Our summer programme will comprise works by Charles Villiers Stanford, including his stirring maritime choral work The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet, which sets to music a poem by Tennyson describing the sea battle in 1591 between a warship commanded by Sir Richard Grenville and a vastly larger Spanish fleet.  We also hope to perform Stanford’s evocative part-song The Blue Bird and to be joined by solo performers from UCS in his Songs from the Sea.

The concert, accompanied by piano, will be on 23rd June 2018 and will be followed by our annual Summer Party. Audience tickets are £10 (£5 for those under the age of 24 and in full-time education) – tickets are for the concert and for the summer party.  Singer tickets for the party are £5 per person to cover the cost of drinks.  It would help us if tickets were bought by 13 June 2018 so we can organise catering. Tickets can be bought at rehearsals or via the UCS Box Office.

The Revenge: A ballad of the Fleet

Stanford, one of the great Victorian composers, is now best known for his church music.  He did, however, write some wonderfully stirring settings of poetry, including The Revenge, a setting of Tennyson’s poem of the same name (now most famous, perhaps, for its opening line “At Flores, in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay…”). Tennyson’s poem tells the story of how Sir Richard Grenville and his crew aboard The Revenge inflicted terrible damage on the Spanish fleet off the Azores in 1591.  This 1886 composition was a big hit with choral societies across the country.

According to Paul Rodmell, Stanford’s biographer, there were many reasons for the success of The Revenge:

  • the works is a ‘practical’ one – well within the technical grasp of many amateur choral societies and a good length at 30 minutes.
  • The choral lines are pleasingl to sing and each line has its moments of glory
  • It has a rapid narrative of changing scenes and themes designed to appeal to an audience
  • It filled a hole in the market – it had so few successful counterparts.

Sadly, it is not often performed now, so we are lucky to have the chance to perform it this summer.

Recordings and Practice aids

There is one recording (available via Amazon or Spotify) on the Chandos label, conducted by Richard Hickox.

In addition, there are learning tools available  for both The Revenge and The Blue Bird via John Fletcher Music – link here.  To use this site, you will need to register but you do not need to pay to access these files.

Rehearsal Schedule


9th        7.00 pm           Registration

-“-       7.30 pm           Rehearsal – The Revenge pp. 9 – 18. The Bluebird (bars 1 – 20)

16th      7.30pm            Rehearsal – The Revenge pp.18 – 27

24th      7.30 pm           Rehearsal – The Revenge pp. 28 – 38.

The Bluebird (bars 20 – end; note this is the second verse with the same notes as bars 1 – 20))

Plus sing through all before half term

30st       ——–             No Rehearsal – Half term


6th        7.30 pm           Rehearsal – The Revenge pp. 1 – 8, 39 – 46.

13th      7.30 pm           Rehearsal – Revision of all

20th      7.30 pm           Rehearsal – Revision of all

Saturday 23rd               

2.00 – 5.00 pm            Final Rehearsal

6.30 pm                         Concert followed by the choir Summer Party