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Choral Workshop 2014
Handel’s Messiah

Saturday 25 January 2014
9.30am–5.00pm
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.

Handel’s Messiah

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

Voices on war and reconciliation

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.

Carols by Candlelight

17, 18 and 19 December 2014
7.30pm  |  The Pump Room, Bath

“Bath Bach Choir’s Carols by Candlelight marks the start of Christmas for us. It really gets us into the mood and is such fun” – a sentiment expressed by many of those who come every year to enjoy a popular mix of traditional carols and exciting new Christmas music. Tickets for the three concerts will sell out quickly, so make sure you book early to get the best seats.