Richard Blackford Pietà                                

Commissioned jointly by the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and St Albans Choral Society

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Requiem in D minor, K626


Date: Saturday 25 April 2020

Time: 7.30pm


Daisy Brown soprano

Rebecca Afonwy-Jones mezzo-soprano

Bradley Smith tenor

James Platt bass

Felix Kemp baritone 

Amy Dixon saxaphone

George Vass conductor

The Purcell School Chamber Choir

Orchestra Nova accompanying orchestra


St Albans Choral Society continues its 75th anniversary season with performances of two major works – Richard Blackford’s critically acclaimed Pietà and Mozart’s profound setting of the Requiem text.

The core of Blackford’s Pietà is the Stabat Mater, the 13th-century Christian hymn to Mary, but the composer also sets poetry by acclaimed Russian writer Anna Akhmatova. The poems echo the words of the Stabat Mater reflecting the grief of Akhmatova for her son Lev, a student at Leningrad University, who, in 1938, at the height of Stalin’s terror, was arrested and shipped to an Arctic labour camp. For 17 long months Akhmatova wrote letters to officials beseeching them to tell her the fate of her son – her struggle is immortalised in the poetry-cycle Requiem. Alternating between elegy, lamentation and witness, it culminates in this truly desperate stanza:

          For seventeen months I’ve been crying out,

          Calling you home.

          I flung myself at the hangman’s feet,

          For you my son, my horror.

Scored for mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists, chorus and string orchestra, the work also includes an important part for solo saxophone, to be performed by Australian virtuoso, Amy Dickson. In Pietà, Blackford perfectly embraces the Stabat Mater text and the passion of Akhmatova’s words.

The programme concludes with Mozart’s transcendent setting of the Requiem which, though left unfinished at his death, is the composer’s one true choral masterpiece.


St Albans Choral Society is one of Hertfordshire’s leading amateur choirs; it gave its first concert in December 1944 and since then has performed a huge part of the repertoire with music ranging from the Baroque to the present day. The Society has an enviable reputation for the commissioning and performance of new work and enjoys a fruitful relationship with Orchestra Nova, its regular performance partner.

Recent repertoire has included the Requiems of Fauré and Duruflé, Handel Messiah and Dettingen Te Deum, Mozart Mass in C minor, Beethoven Mass in C, Britten St Nicholas and work by contemporary composers James Francis Brown, Gabriel Jackson, Cecilia McDowall, Tarik O’Regan and Pēteris Vasks.

Firmly rooted in the local community, the society has also been involved in education outreach with local primary schools and the choir’s singing group regularly performs to people in senior living accommodation who are unable to attend concerts.

Celebrated British conductor and festival director, George Vass, was appointed music director of the choir in 1994; in 2017, he was presented with a BASCA Gold Badge Award for his support of the British song-writing and composing community.



Premium £29 - Centre front with full view

Classic £22 - Centre middle with full view 

Standard plus £16 - Centre back with full view

Standard £10 - Centre back with full view  

No view £10 - Mainly located in the aisles or behind pillars. These seats have no view of the stage.

No view seats will only be released when seats with views have sold out.



Children under 18 £5, Students with ID £5.


Wheelchair spaces and carer discounts can only be booked through the Box Office on 01727 890290.


Doors will open 30 minutes before concert starts. There is an interval of 20 minutes during this performance.