St George’s Singers make special efforts to support and encourage composers to write music for choirs, providing the Choir with exciting new works to perform. All works commissioned by St George’s Singers are paid for by choir members, or from monies raised through our fund-raising activities. We are grateful to those people who contribute financially to expanding our repertoire and supporting young composers.
Sasha Johnson Manning: The Christmas Life / Psalm 91 / The Divine Image
Sasha, one of Britain’s most promising singers and composers of choral music, trained at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where she studied voice, ‘cello, piano and composition. Since then she has taken part in numerous broadcasts and recordings with the BBC Northern Singers, now the Britten Singers, both as a soloist and as an ensemble singer. As a composer Sasha held the position of composer in residence of the St Louis Chamber Chorus of Missouri for eight years, culminating in a Requiem for St Louis. Her settings of the Evening Canticles have been performed in the cathedrals of Winchester, Worcester, York, Norwich and Wells (where her Bowdon Mass was also premièred). She has composed for Emma Kirkby, James Bowman, Lynne Dawson, Ciaron McFadden and the London baroque, and in 2007 she composed the music for the Manchester Carols, a festive suite of new carols with words by poet laureate, Carol Anne Duffy.
We have commissioned a number of works from Sasha, a good friend of the Choir, including:
- The Christmas Life - In 2005, St George’s Singers commissioned a carol from Sasha to celebrate our Golden Jubilee. The Christmas Life is a joyful setting of a poem by Wendy Cope, celebrating the arrival of the Christmas tree as a herald of Jesus’ birth. This has become a firm favourite of St George’s, and we recorded it for the first time on our latest CD, with members of the Choir providing the recorder, tom-tom and triangle accompaniment.
- Psalm 91 - commissioned under the ‘Sound Investment’ scheme in 2002, this setting of the psalm was premiered in 2002 alongside a performance of Tallis's 40-part motet Spem in Alium, with eight separate Choirs encircling the audience at St George's Church, Stockport.
- The Divine Image - this was composed by Sasha for one of our choir members in 2008 as a birthday present from her husband, and was performed by the Choir.
Martin Bussey: The Jesse Tree
In 2007 we commissioned a new carol The Jesse Tree, from Martin Bussey and gave it its premiere at our annual Christmas carol concert that same year. Martin Bussey is a noted musician and educationist, combining the roles of composer, singer and conductor with his work for the Independent Schools Inspectorate. He is Director of Choirs at Chetham’s School of Music, conducting the Chamber Choir and Chorus and has been Musical Director of Chester Bach Singers for over 20 years. He sings regularly with the BBC Daily Service Singers, and is a vocal tutor at Manchester University.
David Jepson: Poor World, Proud World / O my dear heart
Manchester-based composer David Jepson has composed a number of works for St George’s Singers in recent years, including the carols Poor World, Proud World, and the lovely O my dear heart, which was dedicated to Neil Taylor and St George’s Singers, and which features on our latest CD. As a composer and arranger, David’s output ranges from orchestral to choral music, and he has had many performances on national radio of carols, anthems, secular songs and pop-choral arrangements.
Will Todd: Footprints
Will Todd's music encompasses a wide range of musical styles and genres - from jazz to contemporary liturgical music - but he is best known for his choral works, which range from large scale oratorios such as Saint Cuthbert and The Burning Road (about the Jarrow March) to smaller scale pieces such as Angel Song II and The Call of Wisdom, the latter featuring in the Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving Service.
His flagship work is the jazz mass setting Mass in Blue which has been performed more than 100 times around the world since its 2003 premiere, and which St George’s Singers performed in 2009, a performance attended by the composer himself.
We so enjoyed singing Will’s music that we commissioned him to write something just for St George’s Singers. That work, Footprints, will receive its world premiere at our concert on 15th December 2013 at the RNCM, alongside Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.
Matthew Hamilton: The Overhanging Day
Matthew Hamilton is increasingly busy as a conductor of choral ensembles throughout the UK, but began his conducting career with St George’s Singers as Assistant Conductor from 2006 to 2009. In addition to his conducting work, he is also an exciting young composer, and in 2009 we commissioned The Overhanging Day, a setting of words by Shelley, which was first performed at Gorton Monastery in June 2009.
Matthew read music at Oxford and Manchester, then won a full scholarship to study choral conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He has participated in masterclasses with some of Europe’s finest professional choirs, including Berlin Radio Choir and Netherlands Chamber Choir and in 2010 he was the winner the Bramstrup Conducting Award in Denmark. Since making his debut with the BBC Singers in repertoire by Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies for the the 2011 Proms, he has worked regularly with the Singers, directing them live on Radio 3, in concert at the Barbican, and in the recording studio. A frequent guest conductor for many of the UKs leading symphony choruses, Matthew has prepared choirs for performances at BBC Proms and Total Immersion festivals, and for venues including Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Barbican, and Birmingham Symphony Hall
FreshAir - Young Composers Competition, 2000
St George’s Singers' commitment to new music written by young composers was shown by their organisation of a national composing competition, Fresh Air, as their contribution to the celebrations of the 2000 Millennium. FreshAir was a competition for under-21s to compose a choral composition for the choir. We had a fantastic response and chose a number of excellent pieces to perform at a gala concert in the year 2000.