Brighton Festival Chorus was founded for the 1968 Brighton Festival by its first Music Director, Laszlo Heltay. The choir's first performance, Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer himself, brought overnight success. Brighton Festival Chorus is now one of the most sought-after and versatile choirs in the country with a busy schedule of concerts, recordings and tours both at home and abroad.
Over nearly 50 years the Chorus has appeared with all the major British orchestras and some of the most celebrated conductors of recent times: Ashkenazy, Bernstein, Dorati, Maazel, Ozawa, Previn, Rattle, Slatkin and Tennstedt. Amongst its many recordings are award-winning versions of Belshazzar's Feast and A Child of Our Time, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Andre Previn and a recording of choral works by Kodaly. In 2002 the Chorus' recording of Debussy's Le Martyre de Saint-Sebastien with Jacques Mercier and L'Orchestre National d'Ile de France was awarded Le Choc de la Musique.
The Chorus has been involved in a number of live film performances and semi-staged performances of vibrant new works, including Tavener's Veil of the Temple at the BBC Promenade Concerts, Bach’s St John Passion in Brighton and, with Carl Davis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, in the premiere ‘live soundtrack’ performance of Olivier’s classic film Henry V.
The 2013/14 season included a tour of northern France to give four performances of Verdi’s Requiem in Amiens, Compiegne and Rennes, and a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Rouen. Both of these tours were as part of the ACT network. ACT is a project selected under the European cross-border Cooperation Programme INTERREG IV A funded with support from the European Regional Development Fund. The season also included a performance of Arvo Part's Litany, conducted by Stephen Layton, and the Bernstein Chichester Psalms and the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms, both conducted by John Wilson.
Highlights of the 2014/15 season included a semi-staged performance of Bach's St John Passion, and Janacek's Glagolitic Mass with the Halle Orchestra conducted by our president, Sir Mark Elder CBE.
The 2015/16 season included taking part in a performance of Berlioz' Grande Messe des Morts with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner. The Chorus also recorded a number of works by Elgar, with Barry Wordsworth and the BBC Concert Orchestra, for SOMM records.
Under the direction of James Morgan, the Chorus performs throughout the year in concerts at all the major London venues, many European centres and during May each year in the Brighton Festival, England's largest arts festival.