Thursday 7 December 2023

Voce Chamber Choir to premiere David Briggs' accessible adaptation of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast

Rembrandt: Belshazzar's Feast
Rembrandt: Belshazzar's Feast

William Walton's cantata, Belshazzar's Feast wasn't always intended to be the large-scale monster that it became. Walton's original commission from the BBC, in 1929, was for a short work for small forces!

After the work had grown, to double choir and full orchestra, the Leeds Festival took on the premiere in 1931. The director of the festival that year was Sir Thomas Beecham and he was conducting Berlioz' Requiem. Supposedly Beecham said to Walton "As you'll never hear the thing again, my boy, why not throw in a couple of brass bands?" [at the time, Walton was 29 and Beecham was 52]

The result, as they say is history.

The work might be enormously popular, but it requires huge resources, any choir wanting to perform it must gather the wherewithal for an extended symphony orchestra and two brass bands.

Now, with the support of the Walton estate, organist David Briggs has produced a new version of Belshazzar's Feast for choir and organ. The adaptation is the brainchild and commission of the London-based Voce Chamber Choir and its music director, Suzi Digby.

The choir has been working for over a year to crowd-source funds for the commission, its world premiere performance and a professional recording on Signum Records. The premiere takes place on 9 March 2024 at Our Lady of Victories church in London W8, when Suzi Digby and Voce Chamber Choir will be joined by David Briggs (organ) and Willard White (bass-baritone).

The choir is still crowd-funding, see their website for both support and tickets

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