Choral Workshop 2013
Bach: St John Passion
Saturday 26 January 2013
St Michael’s Without, Bath
Bach’s dramatic setting of the St John Passion is no less than a brilliant sacred opera in which the chorus gets to be all the parts from the angry crowd of Jews to the awe-struck onlookers after the crucifixion. It opens with the majestic chorus Hail, Lord and Master, moves through beautiful, fervent chorales and manic mob-scenes and closes with the eloquent final chorus Sleep well and rest in God’s safe-keeping. The day’s workshop will conclude with a cameo performance which will embrace the whole drama of this seminal work.
St John Passion
Saturday 16 March 2013
7.00pm | Wells Cathedral
Saturday 23 March 2013
7.30pm | Exeter Cathedral
With their soaring arches and haunting acoustic, the Norman cathedrals of Wells and Exeter will host a thrilling event for the West Country in 2013. Three choirs, from Bath, Wells and Exeter, will perform a St John Passion – not, in this case, the famous one by Bach, but a dramatic contemporary version of the events leading up to the death of Christ set to music by the brilliant Scottish composer James MacMillan. Not for the fainthearted, this is a piece of theatre: raw, dynamic, even appropriately terrifying in parts. It’s fiendishly difficult, with a cold hint of the Highlands, but also utterly compelling. A masterpiece, written for our times by a living British composer. Composed in 2008, and not yet performed outside the major concert centres because of the forces required and its technical demands, MacMillan’s St John Passion is now being taken on by City of Bath Bach Choir, Exeter Festival Chorus and the Wellensian Consort. Baritone soloist Mark Stone will take the role of Christus and the orchestra will be the Southern Sinfonia – all under the baton of conductor Nigel Perrin. As part of the pioneering mission to bring this work to a wider audience, the choirs, in partnership with Mulberry, are extending an invitation to schools and colleges in Somerset and Devon. Senior music pupils are invited not only to attend the concerts, but also to take part in two masterclass study days with the choirs, directed by Nigel Perrin. In all, a rich collaboration, to do justice to what will become an iconic work. This is an opportunity for musical learning and engagement not to be missed.
City of Bath Bach Choir
Exeter Festival Chorus
Mark Stone Christus
Southern Sinfonia, Alexander Hohenthal leader
Review by Julian Sutton:
Where better on the eve of Holy Week than Exeter Cathedral for this performance of James Macmillan’s St John Passion? Written in 2007 this music is fierce, tense and violent but interspersed with hauntingly lyrical passages reflecting Macmillan’s enthusiasm for the timeless quality of Gregorian chant and for the drama of the operatic stage.
Macmillan, born in 1959, is a Scottish Catholic composer and this is a Catholic Passion, combining words from St John’s Gospel with Latin and Greek texts, as well as some of MacMillan’s own words. The work, in two parts, consists of 10 separate movements with the final movement being an orchestral meditation on the words; Holy Immortal, Have mercy upon us.
In this performance the narrative role, was sung by the excellent youthful voices of the Wellensian Consort who conveyed the text in an appropriately restrained and unemotional manner. Whether chanting in octaves, thirds or mildly discordant four-part harmony every word could clearly be heard and their ensemble was generally impressive.
Christus (sung from the pulpit by the baritone Mark Stone) was commanding both in tone and presence. He immediately stamped his authority on the performance and in The Reproaches, the musical and emotional climax of the work, he demonstrated a vocal range of almost two octaves as well as enormous stamina in negotiating the long, high melismatic passages.
The combined Exeter Festival Chorus and the City of Bath Bach Choir formed the 8-part, Large Chorus which took on the other main characterisation roles such as Pilate, Peter and the gossipy and vengeful crowd. The chorus dealt admirably with the wide dynamic ranges, the intricate and complex rhythms, the harsh discordant lines and the close imitation demanded by the piece. Intonation was impressive in some of the long unaccompanied sections and their affirmative cry of “Tu es Petrus” after Peter’s denial was one of many dramatic highlights.
A wide range of orchestral timbres were drawn from the superb Southern Sinfonia with many players being called upon to play exposed and technically demanding solo passages. Enormous credit must go to Nigel Perrin in preparing all of the musical forces so thoroughly and for guiding the performers through this incredibly demanding piece with such clarity of direction. This was a dramatic and sincere performance. A real triumph!
A Garland for the Queen
Saturday 22 June 2013
6.00pm | Roper Theatre, Hayesfield School, Bath
A programme of choral music celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten – including music specially commissioned for the Coronation.
A Garland for the Queen was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain to celebrate the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Ten British poets and ten British composers were bidden to create settings for mixed voices. The idea was to craft a 20th century ‘replica’ of the famous The Triumphs of Oriana (1601) which was presented to Queen Elizabeth I. We will be singing some of the old madrigals as well as a choice of modern songs creatively inspired by the earlier cycle. Britten’s opera Gloriana was also composed to celebrate the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953; the Choral Dances are taken from the Masque in Act II.
The Triumphs of Oriana, 1601
Madrigals by Morley, Jones, Bennet & Weelkes
Music for the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II, 1953
Howells, Harris, Wesley & others
Choral Dances from Gloriana, 1953
A Garland for the Queen, 1953
Songs by Tippett, Vaughan Williams, Bax & Ireland
Saturday 16 November 2013
7.30pm | Bath Abbey
Johann Sebastian Bach Jesu, meine Freude
Anton Bruckner Mass in E minor
Benjamin Britten Missa Brevis in D
Carols by Candlelight
18, 19 and 20 December 2013
7.30pm | The Pump Room, Bath
City of Bath Bach JUNIOR Choir conducted by Jamie Knights
Soloists from Wells Cathedral School
Marcus Sealy accompanist
Nigel Perrin conductor
Choral Workshop 2014
Saturday 25 January 2014
St Michael’s Without, Bath
All singers are warmly invited to join us for our annual singers workshop and to take the opportunity of working with the inspirational choral conductor Nigel Perrin. In 2014 we will be studying Handel’s Messiah – probably one of the best-loved, and certainly one of the best-known, works in the choral repertoire. This oratorio, telling the story of Christ’s life and death, is a feast of magnificent musical offerings: it explores the depths of despair, quiet contemplation and, of course, joy, through the energy and exuberance of the “Hallelujah” chorus. The day’s workshop will conclude with a cameo performance.
Saturday 22 March 2014
7.30pm | Bath Abbey
Our March concert presents a rare opportunity to hear an authentic baroque-style performance of Handel’s Messiah. With Margaret Faultless’s brilliant orchestra playing on authentic period instruments, four of Britain’s most highly respected baroque soloists and City of Bath Bach Choir’s light touch, we will be close to how Handel conceived his inspirational work. Romanticism and pomposity are replaced by exquisite phrasing and agile virtuosity; this uptempo interpretation enables us to give a complete performance and to include several choruses that are rarely heard.
Music for Awhile, Margaret Faultless leader
Mhairi Lawson soprano
Michael Chance alto
Nicholas Mulroy tenor
Matthew Brook bass
Marcus Sealy organ continuo
Review by Peter Lloyd Williams:
This Messiah – of all I’ve heard and performed – was unique. The music was magnificent: and we had the whole work, including the lesser known pieces, now not often heard, which took nearly three hours, but added immeasurably to its impact. And it gave the choir a chance to show us their calibre which they seized with both hands. This was singing of high quality, precise and balanced, but full of meaning and warmth, giving these well-known choruses freshness and energy. In particular, the tempi were well-nigh perfect, carefully adjusted, no rushing, giving the singers time to articulate the notes with clarity and precision. And the dynamic contrasts were beautifully observed, especially Since By Man Came Death, hushed and dramatic in turn. Nor did the sheep go astray, over the hills and far away prestissimo. Choral singing at its best.
Mhairi Lawson’s soprano was very fine: I enjoyed Rejoice Greatly, immaculately phrased and paced. Matthew Brook is always in tremendous voice, and The People Walked in Darkness with resonant sureness: The trumpet, too, sounded splendid, vocally and instrumentally.
Music for Awhile were impeccable, leader Margaret Faultless quite outstanding in the violin obbligato, If God Be For Us, with Mhairi Lawson. It was the kind of virtuoso orchestral playing, supportive and sensitive, that every conductor longs for, but doesn’t always get, and Nigel Perrin was suitably appreciative. A most excellent performance of this very well-known work, which showed us the real quality of the music and why we never tire of hearing it – certainly sung as well as this. Nigel Perrin and his singers should be very pleased: the packed audience certainly was.
A Night at the Opera
Saturday 5 July 2014
6.30pm | Roper Theatre, Hayesfield School, Bath
City of Bath Bach Choir takes to the boards of the Roper Theatre to present a sparkling evening of opera highlights, joined by three young, talented soloists setting out on their professional careers. From Bizet’s Habanera and Mascagni’s Easter Hymn to Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves and Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, it will be a feast of grand opera!
Verity Wingate soprano
Kieran White tenor
Robert Clark baritone
Marcus Sealy accompanist
From Darkness to Light
Saturday 15 November 2014
7.30pm | Bath Abbey
Marion Wood Futility
Henry Purcell Funeral Sentences
Jonathan Willcocks From Darkness to Light – A Requiem of Hope
Eric Whitacre When David heard
Howard Goodall Lacrymosa from Eternal Light
Leonard Bernstein Chichester Psalms
Many organisations are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. This programme of poignant and powerful music is CBBC’s tribute to the tens of thousands who gave their lives. Starting from grief and sadness, we gradually move forward to the optimism of the final lines of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms – Behold how good and how pleasant it is, for brethren to live together in unity. Wilfred Owen’s poem, Futility, is bleak, the harmonies in Purcell’s Funeral Sentences are soul-wrenching; however, Jonathan Willcocks’s work, From Darkness to Light, ultimately rejoices in a new dawn. Written to commemorate the Korean War of 1950–53, it uses texts from the Requiem mass interpolated by poems by Ryland Andrew Baldwin. The excerpt from Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light is beautifully moving in its simple lyricism, whereas Whitacre pursues intense, angular contours of sound in his passionate work When David heard.
Daniel Robson baritone
Lydia Ward alto
Kate Pearson harp
Marcus Sealy organ
Wells Cathedral School Brass and Percussion Ensemble
Review by Reg Burnard:
From the dreadfully tacky pop set at the Royal Albert Hall Festival of Remembrance to the somewhat more dignified laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph in London the nation has found ways of marking the beginning of the First World War and honouring those who died in conflicts since then.
So, bearing in mind their offering would be some days after that, but had to be planned long before it, how could Bath’s premier choir, the City of Bath Bach Choir, mark that? Well, they found a novel way: with no xenophobia, no National Anthem, no pomp or circumstantial outpourings - although there was a hint of the Last Post – they mounted an epic programme, From Darkness to Light. With the amazingly mature Wells Cathedral School Brass and Percussion Ensemble – where, of course, choir architect and conductor Nigel Perrin teaches – their programme presented, but by no means glorified, the voices of war, through the words of many poets of the day, and hailed the thoughts of reconciliation. And there could not have been anything in that vein better than Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. It is fiendishly complicated, difficult; and required the learning, albeit phonetically, of Hebrew. They should be proud of their achievement.
The evening was an immensely thought-provoking, a respectful dialogue; almost subdued: any sentiment was self-induced; similarly the futility of it all. And all the time this choir, so well balanced, so disciplined, sang almost humbly, bringing pathos, hope, redemption: All the emotions, all the tones and textures as if an orchestra.
Marcus Sealy used the organ as an equally integral part, and added so much stridency in the Bernstein; Lydia Ward, alto, had just the right plaintive timbre and though I thought he could have been a little more authoritative, baritone Daniel Robson was note-sure. Good concerts send you home with the hit tune ringing in your ears. But the words My son, my son, my son from Eric Whitacre’s When David Heard, from the Book of Samuel, sung so poignantly, so quietly so that eventually they were spoken, was quite spell binding. And long lasting.