Words by Damien Russell
2017 marks the 20th year of Notorious, Birmingham’s own alternative non-audition choir. Notorious have been celebrating with an impressive tour that reaches its peak at the Town Hall on Saturday 25th November.
Tickets are priced at £18.00 (premium) or £12.00 (standard) with the standard booking fees. For direct event info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.
Notorious. A great name for a group that prides itself on doing things differently to the ‘norm’. They’re a group known for adventurous live performances including a ‘water-themed concert in a cave with the audience on barges’, a Halloween-themed concert in a coffin factory, and joining the Bishop of Birmingham at Lifford Lane tip ‘to promote not being wasteful at Christmas’. Notorious are also known for their unusual choral song choices, such as ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead and ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion to name but two. Notorious also actively support new work and new composers and have even performed four works commissioned specifically for them – including ‘Mistletoe’ by Ēriks Ešenvalds.
Yet in a perhaps surprising move, the culmination of this year’s excitement is to be their most traditional-styled show to date. Town Hall is a natural choice for choral music with its marvelous acoustics and the pieces Notorious will perform are both Catholic in origin with one, ‘The Magnificat’ by John Rutter, being a musical setting of a biblical canticle and the other, ‘Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem’, the shortened Catholic Mass for the Dead in Latin.
Despite their cheery-sounding nature both pieces are recognised as being uplifting, with ‘The Magnificat’ described as ‘an outpouring of joy’ and, as Fauré himself said of Requiem, “it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above” so the (still early) lead-in to the holiday spirit seems sure not to be dampened here.
For those who have seen Notorious before and are now thinking ‘I know those pieces, I know the artists, I know what to expect’, there is one more twist for the event. The typically 35-strong choir will be bursting at the seams with its biggest ensemble of 75 members. I’m not sure where they’ll all fit on the Town Hall stage but where there’s Notorious, there’s a way. Something this creative choir have proven time and time again.
Founded by Clare Edwards back in 1997, the Birmingham-based choir set out to make ‘high-quality choral music that is accessible and can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of background or previous experience’. Under Edwards’ musical direction, Notorious has grown from a tentative group of 15 singers to a 35-strong choir, performing more than 120 concerts in 65 different venues.
So, whether it’s because you love choral music and want to see it in a traditional setting, you love Notorious and want to celebrate their 20th year in style, or you just want to find out what it might all be about, all are welcome to help this unique Birmingham choir blow out their 20 candles.
Do you think we should all sing them ‘Happy Birthday’ at the end? “And many more….”
‘Mistletoe’ – Notorious (performed at St John’s and St Peter’s Church 10.12.16)
‘Mistletoe’ was composed by Ēriks Ešenvalds with text from poem by Walter de la Mare – commissioned by Notorious to mark the choir’s 20th anniversary. Conducted by Clare Edwards.
Notorious end their 20th year celebrations with a special performance at Birmingham’s Town Hall on Saturday 25th November. For direct event info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.
For more on Notorious, visit www.notoriouschoir.org
For more from both the Town Hall and Symphony Hall, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.thsh.co.uk