Solihull boys bolster Britten in Bergen

A prestigious international choral collaboration to celebrate the centenary of a great British composer has reached a climax at Solihull School.


Bergen Choir

Solihull School Boys’ Choir with their Choirmaster Oliver Walker (centre right) and Bergen Boys’ Choir with their Director Håkon Matti Skrede (centre left) rehearse jointly in Solihull School Chapel in readiness for singing in Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ at the Bergen International Festival

The School’s Boys’ Choir welcomed the Bergen Boys’ Choir from Norway for rehearsals before they sing together in Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ at the Bergen International Festival on June 5th.

Solihull School is the only UK school to have been invited to sing the Boys’ Choir part of the magnificent work with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, led by the world-renowned American conductor Andrew Litton, in the Bergen Grieghallen.

The ten to 13-year olds from the independent school for boys and girls achieved the honour through Solihull School’s close association with CBSO Chorus Director Simon Halsey, who helped found its Former Choristers’ Association last year.

The Boys’ Choir at the School, which also has a thriving Girls’ Choir and a Chamber Choir made up of Men and Girls, held a series of joint rehearsals in the Chapel on the School’s Warwick Road campus.

The young Norwegian choristers were hosted by families of Solihull School pupils throughout their stay in Solihull, which included taking part in a joint Sunday service in the School Chapel and a performance to Solihull School pupils.

Their itinerary also included guided tours of the city of Oxford and Coventry Cathedral. Britten wrote his War Requiem for the Cathedral, which was opened in 1962 by the Queen on the same day that she visited Solihull School Chapel.

Solihull School has a long association with Benjamin Britten as its choristers sang the Boys’ Choir part of his Spring Symphony at its first Birmingham performance at Birmingham Town Hall in 1960.

Simon Halsey, Chorus Director, said: “I am thrilled to have been instrumental in setting up this splendid exchange. Solihull School’s Chapel Choir is really first rate and their Norwegian counterparts are too.

“I have mentored both conductors and I am so delighted they are getting together on Britten’s War Requiem – the most symbolic piece when it comes to bringing nations and musicians together with a common purpose.

“I myself sent my own children to Solihull School specifically because of the great music and choral traditions there – and under Oliver Walker things are growing and thriving.”

Oliver Walker, Solihull School Organist and Choirmaster, commented: “Our joint rehearsals were a great success and both choirs are now looking forward with tremendous excitement to performing the War Requiem in Bergen on what promises to be one of the greatest days in Solihull School’s choral history.”