Phoenix Singers Present Genius of Henry Purcell
29 Jan 2024

Light-hearted music from Henry Purcell in honour of St Cecilia will be performed by Shrewsbury's Phoenix Singers on March 16th at St Chad's Church. Harriet Bisson of Phoenix Singers explains what audiences can expect from this musical showcase. 

'Welcome to all pleasures' by Henry Purcell will form part of the Phoenix singers of Shrewsbury’s upcoming concert entitled 'The Genius of Henry Purcell' on 16th March at 7.30pm at St Chad's Church in Shrewsbury.

Regarded by many as the finest and most versatile British composer of any age, Henry Purcell was born in 1659 and died at the age of only 36 in 1695. Despite his brief life, he was an astonishingly prolific and wide-ranging composer.  His works include operas, secular odes, instrumental music, keyboard music, songs for the stage, church music, and even some very bawdy tavern songs. Amongst his contemporaries he stands out for his harmonic inventiveness and skill in word-setting, matched only in the late Baroque period by J.S. Bach.

The Phoenix Singers programme on March 16th will showcase just a few examples of Purcell’s genius, drawn from his choral music (both sacred and secular) and his instrumental music. The music we have chosen ranges from serious anthems, including the hauntingly beautiful Hear my Prayer, to the light-hearted, even boisterous, music he wrote in honour of the patron saint of music St Cecilia - Welcome to all the pleasures. 

This concert is the next taste from “the box of delights” referred to by John Moore when reviewing The Phoenix Singers last major concert in November. This programme is a wonderful opportunity for the choir to demonstrate their  “thrilling full-blooded tone” and to show off their ability to produce “subtle tonal shades of colour and beautifully sustained pianissimos”. 

It will include Purcell’s solo songs, music for strings, and that genre unique to this period, the ‘symphony anthem’, which provides many opportunities for members of the choir to contribute solos.

The Phoenix Singers are delighted to be joined for this concert by Noxwode Baroque, a professional ensemble who specialise in playing music of this period on original instruments. The sound of stringed instruments of the 17th century was very different from modern instruments, not least in that they were tuned rather lower than modern pitch, which in turn has a significant effect on how this music is sung.

Noxwode was founded by Conor Gricmanis and Miriam Nohl in 2018. The ensemble has performed throughout the UK and the continent. In December 2023 they played for the Shrewsbury Community Choir’s performance of Messiah at Shrewsbury Abbey where their authentic baroque sound was hugely enjoyed by a full Abbey audience. Noxwode has performed in prestigious venues from St Martin-In-The-Fields and Handel’s Church, St George's, Hanover Square, in London to the Concertgebouw in Bruges.

They perform entirely on period instruments and have recently been granted access to 16th and 17th century instruments from the Hebbert collection in Oxford.  This concert will be a wonderful opportunity to hear this early music played and sung as it was originally intended, in the fine acoustic of St Chad’s in Shrewsbury.

Phoenix Singers present 'The Genius of Henry Purcell' at St Chad's Church, Shrewsbury on March 16th, 2024 at 7.30pm. Tickets £15 (U18s free) HERE