Rundfunkchor Berlin with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Sir Simon Rattle (Erato/Warner)
Grammy Award 'Best Choral Performance', 2008
Rundfunkchor Berlin with Berliner Philharmoniker, cond. Sir Simon Rattle (Erato/Warner)
Grammy Award 'Best Choral Performance', 2007
Simon Halsey conducts European premiere of Lang's the public domain at Berlin Philharmonie
Simon Halsey conducts the sold-out European premiere of David Lang the public domain at the Berliner Philharmonie on 19 May 2018. Halsey conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker Vocal Heroes and 1,000 singers from all social and cultural areas of the German capital in the work that includes not only singing, but also yelling, speaking, whispering, clapping and movement.
Halsey conducted the world premiere of the work in August 2016 at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival to critical acclaim:
“True to its title, the public domain was an inspiring outdoor musical event; it also proved an intricate, rich musical composition… There were shout-outs for Simon Halsey, the conductor of the performance, who walked around the rim of the fountain giving cues until the final sections, which he directed from the balcony of Geffen Hall”
New York Times
the public domain is co-commissioned by Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, Rotterdam De Doelen, Internationale Koorbiënnale Haarlem, Berlin Philharmonic, and London Symphony Orchestra.
Simon Halsey & the Berlin Rundfunkchor perform Parsifal with the Berlin Philharmonic & Sir Simon Rattle
Simon Halsey returns to the Berlin Rundfunkchor this month to perform Wagner Parsifal with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic in two performances on 6 and 8 April 2018 at the Berliner Philharmonie. They are joined by soloists Stuart Skelton and Nina Stemme for Parsifal, which Wagner called “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”. Halsey returns to the Berlin Philharmonie on 19 May when he conducts the European premiere of David Lang the public domain.
Halsey is Conductor Laureate of the Berlin Rundfunkchor, where he was previously Chief Conductor for over 15 years, and next conducts them in Mitsing concerts at the Berlin Philharmonie on 6 May and Paris Philharmonie on 3 June.
Simon Halsey's CBSO Chorus celebrate Debussy centenary with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla
Simon Halsey prepares his CBSO Youth Chorus and the University of Birmingham Singers this month for the CBSO's Debussy Festival, celebrating Debussy's cetenary. The choruses join the orchestra on 17 March to perform Debussy La damoiselle élue, Nocturnes and Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orléans under the baton of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla at Symhpony Hall, Birmingham.
The CBSO Chorus also perform on 24 March, singing Messiaen O Sacrum Convivium and Debussy Le Martyre de saint Sébastien.
Elsewhere this month, Halsey leads another Choral Singing Day at LSO St Luke's on 10 March. This time, the day examines Tippett A Child of Our Time.
Simon Halsey conducts Carmina Burana at Palau de la Música Catalana
Simon Halsey conducts the massed choruses of the Palau de la Musica in a performance of Orff Carmina Burana on 11 February 2018. The Orféo Català, Cor Jove de l'Orfeó Català, Cor de Noies del Orfeó Català and Cor Mitjans de l’Orfeó Català all perform at the afternoon performance at the Palau de la Musica, where Halsey is Artistic Adviser.
In October Halsey conducted the choruses in the European premiere of Considering Matthew Shepard to critical acclaim:
“There were moments of great dramatic intensity.. It was a vibrant song against intolerance and a call to understanding at times when it is so badly needed.”
El Periodico, October 2017
Intermusica at the Barbican Centre's 2018/19 classical season
The Barbican Centre revealed its classical music season for 2018/19 on 23 January 2018, and as ever there are many Intermusica artists performing over the season. Highlights include Daniil Trifonov's London Symphony Orchestra Artist Portrait, the visit of Sir Antonio Pappano and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to perform Mahler Symphony No.6 and Sir John Eliot Gardiner's return to the LSO. See below for full details.
Daniil Trifonov is the subject of the LSO's Artist Portrait next season. The Portrait begins in February 2019 when he performs Ravel Piano Concerto with the orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, and continues in June with a performance of Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 and a solo recital of works by Beethoven and Prokofiev. It culminates on 16 June with a performance of Shostakovich Concerto No.1 for piano, trumpet and strings.
On 29 September 2018, Ben Gernon conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Holst The Planets, presented by scientist and broadcaster Professor Brian Cox.
Sir James MacMillan's All the Hills and Vales Along receives its world premiere from the London Symphony Orchestra and Simon Halsey's London Symphony Chorus on 4 November and forms part of the Barbican Centre's series of events commemorating the First World War. Earlier that day, the piece is the focus of an LSO Discovery Day, during which members of the public can attend a morning LSO rehearsal of the MacMillan premiere followed by chamber music and a discussion about creative responses to World War I.
Martyn Brabbins is also involved in the First World War anniversary, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hood's Last Man Standing, part of a programme that also includes Bax November Woods and Vaughan Williams Symphony No.4.
Marin Alsop returns to the Barbican on 4 December to continue the Bernstein at 100 celebrations with a concert performance of the composer's Candide. Leonardo Capalbo stars in the title role.
Leonidas Kavakos makes two appearances at the Barbican during the 2018/19 season. In September he joins Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax in bringing their critically acclaimed Brahms Piano Trios to the Barbican Hall. In December, he renews his relationship with Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO when he performs Brahms Violin Concerto.
James Ehnes returns to the Barbican on 18 January 2019, performing Beethoven Violin Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Mary Bevan joins John Butt and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to perform Bach's B minor Mass on 2 February, singing with her sister Sophie Bevan, tenor Samuel Boden and bass-baritone Edward Grint.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner continues his fruitful collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra in February, conducting two concerts of works by Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann. Gardiner is joined by soloists Isabelle Faust, Kristian Bezuidenhout and Piotr Anderszewski.
Lahav Shani joins the LSO in February, alongside pianist Simon Trpčeski, for a concert of Weill, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky.
Nora Fischer joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Joana Carneiro in concert on 11 May, performing as soprano soloist in the UK premiere of Golijov Oceana.
Intermusica brings the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to the Barbican on 25 May for a concert with their Music Director, Sir Antonio Pappano.
Kian Soltani performs at LSO St Luke's in June, as part of the ECHO Rising Stars tour, for which he was nominated by the Wiener Konzerthaus and Wiener Musikverein.
Simon Halsey & the London Symphony Chorus perform Mahler Symphony No.2 with Semyon Bychkov & the London Symphony Orchestra
Simon Halsey and the London Symphony Chorus return to the Barbican stage on 4 February 2018 to perform Mahler Symphony No.2 under the baton of Semyon Bychkov. The 'Resurrection Symphony' is written on a colossal scale and the full strength orchestra and chorus are joined for the performance by soloists Christiane Karg and Anna Larsson.
Mahler himself wrote of the piece, and in particular the last choral movement: “The increasing tension, working up to the final climax, is so tremendous that I don’t know myself, now that it is over, how I ever came to write it”.
Halsey next returns to the London Symphony Chorus in March to lea a Singing Day on Tippett A Child of Our Time at LSO St. Luke's.
Simon Halsey's London Symphony Chorus celebrate Debussy with François-Xavier Roth
Simon Halsey prepares the London Symphony Chorus who join the London Symphony Orchestra and François-Xavier Roth to celebrate the centenary of Claude Debussy at the Barbican, London, on 25 January 2018.
The ladies of London Symphony Chorus perform in Debussy Three Nocturnes, closing the masterworks programme which explores four of the composer's most iconic works including Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, Jeux and Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra.
The London Symphony Chorus’ next performance is of Mahler Symphony No.2 with Semyon Bychkov in February.
Simon Halsey conducts Christmas concerts in London, Birmingham & Barcelona
Across December Simon Halsey conducts choral Christmas concerts with London Symphony Chorus, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus and his Orfeó Català choirs. Halsey conducts the London Symphony's annual Choral Christmas at the Barbican Centre in London on 3 December. Halsey and the LSC also join London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle for performances of Bernstein Wonderful Town on 16 and 21 December.
On 19, 20 and 21 December Halsey conducts the massed choirs of the CBSO Chorus at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, featuring the full City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and performers from across the whole city.
Halsey then travels to Barcelona to conduct the Orfeó Català Choirs in their annual Sant Esteve concert at Palau de la Musica on 26 December. The concert will be televised across Spain and this year features a tribute to Lluís Millet, one of the founders of Orfeó Català, who was born 150 years ago.
Marin Alsop leads London Symphony Orchestra’s Bernstein celebration with Simon Halsey’s London Symphony Chorus
Marin Alsop joins forces with the London Symphony Orchestra and Simon Halsey and his London Symphony Chorus to mark the centenary of Leonard Bernstein, with concerts on 4, 5 and 8 November 2017. Alsop conducts these three celebration concerts at the Barbican, starting off worldwide celebrations of the composer and conductor, who had close relationships with both Alsop and the LSO. Bernstein was President of the orchestra between 1987 and 1990 and was a close mentor and friend to Alsop:
"Leonard Bernstein was a thinker, teacher, author, television star, provocateur, humanitarian – and he was my hero”.
Alsop launches the Bernstein 100 celebrations on 4 November with a family concert, paying homage to Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts televised on CBS, and to the lighter side of his repertoire. The programme includes the Overture from Candide, Three Dance Episodes from On the Town and West Side Story Symphonic Dances, as well as an exploration of klezmer and children’s themes in Mahler Symphony No.1.
Mahler was central to Bernstein’s life as composer and conductor and Alsop conducts his first symphony on 8 November, along with Bernstein’s own first symphony; and on 5 November, Alsop combines Mahler with Bernstein again with the Adagio from Mahler Symphony No.10 and Bernstein Symphony No.3 ‘Kaddish’, featuring Tiffin Boys’ Choir and the London Symphony Chorus, directed by Simon Halsey, and with the Kaddish narrated by world-renowned actor Claire Bloom CBE. Halsey's involvement with the Bernstein 100 celebrations continues in December, when his London Symphony Chorus joins Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO to perform Wonderful Town.
Alsop recently released recordings of all three Bernstein symphonies on Naxos, to be joined in a box set for the centenary including her GRAMMY award winning recording of Bernstein Mass. She takes a central role in Bernstein celebrations throughout 2018 with fully stage performances of the Mass with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at Southbank Centre, where she is Artist in Residence, and with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival, where she is Musical Curator for 2018 and 2019.
Click here to read a full feature about Bernstein written by Marin Alsop for the LSO’s celebrations.
Simon Halsey conducts European premiere of Craig Hella Johnson's Considering Matthew Shepard in Barcelona
Simon Halsey opens the Palau de la Musica’s 2017/18 season on 21 October conducting his Orfeo Catala choirs in the European premiere of Craig Hella Johnson’s Considering Matthew Shepard. This marks the start of Halsey’s second season as Artistic Director of the Orfeó Català Choirs and Artistic Adviser at the Palau de la Música.
Grammy-nominated Johnson’s first concert-length work is inspired by the tragic story of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a hate crime. Halsey conducts his Orfeo Catala choir and youth choirs, and an instrumental ensemble in the production, joined by visual artist David Espinosa.
Simon Halsey's London Symphony Chorus perform Berlioz La damnation de Faust with Sir Simon Rattle
Simon Halsey joins his longstanding musical collaborator Sir Simon Rattle on 17 and 19 September 2017, when his London Symphony Chorus performs Berlioz La damnation de Faust alongside Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre. The concerts form part of the LSO's This is Rattle series marking Rattle's inaugural year as musical director of the orchestra.
Berlioz La damnation de Faust is a hybrid of opera, oratorio and, in the composer’s own words, "dramatic legend", which follows Goethe's legendary Faust through his tragic tale. Soloists Bryan Hymel (Faust), Karen Cargill, Gerald Finley and Gabor Bretz join the orchestra for the performances.
Halsey's most recent collaboration with Rattle came at the BBC Proms in August, when his London Symphony Chorus, CBSO Chorus and Orfeó Català Choir joined Rattle and the LSO at the Royal Albert Hall for an acclaimed performance of Schoenberg Gurrelieder:
"The chorus provided a tour de force of fine diction and sustained energy."
"The London Symphony Chorus, CBSO Chorus and Barcelona’s Orfeó Català, all under the direction of Simon Halsey, capped the performance splendidly. The male singers were rollickingly incisive as Waldemar’s Men and everyone blazed brilliantly in the final hymn to the sun."
Simon Halsey leads masterclasses at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona
This July Simon Halsey returns to Barcelona, where he is Artistic Director of the Orfeó Català Choirs and Artistic Adviser at Palau de la Música, to lead masterclasses and lectures at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in conjunction with the International Federation for Choral Music. The symposium brings together choirs, conductors, choral experts and composers from across the globe, including György Orbán and Helmuth Rilling.
At the symposium, Halsey leads masterclasses on 20th century and contemporary compositions, featuring MacMillan O Radiant Dawn and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and also gives lectures on 24 and 25 July with his colleague Marita Goga on choral management and Mediation processes.
Simon Halsey conducts BBC Proms Youth Choir at First Night of the BBC Proms
Simon Halsey's BBC Proms Youth Choir perform in the opening concert of the 2017 BBC Proms on 14 July, marking John Adams' 70th birthday with a performance of his Harmonium alongside Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Harmonium is an intricate tapestry of sound, with bright vocal threads and driving brass and percussion rhythms.
The BBC founded the Proms Youth Choir in 2012 to bring together the best young singers from across the UK and create a massed youth choir.
Halsey's choruses make two further appearances at the Proms this year: the CBSO Chorus perform the European premiere of Sir James MacMillan's A European Requiem on 31 July and also join the London Symphony Chorus and Orfeo Catala to perform Gurrelieder with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra on 17 August.
Simon Halsey leads inaugural Long Night of Singing at the Elbphilharmonie
Simon Halsey begins the month in Hamburg where he conducts the inaugural Choral Night at Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie on 1 July 2017.
The sold-out event sees amateur choirs from Hamburg and surrounding areas performing simultaneously throughout the new hall, taking the audience through the building, into the foyers, the recital hall and the plaza. The choirs then join Halsey on the Elbphilharmonie's main stage for a final massed performance, transforming the Grand Hall into a sea of voices.
In addition to his work with some of the world's leading choirs, Halsey is an inspirational ambassador for choral singing and musical education. The Elbphilharmonie's Choral Night comes soon after the Rundfunkchor Berlin's Mitsingkonzert, which Halsey conducted in May. The Mitsingkonzert saw a day of workshops culminating in a performance of Deruflé Requiem alongside the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin.
Simon Halsey joins Sir Simon Rattle for world premiere of Andrew Norman’s A Trip to the Moon
Simon Halsey joins Sir Simon Rattle at the Berliner Philharmonie to conduct the world premiere performances of Andrew Norman’s new children's opera, A Trip to the Moon, on 17 and 18 June 2017. A Trip to the Moon takes inspiration from Georges Méliès’ seminal 1902 silent film of the same name and follows a band of bumbling astronomers and their documentarian as they explore the moon, attempt to fix their broken rocket, and interact with a mysterious race of moon people who are facing a perilous threat of their own: a child-eating monster that lurks outside their town.
Halsey conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker Vocal Heroes who are joined for the performances by members of the Berliner Philharmoniker and other young instrumentalists under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle. Halsey is Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker Vocal Heroes and has long been an advocate and practitioner of choral singing across all generations, saying:
“We are responsible for enriching our children’s lives by conveying the joy of singing to them. It’s good for your health, your concentration and your development; you will have a skill that enables you to make friends all your life; the interest in singing and your enthusiasm will always connect you to others – be it in your direct environs or anywhere in the world.”
A Trip to the Moon is co-commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. Halsey’s London Symphony Chorus Discovery Choirs and Community Choir give the UK premiere on 9 July 2017.
Simon Halsey’s London Symphony Chorus perform Bruckner at the Barbican
This month Simon Halsey’s CBSO Chorus and London Symphony Chorus give performances in Birmingham and London on 10 and 28 May 2017 respectively.
On 10 May, the CBSO Chorus perform Vaughan Williams Five Tudor Portraits under the baton of John Wilson on 10 May at Symphony Hall Birmingham. The concert forms part of the CBSO’s season-long ‘The Spirit of England’ focus which has thus far seen them perform Handel Semele and Mendelssohn Elijah.
The London Symphony Chorus then join the London Symphony Orchestra to perform Bruckner Te Deum at the Barbican on 28 May, conducted by Bernard Haitink. Haitink is widely recognised as one the world’s leading interpreters of Bruckner and is joined for the concert by soloists Sally Matthews, Karen Cargill, Eric Cutler and Alessandro Spina.
Simon Halsey conducts Rundfunkchor Berlin's Mitsingkonzert at the Berliner Philharmonie
Simon Halsey, Conductor Laureate of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, returns to Berlin this month to lead the choir's Mitsingkonzert at the Berliner Philharmonie on 14 May 2017. The Mitsingkonzert attracts over 1,300 participants from across the world and features day-long workshops culminating with a public performance conducted by Halsey. This year, Halsey conducts the Rundfunkchor Berlin, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and soloists Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Michael Nagy and Tobias Berndt in a performance of Deruflé Reqiuem.
Halsey next returns to Berlin in June for the world premiere of Andrew Norman’s new opera, A Trip to the Moon, with the Berliner Philharmonie Vokalhelden.
Simon Halsey conducts the Orfeó Català's 125 Anniversary Concert in Barcelona
Simon Halsey conducts the Orfeó Català in a performance of Duruflé Requiem at the Palau de la Musica, Barcelona, on 5 April 2017. The concert celebrates the 125th anniversary of the first performance of the choir, which they commemorate with a performance of Mozart Ave Verum Corpus, which they also performed in their inaugural concert in 1892.
Halsey and the singers of the Orfeó Català are joined for the performance by soloists Josep-Ramon Olivé, mezzo-soprano Tànit Bono, cellist Lluís Claret and Juan de la Rubia on the organ.
Halsey's last performances with the choir were alongside Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic in Barcelona and Madrid, performing Beethoven Symphony No.9.
Simon Halsey's London Symphony Chorus performs Daphnis et Chloe at the Barbican Centre
Simon Halsey prepares his UK choirs for performances in Birmingham and London on 19 and 23 March 2017.
On 19 March Halsey conducts the CBSO Chorus and Orchestra in a Singalong day at Birmingham Symphony Hall. As part of the CBSO's Spirit of England focus Halsey leads the public in a full day of rehearsals followed by a performance of Mendelssohn Elijah that evening.
On 23 March Halsey’s London Symphony Chorus perform Ravel Daphnis et Chloé at the Barbican conducted by Alain Altinoglu. The LSC most recently performed under Sir Simon Rattle in semi-staged performances of Le Grand Macabre to critical acclaim:
“..the singing had equal character and virtuosity. That was true not only of the soloists… but also of the London Symphony Chorus, popping up all over the auditorium and clearly superbly drilled by Simon Halsey to hurl out the manic crowd scenes.”
Times, February 2017
“To praise those vocal performances deserving of praise would be to write out once again the cast list – not, of course, to forget the outstanding London Symphony Chorus.”
Seen and Heard International, February 2017
Simon Halsey's Orfeó Català choirs perform with LA Philharmonic & Gustavo Dudamel
Simon Halsey’s Orfeó Català Choir and Cor de Cambra del Palau de la Música join the LA Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel on 15 and 16 March 2017 to perform Beethoven Symphony No.9. The performances take place at the Palau de la Musica Barcelona on 15 March and Auditorio Nacional de Música Madrid on 16 March. They are joined by soloists Jualianne di Giacomo, Tamara Munford, Joshua Guerrero and Soloman Howard.
Halsey has been praised for having "breathed new energies into the Orfeo Catala” since taking his position as Artistic Director at the start of the season. He then travels to Hannover with the Youth Choir of Palau de la Musica for a collaboration with the Johannes Brahms Choir on 24 March.
Simon Halsey's London Symphony Chorus perform Le Grand Macabre at the Barbican
Simon Halsey’s London Symphony Chorus join the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle to present Peter Sellars' semi-staged performance of Ligeti Le Grand Macabre at the Barbican on 14 and 15 January 2017. Halsey and Sir Simon Rattle join forces once more as Rattle continues his preparations to take up the role of Music Director with the LSO in September 2017.
First premiered in 1978, Le Grand Macabre has had more than 30 stage productions, even though Ligeti himself was not convinced that it should be classed as an opera. A revised version was premiered in 1997 by Peter Sellars, who directs these performances. Soloists for the performances include Peter Hoare, Ronnita Miller, Elizabeth Watts and Pavlo Hunka.
Simon Halsey conducts Orfeó Català Choirs in annual Concert of St. Stephen
Simon Halsey conducts the Orfeó Català Choirs in their annual festive concert in honour of St. Stephen on 26 December 2016. A long-standing Catalonian tradition, Palau de la Música’s St. Stephen’s Day concert has been celebrated for more than 100 years and has a loyal following. This year the concert is dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the Catalan Choral Society, and the Cor Petits, Cor Mitjans, Cor Infantil, Cor de Noies, Cor Jove de l’Orfeó Català, Cor de Cambra del Palau de la Música and Orfeó Català all take part.
Halsey has made a critically acclaimed start with the Orfeó Català Choirs since taking up the position of Artistic Director last September, earning outstanding reviews:
"Halsey has breathed new energies into the Orfeo Catala, who despite being unused to the Verdian style, delivered in spades. The new director works with rigor, craft and talent, looking for the exact pitch, transparency and homogeneity of voices, and though much work remains to do, one could hear the improvements in a chorus that sounded more flexible and nuanced."
El Pais, September 2016
Simon Halsey's London Symphony Chorus performs El Niño for John Adams's 70th birthday celebrations
Simon Halsey’s London Symphony Chorus follow up their recent US tour with a performance of John Adams El Niño at the Barbican Centre on 4 December 2016. The performance is part of both Adams’ 70th birthday celebrations and the Barbican’s ‘The Sounds that Changed America’ season. Adams conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus himself.
El Niño explores the issues surrounding the traditional nativity story paying particular attention to the character of Mary and the journey of motherhood. The libretto, compiled by Adams himself, draws on a variety of sources from pre-Christian prophets to twentieth century Hispanic female writers.
Simon Halsey conducts diverse November programmes with Orfeó Català Choirs in Barcelona
Simon Halsey returns to Palau de la Música Catalana this month for performances with the Orfeó Català choirs. On 20 November Halsey conducts Cor de Cambra de la Palau in a programme of Lang, Bach, Nysted and Purcell and on 26 November together with Orfeó Català, Cor de Cambra and soloists María Espada and Joan Martín-Royo they bring Fauré Requiem to Palau de la Música.
Halsey gave his first performances as director Orfeó Català Choirs last month to critical acclaim:
"Orfeo Catala had an especially happy day…showing flexibility thanks to the intensive preparatory work of their new director Simon Halsey. From the quietest Verdi pianissimi opening…to the forte of the Dies Irae, the chorus sang with secure intonation and tone production, fully capable of communicating the nuances required by Noseda."
El Mundo, September 2016
"Halsey has breathed new energies into the Orfeo Catala, who despite being unused to the Verdian style, delivered in spades. The new director works with rigor, craft and talent, looking for the exact pitch, transparency and homogeneity of voices, and though much work remains to do, one could hear the improvements in a chorus that sounded more flexible and nuanced."
El Pais, September 2016
Simon Halsey triumphs at Lincoln Center White Lights Festival
Simon Halsey has received fantastic reviews for two performances at the Lincoln Center's White Lights Festival in New York with two of his choirs: the Rundfunkchor Berlin and London Symphony Chorus. Read the reviews below.
Rundfunkchor Berlin / human requiem:
"a superbly polished and persuasive performance in the round by the Berlin Radio Choir, conducted from shifting vantage posts by Mr. Halsey with help at opposite posts from Nicolas Fink. The choristers maintained remarkable musical focus and physical composure"
New York Times, October 2016
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus / Verdi Requiem:
"What the presentations had in common was both little and much: Simon Halsey as chorus director. For the Brahms, Mr. Halsey conducted the Berlin Radio Choir, which dominated a performance with piano replacing the orchestra. For the Verdi, having superbly prepared his London Symphony Chorus, he observed from the sidelines but took a solo bow at the end. That London chorus, 130 strong, projected hushed mystery, hell-storming outbursts and everything in between with utmost ease. "
New York Times, November 2016
Vitalij Kowaljow & Simon Halsey perform Verdi Requiem with the London Symphony Orchestra in New York
Vitalij Kowaliow and Simon Halsey join the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at Lincoln Center, New York, on 30 October 2016 for a performance of Verdi Requiem conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. Kowaljow performs alongside Erika Grimaldi, Daniela Barcellona and Francesco Meli.
Kowaljow gave a critically-acclaimed performance in Verdi Requiem at the Chorégies d'Orange this summer:
"Bass Vitalij Kowaljow makes a chilling impression in the Mors stupebit."
La Provence, July 2016
"Bass Vitalij Kowaljow was the only one to deliver a perfectly understandable text. With balance, he held his part perfectly with a seamless and pleasant voice."
Classique News, July 2016
Further highlights for Kowaliow this season include his debut at the Salzburg Easter Festival as Wotan Die Walküre under the baton of Christian Thielemann, Zaccaria Nabucco for the Bayerische Staatsoper, Münchner Opernfestspiele, and Opéra de Monte-Carlo and Banco Macbeth at the Gran Teatre del Liceu and Teatro Regio di Torino.
The London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus recently reformed Verdi Requiem at the Barbican Centre, launching the LSO’s 2016-17 season to critical acclaim:
“The playing was outstanding, and the London Symphony Chorus was on blazing form….thrilling, all of it.”
Guardian, September 2016
"Simon Halsey, Preaching to, and for, the Choir": A New York times feature
"These days the world’s most sought-after choral conductor may well be Simon Halsey... belatedly adding New York to his choral empire through a series of high-profile events...
Mr. Halsey faces a challenge orchestra conductors rarely have to worry about: making it all fun. Many of the choirs he leads are composed of volunteers.. "“Therefore it’s my duty,” Mr. Halsey said, “to make sure that it’s such a spellbindingly wonderful thing to do that you put it before everything else in your life.”...
The Halsey-Rattle partnership will open a new chapter next year, when Mr. Rattle follows Mr. Halsey to the London Symphony Orchestra, where he has been named music director. Asked if since their days in Birmingham he had become Mr. Rattle’s John the Baptist, anticipating his arrival first in Berlin and now in London, Mr. Halsey laughed. “The John the Baptist thing — whatever that makes him — has worked for 34 years,” he said...."
Read Michael Cooper's feature on the New York Times website. On 16 October, Halsey conducts the Rundfunkchor Berlin in the US premiere of Human Requiem, a staging of Brahms' German Requiem, to open the Lincoln Center's White Light Festival.
Simon Halsey conducts Human Requiem in Berlin & New York for US premiere
Simon Halsey brings human requiem back to Berlin for two performances with the Rundfunkchor Berlin on 8 and 9 October 2016 at Radialsystem V. Halsey previously conducted the work at the same venue in 2015 to sold-out crowds and great acclaim.
human requiem is based on Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem with collaborative direction and choreography by Jochen Sandig and Sasha Waltz & Guests. According to the choir, human requiem breaks the boundary between performers and audience: ‘the audience sits not in front of the sound but rather within it’.
Halsey then directs the US premiere at the opening concert of the Lincoln Center's White Light Festival on 16 October. Two further performances follow, on 18 and 19 October.
Simon Halsey: First performance as director of the Orfeó Català Choirs with Gianandrea Noseda & the London Symphony Orchestra
Simon Halsey begins his tenure as the Artistic Director of the Orfeó Català Choirs with a performance of Verdi Requiem with the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda at the Palau de la Música Catalana on 12 September 2016. The concert is the first in a series of exciting performances for Halsey and his new charges, with further highlights including Fauré and Duruflé Requiems and Beethoven Symphony No.9 with Gustavo Dudamel.
Halsey arrives in Spain soon after preparing the 277-strong BBC Proms Youth Choir for Verdi Requiem with Marin Alsop and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the Royal Albert Hall on 9 September. The choir received great praise from the critics:
"[A]fter a whispered beginning the sound these young massed voices made in the first loud entry was tremendous, especially from the men."
"The BBC Youth Choir was one of the highlights of the evening, the young singers opening the work with a wonderful hushed 'Requiem' sung from memory... They sang with a finely clear, transparent tone, certainly bringing youthful verve to the performance but sophistication too. Whilst the tone was often soft-grained, they were finely ardent not to say powerful in the 'Dies Irae' which recurs throughout the work. The 'Sanctus' was rightly a choral showpiece, with crisp dancing rhythms and energising transparent textures, and their concluding 'Libera me' fugue was really vehement."
"The BBC Proms Youth Choir brings together four youth choruses from around the country for an annual appearance at the Albert Hall. The singers all look young, but their performance was impressively assured. Despite the large numbers, ensemble and tuning were always secure, and the purity of their youthful voices combined with the sheer power of their numbers to impressive effect. The Introit and its later reprise were sung from memory, adding valuable intimacy to the opening minutes."
Marin Alsop, Simon Halsey & Alisa Kolosova join the OAE for Verdi Requiem at the Proms
Marin Alsop makes her third appearance at the BBC Proms this summer for the final symphonic concert of the festival, a performance of Verdi Requiem with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on 9 September 2016.
They are joined by Alisa Kolosova, making her Proms debut, who performs alongside Tamara Wilson, Michael Fabbiano, Morris Robinson and the Proms Youth Choir. This choir is formed from around the country with singers from the CBSO Youth Chorus, University of Birmingham Voices, National Youth Choir of Wales, University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir and the BBC 10 Pieces Choir, all under the direction of Simon Halsey. The Proms Youth Choir under Halsey’s direction were lauded in 2015 for their “commitment and vocal brilliance” by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung for their performance at the Lucerne Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic.
This concert takes place the night before the Last Night of the Proms, where Alsop made history in 2013 as the first woman to conduct this famous closing event of the festival, watched by millions around the world. She returned to conduct the Last Night in 2015 and has conducted at the BBC Proms on many occasions, including numerous performances with the OAE.
Click here to listen to an excerpt of her 2015 BBC Proms appearance with the OAE, praised by the Guardian for its “immediacy, tremendous energy and superbly finessed detail.”
Earlier this summer, Marin Alsop and Intermusica brought the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, where she is Music Director, to the BBC Proms for two concerts on 24 August, alongside performances at the Edinburgh International and Lucerne festivals.
"Inspiring": Simon Halsey conducts premiere of Lang's the public domain for 1,000 voices at Lincoln Center
Simon Halsey conducted 1,000 professional and amateur singers in the premiere of David Lang’s the public domain on 13 August 2016, as part of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. The performance took place outdoors around the Lincoln Center fountain with Halsey conducting the massive chorus that was interspersed among around 2,000 audience members.
Halsey, who oversaw 25 other conductors received an enthusiastic response from public, performers and critics alike.
The New York Times heralded the performance as a musical celebration of urban-togetherness:
“It was a great day to be a New Yorker…True to its title, “the public domain” was an inspiring outdoor musical event; it also proved an intricate, rich musical composition… There were shout-outs for Simon Halsey, the conductor of the performance, who walked around the rim of the fountain giving cues until the final sections, which he directed from the balcony of Geffen Hall”
New York Times, August 2016
Simon Halsey conducts the Philharmonia at the Three Choirs Festival
Simon Halsey conducts the combined choirs of Worchester, Hereford and Gloucester cathedrals and the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Three Choir Festivals on 28 July 2016.
Taking place in Gloucester Cathedral, the concert features a programme of Mozart Te Deum, Requiem and Clarinet Concerto performed by Emma Johnson.
Halsey is renowned for his choral conducting, and his work has received considerable critical praise:
“The LSO’s magnificent amateur chorus, rigorously rehearsed by Simon Halsey [gave] full value to the text without sacrificing tonal sheen or full-throated volume.”
"The BBC Proms Youth Choir was appearing for the first time at Lucerne Festival. The young singers, prepared by Simon Halsey, mastered their exchanging roles as friends of the dying Gerontius, demons, souls in purgatory and angels with commitment and vocal brilliance."
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
“The London Symphony Chorus has always been a good one, but since Simon Halsey, one of Europe’s finest choral trainers, took over last year it has undergone a spectacular transformation. Singing out unencumbered by scores, with crackling consonants and commitment to match, the choir brought a disciplined exhilaration to the party.”
Simon Halsey awarded the Chorverband Berlin‘s Geschwister Mendelssohn Medal
Simon Halsey was awarded the Chorverband Berlin‘s Geschwister Mendelssohn Medal on 15 Jun 2016 for his outstanding contribution to choral life in Berlin.
He was commended for having taken choral music in the city to new heights during his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Berlin Rundfunkchor 2001-2015, having led many ground-breaking and influential projects - notably the Singalong days and many interdisciplinary concert projects.
The award was presented by the President of the Berlin Chorverband, Petra Merkel, and the citation was read by the Berlin Secretary of Culture Tim Renner. Halsey remains Honorary Conductor of the Berlin Rundfunkchor, and continues to head up the Berliner Philharmoniker's choral education project Vokalhelden. This honour is added to the Bundesverdienstkreuz which he received in 2010; here in the UK last year he was awarded a CBE and Her Majesty’s Medal for Music.
Earlier this month, Halsey was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama for his outstanding achievement and his significant contribution to the college.
Simon Halsey conducts Schubert Mass No.6 in Berlin Radio Choir singalong concert
Simon Halsey conducts the Berlin Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra in Schubert Mass No.6 on the 22 May 2016.
Taking place at the Berlin Philharmonie, Halsey and the Berlin Radio Choir is joined by 1300 singers from a wide range of countries to perform the work. The programme also features Eric Whitacre Three Songs of Faith.
Halsey, Conductor Laureate of the Berlin Radio Choir, has received huge critical acclaim for his previous collaborations with the RSB and BRC, notably for a performance of Intermusica’s Sir James MacMillan’s St John’s Passion:
“The Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of the energetic, adventurous and skilled Simon Halsey, gave the German premiere of James MacMillan’s gripping, two-hour-long St John’s Passion at the Berlin Konzerthaus, and what a vivid and memorable account it was!“
Simon Halsey appointed Artistic Director of the Orfeó Català choruses & Artistic Adviser to the Palau de la Música in Barcelona
It was announced today that Simon Halsey has been appointed Artistic Director of the Orfeó Català choruses and Artistic Adviser to the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, starting in 2016/17.
Halsey will continue the reinvigoration of the distinguished choral family of the Orfeó Català (comprising the famous amateur chorus, the professional chamber choir and the youth choir) ensuring that singing is at the heart of the Palau’s activities. He is uniquely qualified to do so, after his ongoing transformative leadership of professional and amateur choirs at the very highest level, notably the Rundfunk Chor Berlin and City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, and since 2012 the London Symphony Chorus.
The first season of Halsey’s appointment coincides with the 125th anniversary of the Orfeo Catala, during which the Orfeo Catala choruses will perform under Halsey’s guidance with world-famous conductors and orchestras from Barcelona and abroad. Highlights include Verdi's Requiem with the London Symphony Orchestra and Noseda in September 2016, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with Dudamel in March 2017. Halsey will himself conduct the Requiems of Faure and Durufle.
Intermusica artists nominated for Olivier & International Opera Awards
Intermusica artists have been nominated for awards at the Olivier Awards and the International Opera Awards, recognising exceptional achievement in opera over the last year. Dame Felicity Palmer has been nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, while Mark Wigglesworth and his work at English National Opera have been nominated at both the Oliviers and the International Opera Awards. Danielle de Niese, Gregory Kunde, Brett Dean and Simon Halsey have all been recognized at the International Opera Awards.
Mark Wigglesworth has been shortlisted for an International Opera Award in the Conductor category. This nomination comes during Mark Wigglesworth’s first season as Music Director at English National Opera, during which time his conducting has been hailed by the critics as “masterly" (Daily Telegraph) and “sublime” (Times). English National Opera has also been nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Opera at the Olivier Awards for its productions of The Force of Destiny and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which were conducted by Wigglesworth.
Palmer has been nominated for her performance as the Countess in Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades at English National Opera, which was greeted with universal critical acclaim:
“The outstanding performance of the evening… comes from Felicity Palmer, whose portrayal of the older Countess is an extraordinary tour de force of compelling stage presence”
“Felicity Palmer is peerless as a Countess whose battleaxe demeanour crumbles to reveal the heartbreakingly lonely girl still inside.”
"[Palmer's] spellbinding Gréty aria in the bedroom scene is the best-sung I've heard, little short of miraculous..."
“The American director starred (only that word will do) Felicity Palmer as the countess… in remarkable vocal shape and proved spellbinding in her delivery of the Grétry aria – another time-stopping moment.”
Danielle de Niese, who premiered Bel Canto at Lyric Opera of Chicago which is on the shortlist for Best New Work, is nominated for the Readers’ Award at the International Opera Awards, the only vote open to the public – cast your vote here.
Gregory Kunde is nominated for Best Male Singer – after title roles this season in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, he will make his Royal Opera House debut in July this year as Manrico Il trovatore.
ABC’s recording of Brett Dean’s opera Bliss has been nominated for Complete Opera CD. Dean’s work was premiered at Sydney Opera House in 2010, and was well-received by the critics:
“The work holds the attention to the end, sustained by Dean's wonderful score. To his well-known skills as an orchestral composer, Dean has added an under-utilised empathy for the voice. The sung lines drive the musical and dramatic pace, underscored by beautifully detailed instrumental textures, wrought with an innate feeling for the expressive power of instrumental timbre, watched over by counterpoint and fine motivic workmanship.”
Sydney Morning Herald
The Barbican’s production of Jonathan Dove The Monster in the Maze, which featured a chorus directed by Simon Halsey, has also been nominated in the category of Accessibility.
Simon Halsey tours Indonesia with Rundfunkchor Berlin
Simon Halsey travels to Indonesia with members of the Rundfunkchor Berlin from 21 October 2015 for a series of concerts as part of the “German Season”, a three-month long cultural exchange programme celebrating the long-standing relationship between Germany and Indonesia.
The choir performs in Jakarta (21 October), Medan (24 October) and finish their tour in Bandung (27 October). In each city, the choir is joined by local ensembles Paragita Choir of Universitas Indonesia, Choir of Universitas Padjadjaran and e Deum Voice Choir, all prepared by the Rundfunkchor Berlin team.
The a-cappella programme, conducted by Halsey himself, includes both German and Indonesian composers and also includes some sing-along moments to allow audience members to participate. The tour is presented by Goethe Institut and the German Embassy in Jakarta.
Following the tour, Halsey prepares the choir for a performance at the Paris Philharmonie of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle, on 7 November.
Simon Halsey and CBSO Chorus perform with London Philharmonic Orchestra in Mexico City
Simon Halsey and his CBSO Chorus travel to Mexico City on 17 September 2015, where they perform two concerts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Alondra de la Parra.
Halsey prepares the CBSO Chorus and local choir Coro del Teatro de Bellas Artes for two performances of Mahler's Symphony No.2 'Resurrection' at the Palacio de Belles Artes on 17 and 18 September. Mexican soprano Olivia Gorra and English mezzo Jennifer Johnston are the soloists for the concerts, which are part of the 2015 Dual Year of the UK and Mexico, a year-long celebration of cultural, educational and business exchange between the two countries. The performance on the 17 September will be filmed and broadcast online by Medici.tv - click here for more information.
CBSO Chorus makes regular guest appearances with top-level orchestras both in the UK and abroad, including the Berliner Philharmoniker and Vienna Philharmonic.
Simon Halsey prepares BBC Proms Youth Choir for performances in London, Birmingham and Lucerne
Simon Halsey starts the new season by taking his BBC Proms Youth Choir on its first tour from 8 September 2015, when they accompany Sir Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic in Birmingham and at the Lucerne Festival and its usual appearance at the BBC Proms. Halsey and the choir join the orchestra to perform Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ at Birmingham Symphony Hall on the 8 September, Royal Albert Hall on the 11 September, and KKL Lucerne on the 13 September. Soloists for the performances will be Magdalena Kožená, Toby Spence, and Roderick Williams. The performance in London will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Since its inception in 2012, the BBC Proms Youth Choir has been a chance for young singers from all over the UK to prepare British choral masterpieces under Halsey’s expert guidance. Drawn from the best youth choirs in the country, the choir regularly performs with top-level conductors and orchestras, including the CBSO with Andris Nelsons and BBC Symphony with Sakari Oramo.
Simon Halsey’s CBSO Chorus performs with Andris Nelsons at the BBC Proms
On 19 July 2015 Simon Halsey’s CBSO Chorus returns to the BBC Proms for a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 at the Royal Albert Hall, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and conductor Andris Nelsons. Soloists for the evening are Lucy Crowe, Gerhild Romberger, Dmytro Popov and Kostas Smoriginas. The concert marks Nelsons’s last concert as Music Director of the CBSO.
Alongside Beethoven Symphony No.9, the concert also features the overture to Beethoven’s ballet The Creatures of Prometheus and the London premiere of John Woolrich’s contrabassoon concerto, Falling Down. The performance is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and is available for on-demand listening online.
Halsey also prepared the CBSO choruses for Andris Nelsons’s farewell concerts at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on 17 and 18 June, where they performed Mahler’s Symphony No.3 and Ēriks Ešenvalds’s Lakes Awake at Dawn.
Halsey returns to the BBC Proms in September with his BBC Proms Youth Choir, Sir Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic, to perform Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius.
James MacMillan receives Knighthood & Simon Halsey a CBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours
James MacMillan has been awarded a Knighthood and Simon Halsey has been appointed Commander of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year, announced on 12 June 2015. Both honours have been awarded for services to music.
James MacMilllan, whose Knighthood follows his CBE awarded in 2004, made this statement following the announcement:
"I am totally delighted to receive this honour. I am especially pleased that the world of music, and contemporary composition in particular, will receive greater focus and recognition as a result. I feel encouraged and re-energised in my commitments in these fields and especially in my work with the new festival in Ayrshire, The Cumnock Tryst."
MacMillan’s music is widely performed around the world, from opera houses and top international orchestras to local church and community choirs. His Veni, Veni, Emmanuel is established as the most popular of all percussion concertos with close to 500 performances since its premiere in 1992, while his choral motet O Radiant Dawn was recently sung as the new tomb of Richard III was revealed. His music has strong Scottish roots, inflected with folk music and Gaelic psalmody, while his new festival, The Cumnock Tryst, sets out to bring active music-making back to the area in Ayrshire where he grew up. MacMillan’s latest release, Oboe Concertos, on Harmonia Mundi has been met with great critical acclaim.
Future highlights for MacMillan include the world premiere of his Symphony No.4 at the BBC Proms conducted by Donald Runnicles, and the first Scottish and US performances of his Percussion Concerto No.2 with soloist Colin Currie at the Edinburgh Festival and Cabrillo Festival in California. Forthcoming commissions include a Requiem, Stabat Mater and Trombone Concerto, and conducting highlights of the 2015/16 season include the National Symphony Orchestra Washington, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Munich Chamber Orchestra.
Simon Halsey has been appointed CBE in recognition of his outstanding contribution to British society through choral music. On receiving the award, Halsey commented:
“This is as thrilling as it is unexpected! Conductors can only function if they are privileged to work with good musicians, and I have been blessed by encountering the best singers, from every walk of life and of every age range, that the UK has to offer. This award is for us all – for the extraordinary energy and commitment of thousands of people.”
While being a sought-after choral conductor across the globe, Halsey has always remained firmly engaged in the musical life of the UK: in Birmingham, where his professional career started, he’s been at the helm of the CBSO Chorus for more than 30 years, launching many wide-ranging educational projects there too. Also in Birmingham, he co-founded Birmingham Opera Company with Graham Vick and launched a postgraduate course in Choral Conducting at the University of Birmingham, where he still teaches the next generation of chorus masters.
Halsey’s first three years as Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and Chorus have already brought about exciting and highly popular choral initiatives, such as “Come and Sing” days and new community choirs; the arrival of Sir Simon Rattle as Principal Conductor of the LSO, with whom Halsey worked closely both in Birmingham and Berlin, is due to give further impulse to educational initiatives both in London and beyond. Halsey is also the founder and Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir, formed of young singers from all over the UK, which he prepares each year to perform with the world’s finest orchestras at the Royal Albert Hall.
Earlier this year, Halsey was also awarded the 2015 Queen’s Medal for Music for his contribution to musical life in the UK.
Simon Halsey joins Sir Simon Rattle for world premiere of Jonathan Dove's children’s opera
In June and July, Simon Halsey and Sir Simon Rattle join forces in Berlin, Aix-en-Provence and London for Jonathan Dove’s new children’s opera, The Monster in the Maze, based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and co-produced by the Berliner Philharmoniker, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). In the past months, Halsey has been preparing the choirs in each city.
The world premiere takes place at the Berliner Philharmonie on 20 and 21 June with the Berliner Philharmoniker, as part of the orchestra’s Youth Choral Programme, of which Simon Halsey is Artistic Director. Following that, there is one performance in London at the Barbican with the LSO, and two performances at Grand Théâtre de Provence on 8 and 9 July, also with the LSO; all orchestras are joined by local student orchestras too. The performance on 21 June is broadcast live on the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall. Each production has its own libretto (in the local language) and its own vision of the work.
The project started with an idea from Halsey and Rattle, who were looking for an opera which could bring together professional musicians with amateur singers and young instrumentalists from local communities. Working closely with the composer since the early stages of the project, Halsey has been rehearsing the children’s, youth and community choirs in three different languages, for a total of 700 community participants. The UK performance sees 50 school children and 100 singers from the LSO Youth Choir and Community Choir, joined on stage by three soloists and an actor. The LSO is joined by musicians from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
The project was co-funded by the EU Creative Europe Programme to encourage different European cultural institution to work together, and it will be used as a case study to discuss working with adults and children from local communities within a professional context.
Watch a video from the choir rehearsal in Berlin below:
Simon Halsey conducts Mitsingkonzert with Rundfunkchor Berlin & becomes Conductor Laureate
On 31 May 2015, Simon Halsey’s 14-year tenure as Principal Conductor of the Rundfunkchor Berlin comes to its conclusion with a “Singalong” of the Verdi’s Requiem at Berliner Philharmonie. He will also be given the honorary title of Conductor Laureate by the choir, in recognition of his outstanding achievements during his time there. The day-long workshop with 1300 singers from all over the world ends with a public performance at the Philharmonie conducted by Halsey himself with Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie, Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin and soloists Iwona Sobotka, Okka Von der Damerau, Dimitri Pittas and Marko Mimica.
Under Halsey’s leadership, the Rundfunkchor has become recognised as one of the very best professional choirs worldwide, both for their performances and for their recordings: as permanent partners of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the choir has won three Grammy awards and has explored innovative ways for choral singing with projects such as human requiem (after Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem), and Peter Sellars’s “ritualization” of Bach’s Passions, which received outstanding receptions both in Berlin and on tour.
The “Singalong” concerts are one of the innovations that Halsey has brought to the choir since his arrival in 2001: since the first one in 2003, it has focused on choral masterpieces from Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem, for which the choir won a Grammy award, to Handel Messiah and Britten War Requiem, and has become increasingly popular throughout Germany and beyond. Tickets for the 2015 “Mitsingkonzert” sold out in a record 20 minutes after going on sale in September 2014, and since 2010 they have also exported the concept internationally, with performances in Turkey and Hungary, and the next one in Vienna in 2016 has already been announced.
Simon Halsey: CBSO Chorus & London Symphony Chorus performances in Birmingham & Manchester
In April and May 2015, Simon Halsey prepares his UK choirs for two guest performances in Birmingham and Manchester.
On 24 April, the CBSO Chorus performs Mahler Symphony No.2 with Czech Philharmonic and the orchestra’s Music Director Jiří Bělohlávek, as part of the Birmingham International Concert Season at Symphony Hall. Soloists for the performance are Jana Hrochová Wallingerová and Louise Winter.
The London Symphony Chorus joins the BBC Philharmonic at Bridgewater Hall on the 8 May, for a performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio with soloists including Stuart Skelton as Florestan and Rebecca von Lipinski as Leonore.
Beside their partnership with, respectively, City of Birmingham Symphony and London Symphony, both choirs work regularly with other orchestras. Most recently, the combined choirs performed two sold-out concerts with Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle at the Royal Festival Hall in February, closing the orchestra’s London residency.
Simon Halsey awarded The Queen’s Medal for Music 2014
Simon Halsey has been awarded The Queen’s Medal for Music for his outstanding contribution to music in the United Kingdom. The prize was presented to Halsey by The Queen at a reception at Buckingham Palace on 11 March, following a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra.
The prize, established in 2005, is awarded to an individual or group of musicians who have had a major influence on the musical life of the nation, and previous recipients include Sir Colin Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Bryn Terfel and Judith Weir.
Master of The Queen’s Music, Judith Weir commented: “Choral conductor Simon Halsey has made a fundamental contribution to European music through his championship of choral singing as a vital part of orchestral performance, a British tradition which stretches back several centuries … His lively, participatory style has inspired a new generation of young choral directors, together with a remarkable upsurge of interest in choirs and singing in the UK.”
On hearing of the award Halsey said: “I am so surprised and thrilled to receive this extraordinary honour from Her Majesty the Queen. Choral music is a vital part of our national life and is such a force for social and educational good. I’d like to see this medal as recognition of the work of a whole generation of dedicated choral musicians.”
Since gaining his first job as Director of Music at the University of Warwick at the age of 22, Simon Halsey has been a passionate and tireless ambassador of choral singing, both in the UK and abroad. Highlights in 2014 include conducting a 1000-strong choir in both Birmingham and London for the premiere of David Lang’s Crowd Out, featuring members of local communities and schools prominently. He was also the artistic adviser and conductor of a joint choir of British and German singers at the commemoration ceremony to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I at St. Symphorien Military Cemetery in August 2014, arranged by the UK government and attended by representatives of the UK and German governments, as well as members of the British royal family.
In addition to his 31-year-long commitment with the CBSO Chorus in Birmingham, and his recent position in London as Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Simon Halsey has founded and led countless projects aimed to bring choral singing closer to young people and local communities. With the BBC Proms Youth Choir, founded in 2012, each year he brings together young singers from all over the UK to perform with world-class orchestras at the Royal Albert Hall. Halsey also retains a strong connection with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, where he was Principal Conductor of its Choral Programme from 2004 to 2012. In the 1990s, he was Co-Founder and Music Director of Birmingham Opera Company; he also founded and was Artistic Director of the BBC National Chorus of Wales.
Halsey is much in demand as a teacher. He is Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham, where he directs a postgraduate course in Choral Conducting, and between 2008 and 2014 he held the International Chair of Choral Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He is also Consultant Editor of Faber Music’s highly successful Choral Programme Series.
Born in London, Simon Halsey sang in the choirs of New College, Oxford, and of King’s College, Cambridge. He studied conducting at the Royal College of Music in London. Halsey has also be recognised for his outstanding contribution to choral music in Germany and was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2011.
Simon Halsey conducts Rundfunkchor Berlin reprise of human requiem
Simon Halsey conducts his Rundfunkchor Berlin in three sold-out performances of the acclaimed human requiem, a music and dance project that is based on Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem, on 26, 27 and 28 March.
Directed by Jochen Sandig in collaboration with dance company Sasha Waltz & Guests, the production is held again at the former pumping station in Berlin, Radialsystem V, where it was first performed in January 2012. It features the Brahms Requiem in its two-piano version, in which the choir sings, moving among the audience; in the choir’s words, “the listening public no longer sits in front of the sound but instead right in the middle of it, creating a new set of interrelationships between the text, the actual bodies of performers and listeners, the space and the sound”. It is an example of one of the many innovative projects that Halsey has spearheaded during his time in Berlin. Click here to watch a video about the production.
Beside its several reprises in the original space in Berlin, the production has also been brought to other venues, in Hamburg and Rotterdam, and later this year it tours to Paris and to Grenada.
Also this month, Halsey prepares the Rundfunkchor Berlin for performances of the Duruflé Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Donald Runnicles on 10, 11 and 12 March.
Simon Halsey directs London Symphony Chorus for concert with LSO & Sir Simon Rattle
Simon Halsey’s London Symphony Chorus performs Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican on 11 January. Soloists for the performance will be Sally Matthews in the role of Peri, Mark Padmore as the narrator, along with Kate Royal, Bernarda Fink, Andrew Staples and Florian Boesch.
For this concert Simon Halsey and Sir Simon Rattle’s work together once again with a choir and orchestra from their native England, as they did so frequently in the 1980s and 1990s with the CBSO and CBSO Chorus. Rattle invited Halsey to become Chorus Director in Birmingham in 1983 and they have worked closely together ever since, most recently in collaborations between Halsey’s Rundfunkchor Berlin and Rattle’s Berliner Philharmoniker. In February 2015, they work together in London once again for the Berliner Philharmoniker’s London Residency at Southbank Centre, celebrating Sir Simon Rattle’s 60th birthday.
St Matthew Passion with Simon Halsey’s Rundfunkchor Berlin wins Diapason d’Or de l’Année
Bach’s St Matthew Passion, in its ‘ritualization’ by director Peter Sellars, has been one of the highlights of the year for the Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle and Simon Halsey’s Rundfunkchor Berlin, and the DVD of the piece has now been awarded the Diapason d’Or de l’Année 2014 for Oratorio works. Diapason magazine described the performance as “a masterpiece to the glory of Bach”.
This year, sold-out and critically acclaimed performances of the staged St Matthew Passion have taken place at the Lucerne Festival, BBC Proms and Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival in New York. The DVD of the first production was released in 2010, and was reissued this year under the Berliner Philharmoniker’s label.
The previous edition of the DVD had already received the ‘Best DVD’ prize at the BBC Music Magazine Awards in 2013. It includes two DVDs and 51 minutes of bonus material, including an interview between Simon Halsey and Peter Sellars.
The revival and tour of the production in 2014 included the same soloists (Mark Padmore, Magdalena Kožená, Camilla Tilling, Topi Lehtipuu, Christian Gerhaher), with the exception of Thomas Quasthoff, who since retired, and has been replaced by bass Eric Owens.
The DVD of the ritualization of Bach’s St John Passion, which premiered at the Philharmonie in February 2014 with a similar cast and was also staged at the Baden-Baden Easter Festival, is also available on the Berliner Philharmoniker label.
Simon Halsey conducts London Symphony Chorus at Barbican Centre for LSO Live release
Following a successful UK tour last season, Simon Halsey brings his London Symphony Chorus to the Barbican Centre on 26 November.
The programme features Rachmaninov’s a cappella work All-Night Vigil 'Vespers', juxtaposed with Jonathan Dove’s The Passing of the Year, a work for double chorus and piano set on poems by William Blake, Emily Dickinson, George Peele, Thomas Nash, and Alfred Lord Tennyson.
The performance will be recorded for release under LSO Live, the London Symphony Orchestra’s in-house label, later in 2015.
In May 2014, Halsey conducted the LSC on their first ever a cappella tour, with performances in Cardiff’s St David’s Hall, St Nicolas Church, Newbury, and The Anvil in Basingstoke.
Simon Halsey to become Conductor Laureate of Rundfunkchor Berlin in 2015
Simon Halsey is to become Conductor Laureate of the Rundfunkchor Berlin from August 2015, when he will end his contract as the choir’s Principal Conductor. He will officially receive the honorary title on 31 May 2015 during the choir’s annual Mitsingkonzert at the Philharmonie, one of the most popular events in the choir’s education programme.
The announcement was made at a press conference in Berlin where the choir introduced its new Principal Conductor, Gijs Leenaars, previously Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir (Groot Omroepkoor), of which Halsey himself was Principal Conductor from 1997 to 2008.
Halsey was appointed Principal Conductor of the Rundfunkchor Berlin in 2001; during this time, the choir established itself as one of the world’s most respected professional ensembles, strengthening its relationship with the Berliner Philharmoniker and its Artistic Director, Sir Simon Rattle, and winning numerous awards for its recordings, including three Grammys in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Halsey also introduced new education and community formats in Berlin, such as the ‘Sing-Along’ concerts and the Choir Academy, and highly successful innovative projects, such as human requiem (after Brahms, in collaboration with dance company Sasha Waltz & Guests), and the St Matthew Passion and St John Passion, directed by Peter Sellars.
The General Manager of the Radio Orchestras and Choirs Thomas Kipp commented: “Rundfunkchor Berlin has achieved a fantastic development of its sound and profile in the hands of Simon Halsey. We are happy to have laid the groundwork for a highly successful “passing of the baton” with the engagement of Gijs Leenaars.”
Simon Halsey & Rundfunkchor Berlin bring staged St Matthew Passion to New York
Following a rapturous reception at the Lucerne Festival and at BBC Proms, Simon Halsey’s Rundfunkchor Berlin and the Berliner Philharmoniker end their international summer tour in New York, performing Bach’s St Matthew Passion in its 'ritualization' by Peter Sellars under Sir Simon Rattle. The sold-out performances take place on 7 and 8 October at Park Avenue Armory, opening the Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, as part of the orchestra’s New York residency in partnership with Carnegie Hall.
Click here to watch Simon Halsey and Peter Sellars discuss St Matthew Passion at the Lincoln Center, ahead of the two New York performances.
On 10 October Halsey also conducts the choir in a performance of Rachmaninov’s Vespers at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Times Square, also as part of the White Light Festival, with soloists Judith Simonis and Robert Franke.
Over the summer, the Rundfunkchor Berlin and Berliner Philharmoniker took the highly successful production of St Matthew Passion – which premiered in Berlin in 2010 – on tour for the first time, with soloists Mark Padmore, Christian Gerhaher, Camilla Tilling and Magdalena Kožená. The performance at the Royal Albert Hall was described as a “deeply moving and daringly simple staging of Bach’s great passion” (The Arts Desk); commenting on the performance of the choir, the Guardian wrote, “the Berlin Radio Choir sing and act with astonishing immediacy”. In Lucerne, the choir was praised as “another star of the evening” (Berner Zeitung) and “an important part of the imagery of the show” (Neue Luzerner Zeitung).