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Chapel Royal, Hampton Court

I frequently recommend a visit to hear the choir in Hampton Court's Chapel Royal. It's breathtakingly historical - where it all happened, from Henry VIII onwards. During a winter evensong, the place can seem quite severe, with a very pure and clear acoustic. The services (with boy trebles and an excellent professional 'back row') are as near to the 16th/17th century as you will experience anywhere.

I'm glad to say though, that besides all this, the Chapel's Choral Foundation are putting great deal of thought into what chapel music will be like in the future. I was very impressed to visit their Songstars Finale Concert this week. It's a programme for primary schoolchildren, led by a wonderful animateur, Laurel Neighbour. The Chapel was full of enthusiastic students from four Hounslow schools; a good choice of local borough, since it brought in a crowd of young people who I am guessing may have never entered such a place before.

The programme (sung both by the Songstars and the Chapel Choir) moved seamlessly from ex-Chapel Royal musicians Byrd and Purcell to music from Guyana and Congo, via many other composers including myself, Jonathan Dove and ELO (Mr Blue Sky, what a great idea under the Chapel's fabulous blue starry ceiling.). Zadok the Priest, sung by everyone, was a big hit which I'm sure many of the performers will never forget. As in several primary school encounters recently, I was struck by the ability of these very young people to listen with complete absorption to a really wide range of music, quite a bit of it 'classical', for over an hour. But it doesn't happen automatically - so as ever, thank you, teachers.





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