Praise for The Gluepot Connection in BBC Music Magazine

The Gluepot Connection has received 4 stars for both performance and recording in the June edition of BBC Music Magazine.

“Tenuous linkages to alcohol apart, there is some fine music making on this disc. A rapt performance of Peter Warlock’s ‘A Full Heart’ opens it, the discomforting harmonies and eerie suspensions evocatively registered by the 40 singers of the Londinium chamber choir. Impressive technical control is evident in the hazardous glissandos of Elisabeth Lutyens’s ‘Verses of Love’, and the choir's warmly expressive instincts are confirmed in a blithe, breezy account of Moeran’s ‘Songs of Springtime’, with supple, neatly pointed direction by conductor Andrew Griffiths... this is an enjoyable recital.”

Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine

"Near-perfect" singing on The Gluepot Connection; MWI "cannot fault anything"

A third glowing review of The Gluepot Connection, by John France, has appeared on MusicWeb International, where it was a Recording of the Month in April.

"I have had several enjoyable pints of beer at The George public house in Great Portland Street. There was always a wonderful atmosphere that seemed to exude history. I am not particularly sensitive to the supernatural, but I could not help being conscious of the ‘ghosts’ of virtually every 20th century composer that I admire. The nickname ‘The Gluepot’ was coined by Sir Henry Wood: he was always ‘frustrated’ by his orchestral players’ reluctance to drag themselves away from the bar and back to rehearsals at the Queen’s Hall. The name ‘stuck.’ The litany of composers frequenting the bar include Arnold Bax, Peter Warlock, Alan Bush, Jack Moeran, John Ireland, Alan Rawsthorne, William Walton, Constant Lambert, Humphrey Searle and Elisabeth Lutyens. And it was not just composers. Poets Louis MacNeice, Randall Swingler, Roy Campbell and Dylan Thomas (what pub did Dylan not frequent?) were habitués. Although I tended to think of musicians and poets when drinking in The George, it is fair to say that it was also popular with employees from the BBC’s Broadcasting House at Langham Place. If only the walls could talk: what fascinating crack and conversation they could recall.

Elisabeth Lutyens wrote in her autobiography A Goldfish Bowl that ‘I remember at one lunch someone remarking that if a bomb dropped on The George a large proportion of the musical and literary world would be destroyed.’ For Lutyens, this pub was the ‘focal point’ of her social and professional life for several years. It is a testament to a largely lost era.

This impressive CD is a perfect introduction to some of the most evocative choral music composed by 20th century British composers - all with connections to The Gluepot. There are some old favourites here, alongside some new discoveries (at least for me).

The programme opens with Peter Warlock’s lovely setting of Robert Nichols poem, ‘The Full Heart.’ This piece was surely written in response to his discovery of Delius’s music whilst he [Warlock] was still at Eton College.

A new work for me is Alan Rawsthorne’s Four Seasonal Songs composed in 1956. This is a premiere recording. The liner notes describe Rawsthorne’s choral writing here as a ‘bracing, tightly constructed style.’ Certainly, there is a vibrancy about these songs that derive from the mood of the four late sixteenth/early seventeenth century poets. Sebastian Forbes has remarked on ‘the cleaner, mostly diatonic harmony and crisper almost baroque rhythm.’ It is a work that deserves to be in the choral repertoire. Poems set include ‘Now the Earth, the Skies, the Air’ (Anon), ‘To the Spring’ (Sir John Davies), ‘Autumn’ (Joshua Sylvester) and ‘Now the lusty Spring is seen’ (John Fletcher).

I enjoyed the perfect fusion of words (James Kirkup) and music of John Ireland’s ‘The Hills’ written in 1952 as part of A Garland for the Queen. One of my favourite part-songs on this CD is John Ireland’s ‘Twilight Night’. This was composed in 1922, setting a text by Christina Rossetti. The music reflects a friendship sundered by distance and obligation but retaining an optimistic hope of meeting at some future date. A perfect conceit.

Equally effective, is Fred. Delius’s ravishing ‘On Craig Dhu’ with its extensive use of chromaticism making this music hang in the cool air, mirroring Arthur Symons’s thoughts as he sits high on this Welsh[?] Hill surveying the surrounding landscape.

And then there is ‘Verses of Love’ by Elisabeth Lutyens herself. This gorgeous setting of words by Ben Jonson is the perfect antidote to those who still rail against the music of ‘Twelve Tone Lizzie.’ This is a longish work that explores a wide-range of choral possibilities, including tone-clusters and glissandi. It was originally published in the Musical Times in 1970. Her ubiquitous serialism has been put to one side for something infinitely more universal.

The major work on this CD is E.J. Moeran’s 'Songs of Springtime'. This collection includes some delightful texts by William Shakespeare, John Fletcher, Thomas Nashe, Samuel Daniel, William Browne and Robert Herrick. These part-songs are influenced by Peter Warlock and reflect a charmingly English atmosphere. They are characterised by their appealing rhythmical diversity and piquant harmonies and never lapse into pastiche of their Elizabethan exemplars. ‘Songs of Springtime’ are not easy to sing: the Londinium chamber choir give a perfect account.

William Walton’s ‘Where does the uttered Music go?’ (John Masefield) written for the unveiling of a memorial stained-glass window in St Sepulchre’s Church, Holborn Viaduct dedicated to Sir Henry Wood is given a fine performance. This is an appropriate ‘tie in’ to The Gluepot!

The settings by Alan Bush are first hearings for me. ‘Like Rivers Flowing’ was composed in 1957 and was dedicated to the ‘people of Llangollen and all who sing there.’ Clearly this reflects the annual Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod which was inaugurated in 1943. It was originally ‘For the WMA [Workers Musical Association] Singers, Welsh Festival’ reflecting the composer’s socialist ideals. The text of this tender, idyllic piece was by the composer’s wife Nancy Bush.

Bush’s other part-song on this CD is the ‘powerful response’ to the German destruction of the village of ‘Lidice’ in what is now the Czech Republic, during June 1942. This is a deeply moving and often desperately intense setting, as the events suggest, of words by Nancy Bush. The premiere was given by the WMA Singers, conducted by the composer, on the site of the destroyed village. There is a picture of this event included in the liner notes.

Although the immediate inspiration of Arnold Bax’s massive ‘Mater ora filium’ was hearing William Byrd’s Five-Part Mass at Harriet Cohen’s house at Wyndham Place, he has not indulged in parody. This work for double choir is a splendid example of Bax’s individual contrapuntal style. This is an extremely difficult piece to ‘bring off’: it does not defeat the Londinium chamber choir. This version is superb. Bax’s setting is timeless: it needs no argument about musical allusions or influences.

The other Bax work is ‘I sing of a Maiden that is makeless’, being a mediation on the Virgin Mary. This lovely chromatic piece is largely through-composed. It is an ideal evocation of Our Lady’s perfection.

I cannot fault anything about this recording. The choice of music is inspirational. The singing by the Londinium chamber choir is near-perfect and the presentation of the CD is ideal. The liner notes give a good introduction to the repertoire and to ‘The Gluepot.’ The texts of the part-songs are included. Composer and works dates would have been helpful in the track listings.

I understand that The Gluepot, itself has now closed (as in shut for good, not just Time, Gentlemen, Please!). It appears to be ‘under development’ so one wonders what will appear in its place? It is probably the end of an era. I am privileged to have drunk there and shared good conversation with friends in that iconic watering hole."

John France, MusicWeb International

Read original review

The Gluepot Connection is MusicWeb International Recording of the Month

Following praise from Nick Barnard, The Gluepot Connection has received a second review on MusicWeb International, from Ian Lace, where it is a Recording of the Month for April 2018.

"Back in 1983 I interviewed conductor Vernon Handley about Arnold Bax. I asked which Bax work was his favourite and why. His reply was a little surprising. He remarked that as an orchestral conductor he was drawn to the Sixth Symphony because of its “apocalyptic vision and the fact that Bax was clearly very moved when he wrote it…”, but Handley also said that he was much drawn to 'Mater ora filium' and quoted Norman Demuth as having remarked that it had been written in the “white heat” of creativity. Recordings of 'Mater ora filium' have been reasonably frequent since the early 1980s and I find myself totally in agreement with Nick Barnard when he prefers the Ralph Allwood and the Rudolfus recording and that this [by Londinium] runs a close second in the field.

This SOMM CD has already been reviewed very enthusiastically and in great detail by Nick Barnard and I urge readers to read his in conjunction with mine. This whole collection is of a very high standard, the choice of pieces inspired, the singing articulate, voices disciplined and finely tuned to shape and line and sensitively coloured to the atmosphere and character of every song.

I don’t intend to offer my impressions of every piece here because I know I would be treading in Nick Barnard’s footsteps. But I will make one or two comments. As Nick has pointed out every song here is finely executed and enjoyable. I was surprised for instance that I enjoyed Elisabeth Lutyens’ ‘Verses of Love’ having previously been so often repelled by her avant-garde music; I liked the humming and the not-so-gentle irony. I was also impressed with the Alan Rawsthorne 'Four Seasonal Songs'. His salute to Spring is joyous and bracing with some interesting multi-part writing and he invests a wintry chill as his 'Autumn' anticipates the season ahead; his is an uncompromising physical vision not the usual warmish nostalgic Autumnal ruminations.

I was a little disappointed that there was only one song by Delius. It would have been nice to have had another – ‘The splendour falls on castle walls’, for instance, best recorded in my opinion by the Louis Halsey singers (now on Eloquence 480 2077). The opening item on this SOMM collection, by the way, is Peter Warlock’s impressive and imposing ‘The Full Heart’ with its lovely closing descant (Warlock was a great admirer of Delius, of course).

I could rhapsodise further, but enough, Nick Barnard has said it all. This collection is heartily recommended. No doubt it will figure in my Recordings of the Year choice."

Ian Lace, MusicWeb International

Read original review

Read Nick Barnard's review on MusicWeb International

Delius Society Journal: The Gluepot Connection is "a superb recording"

"As so often before, our friends at Somm Recordings have done us proud with a superb recording of music by composers who either frequented the [Gluepot] or had some musical or professional connection with its clientele."

"...the work I enjoyed most, John Ireland’s exquisite 'The Hills'... has the quiet pastoral atmosphere of his best piano music. The choir are at their best here in this sensitive and moving performance."

"The final work is Arnold Bax’s a cappella masterpiece 'Mater ora filium', dating from 1921, a setting of a medieval carol, which the choir carries off splendidly, as it is written for multiple parts and makes huge demands in terms of tonal complexity and vocal range."

"I have to admit that this CD was my introduction to the Londinium chamber choir (founded as recently as 2005), but I was extremely impressed and will be looking out for more of their work. They have evidently established a reputation for imaginative and eclectic programming, though specialising in lesser-known works of the twentieth century. They are led by musical director Andrew Griffiths, whose background is in opera as well as broadcasting. He produces an authentic and at times thrilling sound on this CD, and is to be congratulated in making a highly appropriate selection from the rich heritage of the English choral repertoire. The CD was recorded at All Hallows, Gospel Oak, a very suitable venue with a resonant acoustic which suits the choir’s performance admirably. Available from Somm recordings at £11.00, this would be a welcome addition to anyone’s record library and is highly recommended."

Richard Packer, Delius Society Journal

The full review is in the April 2018 issue of the Journal.

 

 

The Gluepot Connection praised on BBC Radio 3 Record Review and France Musique

Andrew McGregor included The Gluepot Connection among the new releases in Record Review on BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 24th March, playing Peter Warlock’s The Full Heart: "an amateur chamber choir, but a highly capable one... an impressive vocal and dynamic range. The Warlock is a fine start. Other highlights for me were EJ Moeran’s 'Songs of Springtime', Elisabeth Lutyens’ 'Verses of Love' and Walton’s 'Where does the uttered Music go?' – to which the obvious answer here is down the pub: The George in Fitzrovia, just around the corner from the BBC!

Listen on BBC iPlayer (at 0:28:40)

Earlier in the morning the recording was the subject of a feature on France Musique by the music journalist Thierry Hillériteau, who praised Londinium's singing and included E J Moeran's Love is a Sickness from Songs of Springtime.

 Listen on France Musique

 

MusicWeb International says The Gluepot Connection is "rather special"

"Over time I have got used to the very high quality of Somm's engineering, presentation, programming and performances.  But even by those high standards this is a very fine disc indeed - possibly one of their finest."

"I absolutely love the idea behind this disc - intriguingly titled "The Gluepot Connection" and the resulting programme is pure genius."

"Any concerns about the skill level of an amateur ensemble when approaching this very taxing music is quickly allayed. Particularly when the music is written with the parts relatively closely voiced - within the stave so to speak - Griffiths achieves a quite superb rich blend and balance across all the parts."

"… this new disc has a collective conviction and real sensitivity to the text(s) and an engagement with the varied styles of each composer that is massively compelling."

"Another factor is that Griffiths is very attuned to how the choir are alert to the detail of the text.  I like the way they engage with the words without any mannered over-pointing or the fussy musical phrasing that some choir conductors seem to mistake as being "musical".  Griffiths allows the musical lines to flow and quite literally breathe."

"The Rawsthorne premiere of the 'Four Seasonal Songs' makes a good partner with the Moeran cycle... [they] are lucidly but demandingly written... The gem of the set is the third 'Autumn' - chilly static writing beautifully illustrating Joshua Sylvester's 16th Century text.  Such is this music's instant appeal I am rather at a loss to explain how it has had to wait this long for a recording. Moeran's cycle turns up on a lot [of] this type of choral anthology. I enjoyed Griffiths' performance here as much as any. Again the great virtue of the choir's tonal blend and attention to the musical phrase plays great dividends in this subtly skilled work."

"The two Bush premieres are likewise real discoveries... Bush's 'Lidice' is an intensely powerful musical response written in 1947 to the destruction of that Czech village... Again, quite how this work can have taken some 70 years to receive a commercial recording is a mystery."

"The Lutyens work 'Verses of Love'... is another absolute gem. The most recent work on the disc dating from 1970, this piece by "Twelve-tone Lizzie" explores the possibilities of choral writing more explicitly than some of the other works here. The chords clash with a deliciously ringing brilliance and Lutyens uses glissandi and harmonic clusters to capture, as Griffiths puts it so well: "the hushed rapture of Ben Johnson's text". Aside from Bax's 'Mater Ora Filium', this is the longest individual work recorded here, another real find. It is challenging for any choir but performed here with exactly that sense of rapt intensity that is very hard to sustain but utterly compelling to listen to."

"Walton's 'Where does the uttered music go' gets a very fine performance. So does the big Bax tribute to the Byrd Mass in Five Parts: 'Mater Ora Filium' which closes the disc. This has been frequently recorded and it is one of Bax's masterpieces... This current performance by Londinium caps off this excellent disc very effectively too, not wholly displacing Allwood's version but certainly running it close."

"Backing up the artistic excellence of this disc is Somm's reliably fine presentation... The extended liner essay by Andrew Griffiths is insightful, affectionate and informative... production and engineering from Adrian Peacock and David Hinitt respectively is very fine... I am a fan of Somm - they produce consistently impressive discs - but even by those standards this is rather special."

Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International

Read full review

The Daily Telegraph gives The Gluepot Connection a 4 star review

"Now Andrew Griffiths, the choral conductor, has had the bright idea of bringing together some of the little-known choral works of these "Gluepot" composers. And what an interesting and varied bunch they are..."

"It's a brave undertaking for Griffiths and his Londinium chamber choir. They relish the dreamy harmonies of Lutyens's 'Verses of Love'; they produce a thrillingly intense tone on Alan Rawsthorne's 'Four Seasonal Songs'; and they're not intimidated by the cruelly high notes in Bax's 'Mater ora filium'."

"It's a dream of Old England, which in the best of the pieces, such as Warlock's 'The Full Heart' attains a beauty and intensity that goes far beyond nostalgia."

Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph

Read full review

"Beautifully balanced singing" - first review for The Gluepot Connection

Our debut album, The Gluepot Connection, was released on 2nd March with a launch concert at St Sepulchre's on Saturday 10th - and we've had an excellent first review!

Beautifully balanced singing from [Londinium] keeps texture clear and clean. Warlock's 'The Full Heart' is a stand out, on its own worth the price of the CD."

"In Lutyens' 'Verses of Love' (1970) to a text by Ben Jonson, long lines elide, sounds shimmering."

"This disc also includes the premiere recordings of Alan Bush's 'Like Rivers Flowing' (1957) with sinuous lines, and 'Lidice' (1947) commemorating the massacre in Lidice by the Nazis. The mood is hushed, the lines swirling: a secular Requiem."

"Another Gluepot regular was Arnold Bax. His 'I sing of a maiden' (1923)  has charm, but is eclipsed by his 'Mater ora filium' (1921) a substantial (11 minute) masterpiece based on William Byrd's five-part Mass, beefed up for as many as 16 parts, embellished by what Griffiths calls "prodigious extremes of range" (cloaked in) "luscious, late Romantic harmony in myriad different textures". The voices of [Londinium] rise to the task, their voices glowing "Amen, Amen". It's as if a stained glass window were bursting into song!'

Anne Ozorio, Classical Iconoclast

Read full review

Launch of fundraising for our debut CD!

In the first half of the twentieth century an eclectic and fascinating group of composers gathered at the George pub in Great Portland Street, nick-named ‘the Gluepot’ by Sir Henry Wood because his orchestral players tended to become stuck there! Our first recording, to be issued on the SOMM label, will feature a selection of their choral music, including well-known works by William Walton, Arnold Bax, Frederick Delius, John Ireland, Peter Warlock and EJ Moeran, as well as lesser-known gems by Alan Rawsthorne, Elisabeth Lutyens and Alan Bush, some of which have never before been recorded.

We launched our crowdfunding campaign on 10th February at our ‘Kensington to Bloomsbury’ concert, where the audience heard some of the music which will appear on the disc.

Postscript: we are delighted that we exceeded our crowdfunding target, and the recording took place in July 2017 at All Hallows, Gospel Oak, produced by Adrian Peacock with David Hinitt as the recording engineer. The CD will be issued in March 2018.

Tour to Alsace - 'performance vocale spectaculaire'

 photo © DNA France

photo © DNA France

in August 2016 Londinium embarked on its first-ever overseas tour, to the beautiful town of Colmar, in Alsace. Despite arriving in a heatwave we had a wonderful time exploring and sampling the local vintages, as well as giving two concerts, at S Matthieu, Colmar and the Abbaye de Marbach with its spectacular views over to the Black Forest. It was a delight to sing our programme of British a cappella music, 'Perspectives Anglaises', to such appreciative and capacity audiences; our concert at the Abbaye was reviewed on DNA France, where it was described as: 'La fraîcheur d’une performance vocale spectaculaire libérant des tessitures semblant sans limites. (The freshness of a spectacular vocal performance with seemingly limitless vocal textures.)'

Photographs from the tour are in our Facebook album.

Concert raises over £1,000 for Central London Samaritans

Londinium was delighted to be invited by St Paul's Beckenham to give a charity fund-raising concert on Saturday, 9th July.  Our 'Sunshine after Rain' programme raised over £1,000 for Central London Samaritans, a charity with which Londinium has a strong connection.

Founded in 1953 by Reverend Chad Varah, today Central London Samaritans is the only support service in London open round the clock, every day of the year. Every year they receive over 100,000 calls for help. People call them to be heard, to work through their problems and find positive outcomes that work for them. Volunteers also reach out and work with schools, colleges and universities, workplaces, health and welfare services, homeless people, prisons and other charities.

'Voices of the North' praised by the UK Sibelius Society

'Nielsen’s 'Tre Motetter'... made a much better impression at this concert than they did at the recent Prom where the polyphonic harmonies were largely lost in the Albert Hall acoustic... Londinium, conducted with great style by Andrew Griffiths, has the twin merits of balance and clarity in its projection of each work... very much at home with the texts. 'Rakastava' was beautifully projected for instance. The overall sound, affected to a degree by the reverberant church acoustic until the ear adjusted was, nevertheless, clear and confident. As claimed it is indeed a versatile chamber choir.' Edward Clark, President of the UK Sibelius Society, reviewed our 23rd October concert, 'Voices of the North: Sibelius, Nielsen and their contemporaries' for 'Musical Opinion' magazine and the Society's newsletter.  Read full review.