Monday, November 23, 2009

Incantato Concert Venue: Farm Street Church of the Immaculate Conception

The Cornelia Connelly Ensembles will commence their England and Ireland 2010 Performance Tour with a performance at the Farm Street Church of the Immaculate Conception as the featured guest choir for High Mass on Sunday, June 27. The celebration is followed by a concert.

This is a historic church that is an active center of Catholicism in the heart of London. For over a hundred and fifty year, Farm Street Church has held its reputation for spiritual and intellectual vigor, and many have regularly travelled quite a distance to worship and to seek the advice of the succeeding generations of priests who have served here.

There has been a strong musical tradition at Farm Street Church for well over a hundred years. Then the choir consisted of men, and boys drawn from local Roman Catholic schools. The period after the First World War saw the music reach a pinnacle of achievement, when the choir was under the direction of Fr John Driscoll SJ, later succeeded by Fernand Laloux. At this time the organist was Guy Weitz, a Belgian, who had been a pupil of Widor and Guilmant. Weitz was one of the finest organists, and organ composers, of his generation, and Farm Street Church has long been associated with excellence in organ playing. Weitz's most famous student, Nicholas Danby (1935 - 1997) suceeded him as organist in 1967. Danby's main achievement at Farm Street was re-establishing the choir in the early 1970s, follwing a period of change in the late 1960s, as a fully professional ensemble.

From the early 1920s until the 1960s the repertoire consisted of sixteenth century polyphony, as well as a wide variety of modern and contemporary music, much of this collected by Fr Driscoll. He was particularly skilful in setting religious texts to already existing music. Some of this unique repertoire is still heard at the liturgies in Farm Street.

Today, in the twenty-first century, the repertoire is still very varied and ranges from sixteenth-century Polyphony, the Viennese Classical composers, nineteenth century Romanics as well as a wide variety of twentieth century and contemporary music. Gregorian Chant also plays and important role in the worship.

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