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Choral Workshop 2013
Bach: St John Passion

Saturday 26 January 2013
9.30am–5.00pm
St Michael’s Without, Broad Street, 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.

James Macmillan
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
Wellensian Consort
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
Benjamin Britten

A  Garland  for the Queen, 1953
Songs by Tippett, Vaughan Williams, Bax & Ireland

Bach
Bruckner
Britten

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 2018
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