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Choral Workshop 2022
Petite Messe Solennelle
Saturday 29 January 2022
St Mary’s Church, Bathwick

Our choral workshop on 29 January 2022 was a fun and rewarding day of singing together under the masterful direction of Nigel Perrin. Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle is neither little nor solemn, but rather 90 minutes of flamboyant joy in Rossini’s inimitable operatic style, including two long fugues which surge forward with great energy, spirit and vitality. Rossini later scored the mass for full orchestra but always preferred it as we sang it, with the accompaniment of solo piano. During the day, we took the movements apart, studied them and put them all back together again, with the help of four professional soloists:

Johanna Harrison soprano
Cassandra Dalby mezzo-soprano
Oliver Chubb tenor
Samuel Oram baritone

Petite Messe Solennelle
Saturday 26 March 2022
7.30pm  |  St Mary & St Nicholas, Wilton

To kickstart our 75th anniversary programme in 2022, we are bringing to life a lesser-known choral masterpiece: Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. This mass is neither little nor solemn as its name suggests, but rather 90 minutes of flamboyant joy in Rossini’s inimitable operatic style, including two extended fugues which surge forward with unstoppable energy, spirit and vitality. Rossini’s notes in the original score specified that there should be 12 singers of three sexes to perform it: ‘men, women and castrati.’ He later scored the mass for full orchestra but always preferred it as we will perform it, with the more intimate accompaniment of solo piano and harmonium. We have chosen the appropriately Italianate Romanesque basilica of St Mary & St Nicholas in Wilton, near Salisbury, for the performance – an irresistible setting for this stupendous piece of melody-making.

Nigel Perrin conductor
Marcus Sealy piano
Mark Wood harmonium

Johanna Harrison-Oram soprano
Cassandra Dalby mezzo-soprano
Chris Why tenor
Samuel Harrison-Oram baritone

Monteverdi Vespers
Saturday 2 July 2022
7.30pm  |  Bath Abbey

Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine of 1610 – more often known as the Monteverdi Vespers – is a piece of groundbreaking early 17th-century music in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary that lifts the soul with its emotional depth, sensuality and joy. Resonating down the ages, the music demonstrates the genius of a musician who was on his way to becoming maestro di capella at St Mark’s in Venice. In its time, it was unprecedented in scale, with seven solo singers, a chorus that divided into 10 parts and a colourful orchestra of strings, theorbos, cornetts and sackbuts. Much was left to the conductor to determine who sang or played what, as the movements wove their way between intimate, even erotic solo motets and opulent, dramatic choruses. For this vibrant midsummer concert, Bath Bach Choir is honoured to be joined by early music specialists I Fagiolini (director Robert Hollingworth) and the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble for an authentic interpretation of this masterpiece of early Baroque expression.

I Fagiolini
Robert Hollingworth director
Zoë Brookshaw  soprano
Rebecca Lea  soprano
Hugo Hymas  tenor
Chris Fitzgerald-Lombard  tenor
Sam Gilliatt  baritone
Greg Skidmore  baritone

The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble
The Musical and Amicable Society

Nigel Perrin conductor

Review by Anthony Acton:

Can there be any more thrilling opening music than the first bars of Monteverdi’s Vespers? From the moment tenor soloist Hugo Hymas stood up to declaim Deus, in adjutorum meum intende and the choir, with sackbuts resounding through the Abbey, responded at full throttle with Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina, the packed audience knew that we were in for a very special evening.

Monteverdi’s Vespers is a work of extraordinary power and sophistication which places huge demands on the performers and the conductor. Bath Bach Choir was in top form, its choruses switching with assurance between mellifluous polyphony and very precise imitation, including complex double choruses and pure lines of plainsong, with multiple changes in rhythm and tempo. The 6 soloists of I Fagiolini, with 2 theorbos and continuo under their director Robert Hollingworth, are renowned Monteverdi specialists. They gave us performances not only of great technical skill but also of high emotional intelligence, each of them singing alone and in varying combinations with the others. The orchestra was likewise made up of early music specialists, complete with authentic instruments: brass from The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble and strings from The Musical and Amicable Society. They played sometimes as an ensemble, sometimes in their separate departments, and sometimes in varying combinations of instruments drawn from across the departments. All this complexity was brought together to make an utterly convincing whole by conductor Nigel Perrin, in this his penultimate concert after 32 years as Bath Bach Choir’s musical director.

I particularly enjoyed the attack of the full choir in the psalms Laudate Pueri, Nisi Dominus and Lauda Jerusalem. The sopranos’ cantus firmus in Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis had purity and perfect tuning; in the Magnificat the altos (and in one section the tenors) sang with just the right qualities of sweetness and gentleness; and the basses throughout were secure and resonant. The soprano soloists Zoë Brookshaw and Rebecca Lea enchanted us with their duets, the seemingly endless phrases in Pulchra Es twining together as they made use of the Abbey’s acoustics. The tenors Hugo Hymas and Chris Fitzgerald-Lombard and baritones Greg Skidmore and Sam Gilliatt sang with sensitivity, at times achieving a remarkable intimacy in such a big building. I shall long remember their passionate Duo Seraphim, with its repeated cries of Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus seemingly transporting us to the heavenly realms.

Some years ago I had the privilege of witnessing Nigel Perrin teaching part of Monteverdi’s Vespers to youngsters with no musical background from one of the toughest estates in Bristol. It was a testament to his skill and dedication, and to the wide appeal of this music. Tonight Nigel had very different resources: professional soloists and orchestral players of the highest quality and the Bath Bach Choir at its best. He should be very proud of one of the finest performances ever given under his direction. And we should be proud to have had Nigel delivering music of this quality in our own city for 32 wonderful years.