The Starry Heavens - Merbecke Choir Christmas Concert

Christmas Music
  • Venue

    Cathedral

  • Time

    7:30 PM

  • Price

    FREE - £15.00

  • Book Tickets

The Merbecke Choir with special guest Timothy West present an evening of music and readings on a theme of the Starry Heavens

Timothy West joins the Cathedral Merbecke Choir for an exploration of the human response through the ages to the shimmering wonder of the starry heavens.  Early compositions by composers such as Victoria and Guerrero build on magical fragments of plainsong, while later pieces by Schumann, Essenvalds and Maxwell Davies compliment and develop the theme.

Poetry and prose bring together the old and the new in celebration of our timeless connection to the stars and to the mystery of the night sky.

The Merbecke Choir

The Merbecke Choir is a group of around 25-30 singers who sing a wide range of music to a high standard. The choir is mostly made up of people in their twenties and thirties, who meet to rehearse every Tuesday in term time. It is a regular contributor to the liturgy at Southwark Cathedral, notably at the monthly service of Compline and Eucharistic Devotions. It also performs regular concerts, usually three a year, has toured abroad and in the UK and has released a CD, Under the Shadow of Thy Wings.

In 2003, Southwark Cathedral founded the Merbecke Choir to be a place for boys and girls who had left the Cathedral Choirs to explore a wide range of repertoire under expert tuition. The choir has grown since then and has a broad mix of ages and backgrounds, though former Cathedral choristers remain very welcome.

The choir is a staunch supporter of new music, having commissioned several new works, as well as being adept in the performance of renaissance polyphony. They have performed for the Poet Laureate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, contributed to Her Majesty the Queen's Christmas Broadcast recorded at Southwark Cathedral in 2006 and performed for Songs of Praise recorded in 2017.

The choir’s current director of music is Emily Elias.

The Choir is named after the Tudor composer, John Merbecke (1510-1585), who composed one of the most popular settings of the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service. Merbecke with three other companions was tried for heresy in 1543 in the Retrochoir at Southwark, which was used for this purpose at the time. He was found guilty and condemned to be burned at the stake. His sentence was commuted however by Bishop Stephen Gardiner, the then Bishop of Winchester, who decided that as a mere musician Merbecke 'knew no better' and so was released to continue his music making.

Timothy West

Timothy can currently be seen on the very successful Great Canal Journeys on Channel 4, for which he has presented for the last nine seasons with his wife Prunella Scales. He has also just recently finished shooting the BBC costume drama Gentleman Jack with Suranne Jones.

Timothy West was born on 20 October 1934 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, the son of actors Harry Lockwood West and his wife Olive (Carleton-Crow). Educated at John Lyon School and the Polytechnic, he first appeared on the stage in 1956 at the Wimbledon Theatre in a production of Summertime. He then spent several season in repertory at such venues as Wimbledon, Newquay, Hull Northampton, Worthing and Salisbury. He made his London debut at the Piccadilly Theatre in the comical farce Caught Napping in 1959.

Timothy West last appeared on stage at The Bristol Old Vic playing Lear in King Lear. He also starred in The Donmar Warehouse production, The Vote, alongside Judi Dench, Mark Gatiss and Catherine Tate.

His performances on the London stage have included Gentle Jack, The Italian Girl, Abelard and Heloise, The Homecoming, Beecham, Master Class, When we are Married, The Sneeze, It’s Ralph, Twelve Angry Men and The Birthday Party, The Old Country and The Collection. He starred in A Number at the Menier Chocolate Factory which subsequently transferred to South Africa.

Other notable performances include: King Lear, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Luther all for the National Theatre and Laughter (The Royal Court), Falstaff in both parts of Henry IV (English Touring Theatre) and Solness in Ibsen’s The Master Builder on tour and in London; Caryl Churchill's A Number (Sheffield Crucible); The Winslow Boy (Rose Theatre, Kingston, and UK Tour) and Quartet (UK Tour).

In 2012 he played Professor Serebryakov in Uncle Vanya at Chichester Festival Theatre and Romka in The Handyman UK Tour.

Television includes: EastEndersBroken BiscuitsEdward VII, Churchill and the Generals, Brass, The Monocled Mutineer, The Good Doctor Bodkin Adams, What the Butler Saw, The Contractor, Blore, M.P., Beecham, Framed, Eleven Men Against Eleven, Murder in Mind, Bedtime, Bleak House, A Room with a View, Going PostalLewisExile, Titanic, Coronation Street and Last Tango in Halifax (Series 2).

Recent films: We The Kings, Going PostalEver After, Joan of Arc, Villa des Roses, Iris, The Fourth Angel, Beyond Borders and Endgame.

Work as Director has included HMS Pinafore for Carl Rosa Opera.

He has taken part in over 500 radio broadcasts and recorded many Talking Books. His autobiography A Moment Towards the End of the Play, and So You Want to be an Actor (co- written with his wife Prunella Scales) are published by Nick Hern Books.

He was made CBE in 1984, and is currently President of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and of the Society for Theatre Research.