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Choral Workshop 2023
Come and sing
with Voces8 Coaching
Saturday 28 January 2023
St Mary’s Church, Bathwick

The BBC Workshop 2023 was led by our new Music Director & Conductor Benedict Collins Rice. Benedict was joined by Katie Jeffries-Harris, the alto from Voces8, to help us hone our smaller-group ensemble skills.

The musical works studied were Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir and Eric Whitacre’s Alleluia. Martin wrote his mass in 1922, considering it a deeply personal work between himself and God and not for public scrutiny. Perhaps for this reason it was not performed until 1963, since when it has gone on to be popular with choirs across the world. Eric Whitacre’s Alleluia was premiered at Sidney Sussex Chapel, Cambridge University, in 2011, with Benedict in the choir. The work simply sets the one word, Alleluia, and embodies Whitacre’s trademark style.

Plainchant Reimagined
Saturday 1 April 2023
St Mary’s Church, Bathwick

Hildegard of Bingen  O viridissima virga
Maurice Duruflé  Quatre Motets
Frank Martin  Mass for Double Choir
Eric Whitacre  Sainte-Chapelle  |  Alleluia

This concert presents three composers from the mid-20th and early 21st centuries whose music was shaped by medieval plainchant. Plainchaint was the only form of music used by the Christian church until the 9th century, and it remains embedded in the identity of Christian sacred music to this day, creating a beautiful, sonorous architecture that rarely fails to transport its listeners.

The centrepiece of this Plainchant Reimagined programme is Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir (Messe Pour Double Choeur), written in the 1920s. The movements will be interpolated with medieval chant along with exquisite motets by Maurice Duruflé and Eric Whitacre that each reframe plainchant in their own distinctive style – by turns rich, romantic and positively technicolour.

The second half of the programme will start with two organ pieces by Franco-Lebanese organist, composer and improviser Naji Hakim (formerly Titulaire of La Trinité, Paris). The first is the boisterous Tantum ergo sacramentum (from Agapê, 2001) followed by the more reflective Salve Regina (2004).

The programme concludes with Alleluia, written by Whitacre when he was composer-in-residence at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Singing at its first performance in 2011 was Benedict Collins Rice, then a member of the Sidney Sussex Chapel Choir; and now taking up the baton as the new Music Director & Conductor of Bath Bach Choir.

Marcus Sealy organ
Benedict Collins Rice conductor

“In my humble opinion, the Martin Mass is one of the greatest compositions of all time, in any genre.”
Eric Whitacre, on hearing the announcement of this concert

Mendelssohn’s Elijah
Saturday 8 July 2023
Bath Abbey

The choir is delighted to be bringing Mendelssohn’s much-loved oratorio Elijah back to Bath Abbey for its summer concert. Premiered in the Birmingham Festival of 1846, Elijah was first conducted by Mendelssohn himself and the piece has enjoyed huge popularity ever since. Large crowds accompanied the composer’s appearance at the premiere and we are expecting a similarly full house in Bath Abbey, to enjoy new conductor Benedict Collins Rice’s interpretation of the work.

It had taken Mendelssohn over a decade to finish the oratorio having worked long and hard on the libretto. As is usual with such works, it has a sacred subject but is not intended for inclusion in church services. It is scored for solo voices, choir and orchestra. The narration of the biblical story of the Old Testament prophet Elijah is in the form of recitatives sung by the soloists interspersed with the choir singing various airs and choruses; it is a work full of vitality. Mendelssohn was undoubtedly influenced by both Bach and Handel, adding his own enthusiastic and dramatic style that captures the audience’s interest from the opening to the final chorus.

Bath Bach Choir is thrilled that baritone Matthew Brook will be singing the part of Elijah. With an outstanding reputation for his performances of the music of Bach and Handel in particular, he is currently much in demand all over the world. The choir will be accompanied by Southern Sinfonia, one of the most distinctive orchestral ensembles in the south of England, with Marcus Sealy playing organ continuo.

Matthew Brook baritone
Laura Lolita Perešivana soprano
Lotte Betts-Dean mezzo soprano
James Way tenor

Southern Sinfonia
Marcus Sealy organ continuo

Benedict Collins Rice conductor

Songs of Farewell
Saturday 4 November 2023
Bath Abbey

Gabriel Fauré  Requiem
John Ireland  Greater Love
Hubert Parry  Songs of Farewell

Interspersed with Organ reflections and songs by Alain, Gurney, Elgar, Ireland and Vaughan Williams

This autumn’s concert for remembrance season reflects the sorrow of loss and the uplifting hope of peace in eternal rest. The music will be by turns tenderly intimate and delicate, as befits the solemnity of the season, and thrillingly bombastic, ideally matched to the exciting space of Bath Abbey. Whilst the three composers whose works will be heard at this concert search for peace, they explore a variety of inspirational poetry and religious texts as well as fresh, often innovative, musical styles.

During the course of the programme, the choir will sing contemplative motets by two of the great English composers of the early twentieth century, Hubert Parry and John Ireland. With World War I on the horizon as these pieces had their premieres, both men seek to offer comfort and consolation through their choral compositions. The choir will show off its musical dexterity, singing a cappella in the first half of the evening as the Musical Director once again presents the Parry work which sealed his decision to take up choral conducting, which will be interspersed with organ pieces and songs reflecting and exploring the concert’s theme.

The second half of the concert will consist of Fauré’s Requiem, his ever-popular setting of the Catholic Mass, marking in advance the 100th anniversary of the French composer’s death in 1924. Much of its popularity can be ascribed to its many beautiful melodies; it is unusually gentle and moving. There is contrast between darkness and light but as the movements succeed each other, the audience feels Fauré’s optimistic and positive words play out: “… it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience.” The finale will be John Ireland’s Greater Love, bringing to a close a programme of life-altering tableaux of music.

For this poignant concert, Bath Bach Choir is honoured to be joined once again by Frederick Long, bass, who hails from our local area and is much acclaimed at home and abroad. He will perform some captivating solo songs from his repertoire as well as taking the solo bass part in the Fauré Requiem. The treble lines will be sung by two outstanding choristers from Bath Abbey Choir. It will be a special treat to once again hear the glorious Klais organ in the Abbey played by Marcus Sealy who was for so long the assistant organist of the Abbey and has been the choir’s much-loved accompanist for more than 40 years.

Frederick Long bass
Harry Hampson-Gilbert treble
Sebastien H. McHugh treble
Marcus Sealy organ & piano

Benedict Collins Rice conductor

Carols by Candlelight
21 & 22 December 2023
7.00pm  |  8.30pm  |  The Pump Room, Bath

Each Christmas, Bath Bach Choir delights festive audiences in the Bath Pump Room with seasonal favourites and extra musical treats. This year the choir will perform Christmas music to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the deaths of two masters of English music, William Byrd and Thomas Weelkes, as well as a variety of traditional and modern Christmas music including the annual final rousing carol – come along and see if you don’t know which one! The programme promises to be a heart-warming entertainment for all the family.

In a new format, there will be two one-hour concerts to choose from each night, so why not come along to the 7pm performance, maybe once the shopping is finished, where you can also hear the magical Voices For Life Bath Children’s Choir? Or perhaps eat a meal out in the city first and then join us at 8.30pm, when the choir is delighted to welcome a young virtuoso soloist from the Bath Young Musician competition. You can relax in the splendid surroundings of Regency Bath as you relish the music – and even join in with a couple of traditional Christmas carols. Whichever concert start time you decide on, you are assured of a concert to lift the spirits as the celebrations begin!

Voices for Life Bath Children’s Choir
Amelia Wise clarinet – finalist, Bath Young Musician of the Year 2023
Marcus Sealy accompanist

Benedict Collins Rice conductor