Cherubini Requiem in C minor, Handel Messiah (excerpts) at Shoreditch Town Hall

“that wonderful Cherubini — a treat on a Sunday night’

“outstanding — sung with a real gusto that shook the timbers”

“really brilliant and enjoyable!…like being in the ballroom of a baroque castle’

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The Forest Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hackney Singers performed Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor, and excerpts from Handel’s Messiah in the newly restored Shoreditch Town Hall, Old Street EC1.

The popular sound of the Messiah, and this little heard but beautiful Requiem resounded around the wonderful acoustics of this beautifully restored space.

Cherubini wrote the lovely Requiem in C. minor in 1815 for the memorial service of Louis XVI, who was executed in the French Revolution. Cherubini was much admired in his time, and though the piece is rarely performed now, it was popular in the 19th century and was played at Beethoven’s funeral in 1827.

The concert also featured a selection from Handel’s much loved oratorio the Messiah, including For unto us a child is born, Since by man came death and the Hallelujah chorus.

Photos and poster: Imogen Radford

Hackney Singers

Forest Philharmonic

conducted by

Mark Shanahan

Cherubini: Requiem in C minor

excerpts from Handel’s Messiah

Shoreditch Town Hall

6:30 pm on Sunday 6th November 2005

Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) was born in Italy, but it was in France, where he lived from 1786, that he made his reputation as a composer. Nowadays that reputation has shrunk so much that few people have ever heard of him, but in his time he was a big beast in the early romantic musical jungle: his work influenced that of Beethoven, who considered him ‘the greatest dramatic composer of his time’, and he was much admired by Schumann and Brahms.

He wrote the Requiem in C Minor in 1815/16 at the request of Louis XVIII, for the memorial service of Louis XVI, who had met his death on the guillotine in 1793. It was first performed on 21 January 1816, in the crypt of St Denis, the burial place of the kings of France.

It proved a notable success with both public and critics, and was performed with great regularity thereafter (it was played at Beethoven’s funeral in 1827, for example). Today it is the most frequently heard of Cherubini’s works, and the freshness and occasional audacity of musical invention that have ensured its survival cannot but whet the appetite for more.

No work in the choral repertoire needs less of an introduction than Handel’s Messiah. The conductor Charles Mackerras has called it ‘perhaps the greatest musical masterpiece to have been composed in England’, and the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus is probably not the only component of it that would appear in most people’s list of top-ten instantly recognizable classical pieces.

Messiah is an extended meditation on the coming of Christ to redeem sinful humanity, and on his death and resurrection. The libretto, compiled by Charles Jennens, consists of assorted biblical texts – mainly, but not exclusively, from Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels. Handel wrote it in a fury of inspiration over a period of three and a half weeks in the late summer of 1741, and it was first performed, in Dublin, on 13 April 1742.

Programme notes © John Ayto 2005

‘Where else would I get the chance to hear that wonderful Cherubini — who I knew nothing about — performed in a local venue. It was a treat on a Sunday night’, Polly Matcham.

‘The Hallelujah Chorus was outstanding — sung with a real gusto that shook the timbers and brought spontaneous cheers from the audience. I became an instant fan of Cherubini after listening to this moving performance of a Requiem I’d never heard before’, Brian Troath

‘I enjoyed the concert immensely. The first piece sent shivers down my spine, really brilliant and enjoyable! Very well done dear fellow choir members! Very professional, in a very beautiful and appropriate environment, which felt like being in the ballroom of a baroque castle’, Maria Saur, choir member who was not able to sing in this concert.

Shoreditch Town Hall has recently re-opened following a £2.3m programme of refurbishment. The work has included complete re-roofing, re-wiring and installation of a new heating system, as well as provision of disabled access to the ground floor and basement. In addition, the imposing Entrance Hall, Council Chamber and Mayor’s Parlour (dating from 1865), have been restored to their former glory.

For more information see the Shoreditch Town Hall Trust website:, or call 020 7739 6176