Latest news from the choir

'Youthful Genius Inspires Sussex Chorus' Review: Puccini & Bizet, 22 June 2024

On Saturday 22nd June Sussex Chorus, Soloists and Kent Sinfonia provided a full and appreciative audience at St Andrew’s Church, Burgess Hill with fascinating and artistically coherent insights into the genius of the youthful Bizet and Puccini. From the opening remarks by their Conductor Stephen Anthony Brown, to the poignant and beautifully crafted closing bars of their concert, we were genuinely uplifted.

The concert opened with an orchestral work, Puccini’s Preludio Sinfonico. This orchestral fantasy was written by the 24 year old Puccini for his final exam at the Milan Conservatory in 1882. Combining influences of shimmering Wagnerian orchestration, French chromaticism and Italianate lyricism, this dramatic piece was clearly just waiting for an opera. It foreshadows Manon Lescaut, the bittersweet melodies of Boheme and parts were reused in the early opera Edgar. Kent Sinfonia were guided deftly by their conductor through the soaring melodies and luxurious textures and harmonies. This was a nuanced and enticing  performance with particularly impressive blending of the woodwind and strings.

The next glimpse of future genius was to be found in Bizet’s Te Deum, written in 1858, coincidentally the year of Puccini’s birth. Sussex Chorus demonstrated their commitment to bring quality choral experiences to life with a particularly arresting opening. One could not help but expect the future themes from Pearl Fishers and Carmen to emerge at any moment and we were introduced to this early work with energy and musicality. There were many moments to celebrate here, particularly the lyricism in Soprano, Ellie Neate’s beautifully shaped and directed singing. Under the expert guidance of Stephen Anthony Brown, choir and orchestra negotiated with artistry the various moods and colours, and aside from  a moment of slight rhythmic uncertainty in the fugue like ‘fiat miseri cordia tua’, the performance was polished and persuasive.

The main act in this thoroughly engaging concert was Puccin’s Messa di Gloria. From the luminous string introduction to the ‘Kyrie’, with its dramatic change of mood at the ‘Christe Eleison’, we were taken to what was undoubtedly the choir’s finest moment of the whole concert in the tour de force of the ‘Gloria’. The enjoyment felt by the audience was shared completely by the obvious enthusiasm of the choir and orchestra alike. The Gratias Agimus Tenor solo provided Daniel Joy with an opportunity to share vibrant tonal colours and an elegantly paced sense of drama. Peter Edge, Baritone, took us to new emotional heights in the extended solo for ‘Crucifixus’ and their duo singing in ‘miserere nobis’ was spellbinding.

It is rare for a group of musicians to join forces so successfully to paint a picture of what was to become the destiny of two timelessly popular composers. As someone who revels in late 19th century romantic opera, and also the choral tradition,  I can say with certainty that Sussex Chorus provided us all with a truly inspiring evening.

Tim Arnold

Our Christmas concerts hugely popular once again

At Sheffield Park with the National Trust - December 2023

Sussex Chorus was delighted to be invited back to Sheffield Park, to provide two Christmas concerts in December. Last year, one of the two scheduled concerts had to be cancelled, due to snow, so we were glad that the weather this year was a little more clement! 

We were a small choir of around 30 chorus members each evening – on Saturday our conductor was the wonderful Andrew Rees, with our regular pianist, Jeremy Weaver; on Sunday we were under the baton of our usual – and equally wonderful! – conductor, Stephen Anthony Brown, with Andrew on the piano this time.  

We were joined by a lively and enthusiastic audience on both evenings, for a programme of traditional and lesser known carols and other festive songs. We were in the magical setting of the Sheffield Park Oak Hall – wood panelling, huge Christmas tree, festooned with lights and baubles, blazing log fire. Few people know that this once housed the largest collection of Gilbert and Sullivan memorabilia (now removed to an island on the Thames). The mulled wine and mince pies, for both audience and choir, in the interval, were also very welcome! 

Some of the lesser known carols included ‘O little one sweet’, ‘A virgin most pure’ and ‘The Zither Carol’, complete with ‘zing zings’ from the tenors and basses, to imitate the sound of the stringed zither. The audience joined in with rousing and spirited contributions for the traditional carols, while the sopranos took full advantage of the descants, and the altos, tenors and basses gave full expression to the harmonies.  

However, the highlight of the evening was ‘The twelve days of Christmas’ – on both nights, Andrew and Stephen led the audience into a row by row, stand-up/sit-down, line by line rendition, complete with actions, and lots of laughter.  

Of course, we couldn’t say goodbye without our final farewell - ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ – a fitting end to a very festive and enjoyable concert for all.  


St Andrew’s Church – Family Festive Concert - December 2023

This was the perfect start to Christmas – a full chorus and a nearly full church, with our wonderful Stephen Anthony Brown wielding the baton, and our lovely Jeremy Weaver on piano and organ. The programme, as for Sheffield Park, contained both traditional and not so well-known carols, together with other festive songs. The audience participated in half a dozen carols – Stephen noting that there seemed to be a lot of very fine voices, and urging people to come along to a rehearsal in the spring! 

For this concert, we were joined by Zita Syme, whose wonderful crystal soprano voice soared up to the vaulted church ceiling in a lovely solo rendition of ‘We’re walking on the air’, by Howard Blake, who has had a long connection with the choir. Jeremy provided a joyful opening to the second half of the concert with a Choral Prelude, ‘In Dulci Jubilo’, by J. S. Bach. 

As this was a family concert, we couldn’t sing ‘Jingle Bells’ without inviting the children to the front, and providing them with sleigh bells, which they shook enthusiastically each time the chorus came round. As with the Sheffield Park concerts, our final song was ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’, a message which we extend to everyone in the choir, and to everyone who has come to one of our concerts, and to all of you would-be singers, and future audience members.  

Review: Verdi Requiem, November 2023:

Sussex Symphony Orchestra, Sussex Chorus and Brighton Orpheus Choir performance of Verdi Requiem 

Saturday 11 November 2023 

Verdi’s Requiem, written almost 150 years ago became an overnight sensation. Today it is still one of the most popular orchestral and choral works performed and a capacity audience at All Saints, Hove enjoyed an assured and skilful rendition on Saturday evening. 

The work begins with a spine-tingling phrase from the cellos in the opening bars of Requiem aeterna and in the capable hands of the orchestra's string section the pianissimos were barely audible.  The sensitive playing was much in evidence throughout the entire work, which contrasted well with the big dramatic passages, of which there are many.  Here the brass, timpani, and percussion really come into their own, however, every section had the opportunity to shine and they did so to great aplomb. 

Sussex Chorus and Brighton Orpheus Choir combined to provide the choral element and there was some fine singing, although during the Dies Irae they seemed somewhat underpowered. Credit must be given to the diction which was exemplary from the chorus and soloists alike. 

Claire Pendleton, soprano; Yvonne Howard, mezzo; Stephen Anthony Brown, tenor; and Louis Hurst, bass; sang superbly with each delivering a unique quality whether dramatic or sotto voce.  Although each voice was distinctly different in timbre, the quartets and duets were beautifully phrased and balanced.  Yvonne Howard’s rich tone and faultless technique made for a thrilling sound.  A highlight was the Lux aeterna when sung in little more than a whisper, yet it reached every orifice of the cavernous church. 

A particular highlight was the Lacrymosa. which cohesively combined the orchestra, choir, and soloists to create an ethereal sound which was spiritually uplifting.  

Under the experienced baton of Mark Andrew James there was a depth of feeling throughout and all the nuances of drama, solemnity, and emotion were pitch perfect.  As the Libera me ended the silence seemed suspended in space and it seemed like minutes before the thunderous applause took over.  An hour and a half slipped by like a mere 15 minutes… always the sign of a great performance. 

Susan Fleet MBE HonGMS 

"What a tremendous effort from Sussex Chorus":

Review of Sussex Chorus Mozart Concert, 24 June 2023, St Andrews Church, Burgess Hill 

“Intrigued by wanting to hear Mozart's great but challenging Mass in C minor, I ventured on Saturday to Sussex Chorus's performance in St Andrew's Church, Burgess Hill. I was not disappointed. Stephen Anthony Brown, the dynamic conductor, opted for keeping the voices together, rather than in two choirs, so we heard the voice parts well and each line clearly defined and it was in the quieter moments that the choir was heard to its best advantage. In the louder sections, the professional wind players slightly drowned the voices. But what a tremendous effort from Sussex Chorus! 

The concert opened with Mozart's Laudate Dominum, magically sung by Louisa Alice-Rose and sensitively accompanied by Kent Sinfonia and the choir. In the Mass, Isla MacEwan (soprano) sang beautifully throughout her extremely wide ranging parts, though unnecessarily forcing the occasional top note.  The tenor Mark Dobell and bass James Berry provided ideal support. 

Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, arguably the most wonderful of all clarinet pieces, was here masterfully portrayed by Peter Cigleris on the proper instrument, the basset-clarinet, which has a stunning resonance in the lower register and perfect clarity in the upper notes. On a very hot summer's evening, this work provided a perfect, calming refreshment to the evening. 

Throughout the evening, Stephen Anthony Brown ensured that a fine momentum was maintained and drew the best out of an exhausting but intriguing programme.”  

Robert Hammersley 

25 June 2023 

A glowing review for our performance of Dvořák Stabat Mater

‘It is a joy to see choral music springing back to life as we come to terms with the New Normal in social contacts and musical events. Sussex Chorus’ fine performance of the Dvorak Stabat Mater in St Andrew’s Church, Burgess Hill, marked another notch up on the road to recovery in the wake of the Covid-induced devastation of choral singing. The choir has grown both in number and in stature and under the expert guidance of their director Stephen Anthony Brown are a real pleasure to hear and, evidenced by the glow in the singers’ faces, in which to sing.  

Dvorak’s opening Stabat Mater builds to a grand opulence for choir and the excellent quartet of soloists, ably accompanied by the Kent Sinfonia. The now familiar voices of soprano Zita Syme and heldentenor Charne Rochford blended beautifully in duet, answered lyrically by the rich mezzo-soprano Frances Gregory and mellow baritone of Andrew Davies in the Qui Est Homo. Each soloist enjoyed their own moment in the spotlight and the basses of the choir their own in the Eia Mater. Especially rousing was the whole choir in the Virgin Virginium movement and with a musical nod to the opening of the work, the singers gave their all in the satisfying finale, with prolonged applause from the full, appreciative audience. 

Moving from strength to strength, Sussex Chorus is a choir going places and welcomes musical singers to its ranks, particularly pleasing to see the crop of younger faces appearing at each new event.’  

Simon Austin 

26 March 2023 

"Fabulous Carol Concert!"

By the light of a giant Christmas tree, on Sunday 18th December, Sussex Chorus performed a wonderful programme of carols in the Oak Hall at Sheffield Park. Tickets sold out early to what is now becoming a popular occasion at this lovely National Trust property and the audience were able to enjoy arrangements of some favourite Christmas music and - with great enthusiasm - join in with well known carols.

We loved this message sent afterwards from an audience member: "Fabulous Christmas Concert ..... Your choir is fantastic, so professional and beautiful to listen to."

posted: 20.12.2022

Remembrance Concert receives excellent review!

We're delighted to share with you this excellent review  from Simon Austin of our Remembrance Concert held on 12 November in Burgess Hill. Our thanks to all the performers and, especially, to our Director of Music, Stephen Anthony Brown who led us in preparing and delivering this well-liked performance.  Read the review HERE.    

posted: 17.11.2022

Centenary Celebration Concert a huge success!

On Saturday, 25 June, Sussex Chorus finally were able to bring their Centenary Gala Concert to local audiences, celebrating in style 100 years of choral singing and enjoyment.

And this opportunity to celebrate with them proved very popular! A programme of well known opera choruses and arias, plus some key works in celebration of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee was clearly a hit with music lovers in Mid Sussex.

We think this picture tells you all you need to know ......

Rehearsals have started for the St John Passion

Monday 10 January saw the start of rehearsals for the March performance of Bach's St John Passion.  This promises to be a wonderful concert for audience and performers alike with our Director of Music, Stephen Anthony Brown taking on the role of Evangelist in addition to conducting choir and orchestra.

Seems a daunting task? Well perhaps, but Stephen has an enviable record of performing this role as a professional tenor soloist and tells us that when conducting and performing in this way previously, it has worked brilliantly, adding drama and atmosphere to this great work of Bach's.

So, save the date and keep an eye out for tickets going on sale. And - if you'd like to join with the choir and sing this work - just drop us a note via the Contact Us page. You will be most welcome at rehearsals!

Christmas concert going ahead 18 December

We're pleased to confirm that our Family Christmas Concert on Saturday 18 December 2021 is to go ahead as planned though of course we have made certain arrangments in light of the current situation with Covid.

We have decided not to serve interval drinks - sorry! However, it seems sensible to keep opportunities for mixing to a minimum. Additionally, the audience and performers will be using different entrances and everyone will be wearing face masks unless actually singing.  We would very much appreciate all audience members wearing face masks too, unless able to provide evidence of an exemption. St Andrews is a large, spacious church and there will be plenty of space for our audience as well as rows reserved at the back for anyone who does not want to sit with those who are singing audience carols.

We are requiring that all performers carry out a Lateral Flow Test before the performance and only take part if the result is negative. We would strongly encourage audience members to do the same. Plenty of hand sanitiser will be available.

Tickets will be available through Eventbrite (see concert page) up until 7pm on Saturday.

Thank you to all our members, performers and, of course, our audience who are making sure we can still celebrate Christmas 2021 in one of the best ways we know how!

Rehearsals start 6 September

We're delighted that in-person rehearsals will now be starting at the beginning of the Autumn term. With a big concert planned for March 2022 and a Family Christmas Concert for 18 December 2021,  we plan to use the first few weeks bringing our somewhat rusty voices back to life and just enjoying singing together, in person, once again. Working on carols and Christmas music should be a big help for bringing us back to good voice!

 For anyone new to Sussex Chorus, you can find much more information about singing with us on the Membership page, but this is the information everyone will need to know:

Rehearsals will be at the usual venue, St Paul's Catholic College, Jane Murray Way, Burgess Hill, RH15 8GA, will start promptly at 7.15 and finish at 9.15pm. We rehearse in the large, well-ventilated main hall and a full Covid-related risk assessment will be carried out, procedures put in place and clear guidance issued to singers before we start (see below).

Our new Director of Music, Stephen Anthony Brown will be leading us with Jeremy Weaver accompanying on piano. More about both Stephen and Jeremy here

Celebration concert postponed due to Covid restrictions

It is with great sadness that we have had to postpone our concert planned for Saturday 18 September. Billed as our very special, Centenary Celebration Concert, we have made the difficult decision to postpone this as the later than expeccted lifting of pandemic restrictions - and particularly challenging rules around amateur music groups rehearsing - have made it impossible for the choir to be performance-ready in time.

However, we refuse to be defeated! So now plan to make 2022 our celebratory year - the first year of our next 100 years! We look forward very much to celebrating with you and once again bringing you great music throughout next year.

Covid secure rehearsals

While many regulations have eased, we are still mindful of the need to plan a secure environent for our members before rehearsals commence. Sussex Chorus committee will be undertaking a comprehensive risk assessment and putting in place strong risk mitigation measures.  Clear guidance that reflects these measures will be shared with choir members before rehearsals start.

We monitor and respond to all relevant announcements and updates from government and, as members of national organisation Making Music, we are able to follow their regularly updated information and work with their resources which are designed specifically for amateur music groups. 


Information and news for Sussex Chorus members