The Royal Holloway Choir in Christ’s Chapel as part of a unique evening combining art and music.
“I was sent photographs of the pictures that would appear in the Murillo exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, so that I could plan a programme of music to fit the exhibition,” explains Rupert Gough, director of the renowned Choir of Royal Holloway College. The choir might not be as famous as some of the Oxbridge ones, but this year the college was given a Regius Professorship for the high quality of its music department. It was one of twelve granted by the Queen and the only one in Arts.
Rupert Gough would be far too modest to take any credit for that, but since he took over the choir in 2005 it has gone from strength to strength. He does admit that it is difficult to lose one third of the choir each year as the students leave, but he has grappled with it in an unusual way. “This year we lost almost half of our 24 scholars and as the term started I invited the new scholars some days before term started and took them off to a kind of boot camp for three days. We rehearsed all day, cooked and ate together and by the time we left we had a very tight team.”
The Times has described the sound of the choir as “truly fabulous” and their concerts draw full houses. The last one was a week ago at St.John’s Smith Square. “Across the year we have roughly thirty lunchtime concerts in the college chapel during term-time and another twenty outside, so it’s a very busy schedule.” Rupert Gough is used to the pressure as he also has another role as one half of the Gough Duo. He plays the organ with his wife Rachel, who is a professional violinist and together they tour not only in the UK but also have had great success in the States and Russia. Now there are concerts planned for Hong Kong and Paris.
“But Royal Holloway takes most of my time.” Rupert Gough has a solid background in music. As a young boy he was a chorister at the Chapels Royal, St James’s Palace and won a scholarship to the Purcell School. He left University of East Anglia with Masters degree in English Church Music, while at the same time being an organ scholar at Norwich Cathedral. He then went on to Wells Cathedral where he stayed for eleven years. “And it was there I realised that my heart was in running the choir not playing the organ.”
He has, though, been playing the organ in Christ’s Chapel, where the Murillo concert will take place. “It’s a wonderful organ, which has been restored to its original state, almost to the period of Murillo’s days and there will be two organ solos performed as part of the concert.”
There will be music by the Spanish composers Luis de Victoria and Alonso Lobo and Gough has also included some music by the English composer Peter Philips, who died in 1628. “He does fit in perfectly. He spent a few years in Rome and he was much influenced by the music composed by Victoria. Once he left Rome he settled in the Spanish Netherlands and wrote for the Regent.” It is a pure coincidence that the Choir will release a record next month with music by Philips.
The concert will be part of a very special evening, which starts with a chance to see the exhibition – after closing time – in the Gallery, which has been transformed to look like a church in Seville, the home of Murillo. The curator, Dr Xavier Bray, will then give a talk in the Gallery about the special friendship between Murillo and his friend Justino de Neve, who commissioned many of Murillo’s paintings for the churches of Seville. His talk will be followed by the concert in Christ’s Chapel after a glass of wine, no doubt Spanish. It promises to be an evening to delight both eyes and ears.
Murillo and Justino de Neve: The Art of Friendship
6 February – 19 May 2013
Curator’s Lecture – Dr Xavier Bray
Thursday 7 February
12.30 – 1.30pm. Linbury Room
Tickets £10, £8 Friends
Murillo and Music of his Time
Wednesday 27 February
6.30pm Gallery open for private vieiwing
7pm Gallery – Talk by Dr Xavier Bray
7.45 pm Christ’s Chapel – Concert of Spanish Music of Murillo’s time with the Choir of Royal Holloway College, Director Rupert Gough
£20, £18 Friends, includes a glass of wine
Tickets available online: www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk
Phone: 020 8299 8758 Mon-Fri 10am – 4pm
Or from Friends Desk in the Gallery