London’s new LGBT chamber choir The Fourth Choir will perform a concert of choral soundscapes in The Chapel at King’s College London on Midsummer’s Eve (20 June).
The performance, Circle Songs, will include the world premiere of “Unleash the beauty of your eyes”, a new work by acclaimed British composer Alexander Campkin which is a setting of a love poem by the 7th century BC Greek lyric poet Sappho (who famously lived on the island of Lesbos). The premiere will be performed around a statue of Sappho (by German sculptor Ferdinand Seeboeck) located in the King’s Building foyer and will be an emotional highlight of the evening. Campkin has written previous commissions for the BBC and The Royal Opera House.
The concert will also feature works by Victoria, Nusch, Duruflé and Bobby McFerrin. Many works will be performed in the round, with Artistic Director Dominic Peckham making full use of the space, which features a swathe of beautiful stained glass windows. Designed by George Gilbert Scott, the chapel is at the heart of the college and was beautifully restored in 2001.
Peckham, who is also chorus master at ENO (currently working on the new Julian Anderson opera Thebans) is keen for The Fourth Choir to become recognised as an ensemble that performs choral music in innovative and surprising ways. “It's important to adjust and develop our performances to captivate all ears,” he says. “I like to mix things up, broaden audiences' horizons and offer them examples of as many choral sounds and composition styles as possible to add to their musical palate.” Of the forthcoming performance he says: “Singing works in the round will allow us to reflect the circular characteristics of their composition and structure. Performing the world premiere around the statue of Sappho will be a particular highlight.”
Sappho wrote her poetry as lyrics to music – the poems were always intended to be sung, however none of the original music survives and there is currently no music in print that sets her poetry to music. The Fourth Choir has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the commissioning of a series of works based on her poems.
Composer Alexander Campkin says: ”The texts by Sappho contain so much energy, drive and emotion. While we have no record of how they were set to music, we're lucky to have the record of her words. Currently there is very little LGBT-specific choral music, which is something we want to change because music is such a powerful medium to bring people together, to convey emotion and inspire understanding.”
Speaking about the commissioning project, Peckham says: “The struggles and challenges faced by LGBT people across the world vary. It's all a matter of equality. To feel excluded from any music because of its content is something that must change, and that's why we want to add to the range of music that is currently available.”
Since its launch in November 2013, The Fourth Choir has performed at The Royal Festival Hall and Café de Paris and is set to perform at The Hackney Empire in July.
Book tickets online or support the crowdfunding campaign at thefourthchoir.com