departing uplifted.

Malvern Festival Chorus is now looking forward to singing under Jonathan Brown’s baton once again in Brahms’s masterpiece A German Requiem, to be performed in Malvern Theatres on Saturday, 23 June 2018. Any choral singers who would like to join them for this concert will receive a warm welcome at the choir’s rehearsals on Tuesday evenings at 7.45 pm in Chase School Hall. Full details are on their website,

Malvern Gazette, 27 April 2018

 Handel’s Messiah
Spectacular building in which to watch a performance. The seats aren’t the most comfortable though, but didn’t detract from a great experience.

Ask AxbridgeClaret about Great Malvern Priory

Grand concert ends a season

Malvern Festival Chorus recently brought their 2016/17 Season of Feasts to a grand finale with their concert at Malvern Theatres.

And they were joined in song by members of the London-based 1885 Singers and their conductor, Alison Hunka.

A spokesman said: “A near-capacity and highly appreciative audience heard a rousing performance of Walton’s intensely vivid Belshazzar’s Feast conducted by MFC’s Director of Music, Richard Knight, accompanied by a 49-piece orchestra of the Regency Sinfonia, with professional baritone soloist Stewart Kempster. The work moves from the darkness of the lamenting Israelite slaves, through the great feast of the Babylonians, to the light of the freed slaves’ exuberance as they praise God for their freedom.”

The spokesman added: “The first half of the concert featured Richard Knight’s own compositions, ‘Immortality’ for choir and ‘Ebb’ for 3 soloists and chamber orchestra; fine examples of descriptive words expressed by atmospheric music. The idea of ‘immortality’ led into the ‘ebb and flow’ of a dying woman’s thoughts. The libretti by Robert G Ingersoll and Norman Welch were movingly expressed by the haunting music, with performances by Alexandra Tiffin, Kevin Ilsley and Stewart Kempster fusing together the lament of the young woman, the words of wisdom from her father, and the Latin mass sung by her uncle, a priest.

“Two more familiar pieces, conducted by Alison Hunka, completed the programme: Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves which set the scene for the concert and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance no 5, which opened the second half.”

The concert was supported by the Elmley Foundation.

Gary Bills-Geddes – Malvern Gazette, 30 June 2017

Come and Sing a Feast of Music – Saturday 11 February 2017

If Music be the Food of Love….

More than 180 singers came together in Great Malvern Priory on Saturday 11 February for a Feast of choral singing.

Hosted by Malvern Festival Chorus, the programme featured Hallelujah choruses by both Handel and Beethoven as well as much-loved choruses by Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, Faure and Rossini. A fun addition to the programme was a round, “Square Meals”, composed for the event.

It was this appetising programme that attracted around 85 guest singers, from across the county and beyond, to the Come & Sing workshop. Morning and afternoon rehearsals were followed by tea with home-made cakes and a short evening concert. The audience were treated to the fruits of the practising and conductor, Richard Knight, said afterwards:

‘The MFC Come and Sing Day was great fun: lots of rousing singing of choral classics, fuelled by lots of tea and cake; what better way to deal with a cold February day? It was a brilliant example of what participating in music-making can do for a sense of community’

Members of Malvern Festival Chorus enjoyed the day so much that they are requesting another similar event in the near future. Judging from feedback from visiting singers, they could expect another enthusiastic response from non-members too. Here is an example of the comments they made:

‘I would like to record my thanks to you all at Malvern Festival Chorus for a very happy and stimulating day at Come and Sing. Thank you to your conductor Richard for his energy and encouragement, and to all whose enthusiasm and hard work made the day such a success.’ – Christine Wells