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On this page you can find details of our Season's programme, a summary of our forthcoming concerts and some reviews. A link to our growing Past events page is provided at the bottom to take you to old programmes and pictures.

Programme

2018/19programme Season's programme

Forthcoming Concerts

   

 

Saturday 10th November 2018 at 7.30 pm

De Montfort Hall

With Bardi Orchestra,
Leicestershire Chorale, Leicester Philharmonic Choir and Leicester Cathedral Choristers

Benjamin Britten : War Requiem

Soprano: Ilona Domnich
Tenor: Mark Milhofer
Baritone: Malachy Frame

Conducter: Claus Efland

Tickets available from De Montfort Hall

Benjamin Britten War RequiemMore details

 

Saturday 8th December 2018 at 7.30 pm

St James the Greater

Advent Concert in aid of LOROS

With New Leicester Youth Choir

Programme to include:
Charles Paterson: Christmas is Coming
Bob Chilcot: On Christmas Night

Readings by Anne Davies, BBC East Midlands Today

Conducter: Richard Laing

Chilcot LOROS Charles PatersonMore details

 

Saturday 26th January 2019 from 10.00 am

Leicester Grammar School

Come & Sing

Seiber: Six Yugoslav Folk Songs
Elgar: From the Bavarian Highlands

For more information please look at our Come & Sing page.

Conducter: Richard Laing

 Edward Elgar - Matyas SeiberMore details

 

Saturday 13th April 2019 at 7.30 pm

St James the Greater

Easter Concert



Haydn: The Representation of Chaos
Mendelssohn: Psalm 95, 'Kommt, las uns anbeten'
Mozart: Mass in C minor


Director: Richard Laing

 

Saturday 15th June 2019 at 7.30 pm

St James the Greater

Summer Concert



Langlais: Messe Solennelle
Messaien: Organ Music
Fauré: Requiem

Conductor: Richard Laing

 

 

 


 

Reviews and Audience Comments

Saturday 16th June 2018 Concert

Published in The Church Times by Roderic Dunnett

One of the strengths of the Leicester Bach Choir, as its conductor, Richard Laing, explained, is to be prepared to explore repertoire that lies outside the ordinary. While it is well accustomed to performing mainstream works, it makes a point of venturing beyond the merely traditional.

This involves additional work from the chorus: rare new material has to be learned, and meticulously rehearsed. Attentiveness to tuning, to the text and enunciation, to rhythmic precision, and to stylistic elements, all have to be redoubled and captured afresh. It requires not just formal insight from the conductor, and as here, the accompanist, but also a special discipline and determination, indeed professionalism, is required of the choir.

Leicester’s choice of unusual works to celebrate its 90th anniversary at the strikingly Italianate St James the Greater looked fascinating indeed. C. V. Stanford’s The Princess, a set of "vocal quartets", settings of Tennyson, initially depicts a married couple("As through the land at eve we went . . .") who visit the grave of their dead child. But there is much more. The work falls into nine sections, all verbally contrasted. The lilting "Sweet and low"”, the bold "The splendour falls on castle walls" (more memorably set by Benjamin Britten), each revealed, to a degree, a different character from choir and conductor.

The expressive way in which the bass line initiates key changes, and the delicate way in which the men supported the even finer upper voices, the two often offsetting each other vividly, was impressive. So were the alluring piano round-offs or envois (from the inspiring accompanist, Jennifer Carter), the surges and build-ups in the second section, and the clever touches of staccato in the energised third. This was an ably rehearsed choir whose members had done careful homework.

There was much more----------

You can read the full review in The Church Times

Saturday 24th March 2018 90th Anniversary Concert

A view from the audience.

There was a good turnout despite other major choral concerts taking place in Leicester on the same evening. The programme marked the 90th birthday of the Bach choir and appropriately the first half was devoted to Bach. The programme was unusual in the way the pieces were arranged, though without a copy of the score it was occasionally difficult to work out exactly which piece was being performed.

We began with Bach's toccata in E; quite short but still majestic and with impressive use of the bass register. It was immediately followed by the first five sections of the motet 'Jesu, meine Freude', BWV 227; the chorale melody is well-known and has been used by many composers. The movements are varied; they range from hymn-like to powerfully dramatic and there were quieter moments when I seemed to hear echoes of the Passion chorale. There was impressive use of the church's echo; wonderful dynamics, with pauses long enough to allow the sounds to die away.

The organ solo BWV 641 was next; rather quiet and peaceful; then we had another two sections of the motet. 'You are not of the Flesh' had a sonorous bell-like quality and 'Away with all Treasures' was greatly helped by an organ bass.

Following this was the organ solo BWV 610 using the full tune of the chorale, set rather low in pitch, with its gently descending and very beautiful melody lines.

Sections 8 and 9 of the motet gave us more of Bach's exquisite choral writing; rhythmic and sparkling; strongly fugal with much light and shade. Next we had the organ solo BWV 646 'Whither shall I Flee?', which begins with a pleasant duet showing off two of the lighter organ stops, which sounded to me rather like a flute and bass recorder. Heavier stops are gradually added as the piece reaches its climax. The choir completed the first half of the concert with the rest of the motet; the gentle 'The Spirit of Him', followed by the hymn-like 'Go away, Mournful Spirits', where the singing, especially the female parts, was especially fine and clear.

The second part of the concert featured music by a mixture of German composers, selected by key and by mood. First we had a magnificent organ toccata by Max Reger; op.59 no.5, which rattled the windows. Before the last echoes had died away, the choir launched into Brahms' 'Why is the Light', showing the composer's dazzling skill with choral counterpoint. This despairing cry from the Book of Job has never been more poignantly set, and the choir made it dramatic and moving.

Then we had Brahms' 'Sacred Song', a beautiful work written in double canon (not easy to achieve); one of the best and most passionate choral pieces.

A piece by Schütz followed; his 'Blessed are the Dead', which my companion thought was the highlight of the concert. This work, notable for its purity of tone, was written a century before Bach, and the echoes up and down the church sent shivers down my spine.

This led into a contemplative organ piece by Rheinberger, Trio in F; much lighter on the stops than much of his output. It was pleasant and well-executed.

Next we heard two pieces by Bruckner; his best-known setting of the 'Ave Maria' followed by the motet 'He was anointed'. The second of these drew a remarkable range of sound from the choir, with big jumps and long phrases for the singers; a highly expressive piece.

Then we moved to Mendelssohn, who was an early champion of Bach. He organized a performance of the St. Matthew Passion 70 years after Bach's death when the baroque master was almost forgotten, and is largely responsible for getting him back into the repertoire. Two years later, Mendelssohn wrote his adaptation of a Luther hymn, Grant us Peace, which shows clearly Bach's influence. It is a piece of great beauty tinged with sadness, and the choir gave a moving performance.

Finally we heard Mendelssohn's setting of Psalm 43; his monumental hymn of praise to God. It was an apt choice, with Easter only a few days away.

Nigel Deacon
27 March 2018

Conductor: Richard Laing
Organ: Ivan Linford

Saturday 25th November 2017 - Autumn Concert

Gentlemen in England, now a-bed, shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here

Leicester Bach Choir concert 26th November 2017

The opening orchestral suite by Ireland gently unrolled the Sussex Downs, allowing conductor Richard Laing and the Bach Camerata to assure us that we were in good hands. It evoked that strange state of relaxation and focus that lays judgement aside, opening us to feeling and discovering. Adrian Turner’s evocative viola solo then pulled our attention towards the mystical issues explored by Holst in Hymn of Jesus, and an electrified LBC started to sing. Paradoxes batted between the two choirs. I am mind of all. Fain would I be known….I have no resting place: I have the earth. Sixty-three minds drew on Laing’s musicality in a performance whose spine-chilling harmonies and exuberant tuttis conjured other worlds. Leicester and LBC are fortunate to have a Music Director whose creative programming introduces such memorable works.

Britten’s St Nicolas brought additional hues to the seasonal spirituality. The LBC narrated his life with aplomb, by turns rhythmic, jocular, and plangently mournful. They were led from the top by an impressive soprano section that rarely faltered. Confident pitch-perfect choristers Luca Calardo-Cooper, Damien Hollis and Gregory Webb represented the growing Nicolas with great charm, and the fizzingly virtuosic solo from Camerata leader Pauline Lowbury was deeply satisfying. But the star of this piece was the stupendous tenor soloist, Mark Milhofer. He was at once breath-taking and inspiring (on a night where paradox reigned supreme, all things were possible). Benjamin Britten’s final invitation for the audience to join in singing the majestic 'God moves in a mysterious way' moistened many an eye. What a way to end.

Jennifer Clegg
26 November 2017


Conductor: Richard Laing
Tenor: Mark Milhofer

with
Bach Camerata

Saturday 10th June 2017 - The Two Golden Ages of English Cathedral Music

I was glad – Choral Church Music Classics from Leicester Bach Choir

Leicester Bach Choir provided a feast of classic cathedral church music at their most recent concert, to provide a highly enjoyable evening for devotees of church music which is rarely heard outside cathedrals these days but which shows the power of music to make or break liturgy and to inspire those who hear it.

The opening item, Parry’s I was glad set the tone for the whole evening, with some pleasing contrasts in the central section and a very creditable top Bb in the final phrase from the sopranos. It was followed by an equally exuberant rendering of Zadok the Priest, sung with vitality and stamina throughout. We then had a change of tone for Finzi’s God is gone up, where the majestic organ opening was well matched by the choir. There was a good contrasting tone in the quiet section, but a sense of unease as if the choir was uncertain about the effectiveness of singing quietly. They need not have worried: few things are more impressive than a larger choir such as the Bach Choir singing quietly with sustained discipline, and this was further demonstrated in Ireland’s Greater Love, where the sopranos went from full throttle to a beautifully gentle "engine idling" mode before reverting to a brilliant climax on the triumphant phrase "We are washed….". One might quibble with the huge breath that preceded the final long fortissimo chord, but given its length and brilliance the energy has to come from somewhere!That it was finished with an organ registration that milked the occasion shamelessly gave added lustre.

The best word to describe Byrd’s Sing Joyfully is uninhibited. It was certainly unlike anything one would have heard liturgically sung in a cathedral. Joyful, loud and(most importantly) accurate would also give some idea of the Bach Choir’s approach to a relatively complicated anthem. Consider the trumpets well and truly blown in the new moon, after which the audience (and choir) enjoyed a respite during Stanford’s Postlude in G minor, an impressive piece with some amazing virtuoso passages and interesting harmonies.

Parry’s There is an old belief from his Songs of Farewell was lyrical, confident and evocative. The piano passages were well sustained, demonstrating that when they want to, the Bach Choir can sing sensitively to good effect. By contrast, Tallis’s If ye love me was brisk and business-like. There was never any doubt as to whether Jesus’ disciples would do as they were told.

The first half concluded with Stanford’s setting of the evening canticles in C. Here there was a sensitive accompaniment and some nice phrasing, with a good adjustment to the peaceful Nunc Dimittis after the joyful Magnificat. This was a confident choir enjoying life, with some excellent and very clear conducting from an obviously relaxed but meticulous Richard Laing.

There is always a danger in over-confidence, and this emerged slightly with the opening of part two of the concert: the beauty of Purcell’s Remember not, Lord, our offences lies as much in the rising and falling of the phrases as it does in the harmonies, and the subtlety of this was lost with the volume and pace, making it sound more of a demand than a petition. Nevertheless, in terms of tone quality and pitch it was well sustained and enjoyable. After this, we were treated to Stanford’s Postlude on a theme of Orlando Gibbons, with Ivan leading us through some crisp rhythms and showing off the versatility of the organ. The theme in question is Song 22 ( "Eternal ruler of the ceaseless round" ) and tantalising snippets of it kept recurring. Did I hear a 32’ sound at the end? It would not be surprising, as the instrument was at full blast.

Back in the choral world, there was a surprising inclusion in the programme of Gibbons’ The Silver Swan, a piece that has no place in cathedral music at all, but which the Bach Choir can be forgiven for including as it is so beautiful. More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise is the concluding sting in the tail, but it was barely a sting at all, more a gentle and wistful ending as the swan breathed its last. It certainly lulled everyone into a false sense of security that was shattered with the next item, Wesley’s Blessed be the God and Father. We were back with a brisk and loud interpretation, with a lively fugue. Possibly there was too much liveliness at times, with the basses getting carried away, but the general impression was one of confidence and very much in the spirit of the piece. O God, thou art my God was sung full throughout and might have had more contrast, perhaps, but was good and solid throughout. As with the earlier Purcell, it would have been good to have more feminine endings and attention to the shape of the phrasing, but there was no doubting the choir’s commitment to the piece, which especially came across in the concluding Alleluias.

With Elgar’s Give unto the Lord we were back with the sort of repertoire that suits a larger choral society-type choir, and the Bach Choir gave it their all. A stunning organ scale in the middle compensated for (presumably) an awkward page turn in the organ part which could have thrown a lesser choir. The Bach Choir, however, recovered quickly with some excellent word painting and thus recaptured the atmosphere before a gorgeously serene ending. Here too, the organ contributed a perfect registration change which brought the piece to a successful conclusion.

Beati Quorum Via by Stanford is a most beautiful 6-part anthem where the choir can soar and appear utterly serene. Although initially it felt a little rushed, there was a good quiet section in the middle and perfect tempo for the final qui ambulant in lege domini.

To close the evening, we were treated to Wood’s magnificent O thou the Central Orb. What more could one want? It was triumphant and joyful, two words that sum up the evening pretty well. Part of the triumph was that the Bach Choir can give a highly enjoyable concert even when various key singers are absent, so that on this occasion they were not at full strength. This meant members having to work extra hard to blend, and maybe this is a goal for the future as they continue to undertake high quality programmes. But the commitment and attention they give to their excellent conductor makes this an achievable task, and I look forward to hearing them again soon.

Susan Paterson
16th June 2017

Conductor: Richard Laing
Organ: Ivan Linford

Saturday 8th April 2017 - JS Bach: St John Pasion

A view from the audience.

The capacity audience confirmed the power of this work to draw people. This was despite having two other major choral concerts in Leicester that evening – including a performance of Messiah at De Montfort Hall, just across the park! There were queues for tickets 40 minutes before the performance started, programmes sold out and Front of House quietly added more chairs wherever there was space. It was a reminder of the legendary queues on Sunday afternoons to get into Leicester Cathedral to hear Bach Passions in the 1930s or for Christmas concerts until Sunday Shopping was permitted!

And this performance came up to expectation!

The Leicester Bach Choir was joined by senior members of the New Leicester Youth Chorus (conducted by a former member of LBC, Will Welsford), which added a vibrancy to the choir’s tone, as well as giving the young singers a rare opportunity to perform one of the major works in the choral repertoire. The Bach Camerata provided a crisp, well-balanced accompaniment and Richard Laing had gathered a good team of soloists, including Nathan Vale’s excellent singing of the crucial Evangelist role, while James Oldfield (Christus) and Jon Stainsby (bass and Pilate) also performed particularly well. James was returning to Leicester, where he first learnt to sing – and so was another draw for audience members!

The audience response to the performance was very positive, though those without sight of the translation may have struggled to follow the drama in the original German. The beauty of the music, the high standard of the singing and the delicacy of the chamber orchestra was fully appreciated. A fine performance of a magnificent work.

Mary Whittaker


Conductor: Richard Laing
Jesus: James Oldfield
Soprano: Katie Tretheway
Mezzo-soprano: Cathy Bell
Tenor: Edward Goater
Pilate and Bass arias: Jon Stainsby

with
Bach Camerata

Saturday 28th January 2017 - Come & Sing Day - "Captains Courageous" - Hamish MacCunn: The Wreck of the Hesperus - Charles Villiers Stanford: Songs of the Sea, Op. 91

"I was a bit nervous about singing music I had never heard, but thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and the day."


Conductor: Richard Laing
Baritone: James Oldfield

Saturday 3rd December 2016 - Duruflé: Requiem - Messe 'Cum Jubilo' - Fauré: Messe Basse


Conductor: Richard Laing
Organist: Simon Hogan

One of the refreshing things about the Leicester Bach Choir is its willingness to experiment with programming in order to bring us lesser known works alongside perennial favourites. Such was the case with their latest concert, which successfully juxtaposed both the Fauré Messe Basse and the Duruflé Messe 'Cum Jubilo' in part one with the much better known Duruflé Requiem in part two. Add to the mix a quite astonishing Te Deum for organ by Jeanne Demessieux, and you have a truly imaginative and memorable concert.

Each of the first half pieces featured different sections of the choir, with the sopranos and altos launching proceedings with the Messe Basse. In the Kyrie, after a gentle and slightly hesitant start, we enjoyed a really sparkling soloist, Karen Wise, and the piece got better and better, with good dynamics in the Sanctus and a nice responsorial effect in the Benedictus. The Agnus Dei was notable for its clear tone and attentive phrasing.

The organ piece by Jeanne Demessieux provided an immediate contrast of style and mood. It would take more than one hearing to appreciate fully the complexities of the piece, which had some resonances with Messiaen (a composer whose work Demessieux knew well) but which was both distinctive and intriguing. Simon Hogan brought us on a journey from the eerie to the joyful, and the various registrations showed off the organ's versatility to perfection.

This was followed by the tenors and basses of the Bach Choir performing Duruflé’s plainsong-based Messe 'Cum Jubilo' (for male voices, singing a single line, with organ accompaniment). It was a shame that the beautiful Kyrie was marred by audience coughing, but the Gloria was exuberant, with complex rhythms handled well and the section Deus pater omnipotens very impressive. The baritone soloist, Angus McPhee, was excellent, producing a sensitive performance, following which the closing section Quoniam tu solus sanctus gave us a contrasting mood, in places sublime, with an excellent Amen, mostly in 5/8 and 7/8 time. In the Sanctus there was an atmospheric opening, albeit with a little uncertainty, but the latter was soon forgotten as the choir picked up well in Pleni sunt coeli and built up magnificently to the Hosanna. In this there was a well sustained organ accompaniment to build to the climax and some sensitive gentler registration afterwards. The baritone solo in the Benedictus was spine tingling, with the mood well matched by the organ. The Agnus Dei was equally atmospheric, despite the unintentional extra harmony supplied by a few voices not in unison with the others. It was followed by a restful Dona nobis pacem, which brought the first half to a very satisfying close.

After such a well-crafted first half, the audience had high expectations of the Duruflé Requiem, and we were not disappointed. The opening was quiet but sustained and firm, with some ethereal sounds from sopranos and altos. There were some expansive phrases in the Kyrie, and the Christe eleison then moved on well, followed by a superb bass entry heralding great vitality before the organ restored serenity at the end. There was a good alto entry for the Offertorium, with excellent contrast when the other parts came in. The section Libera animas was then characterised by an exciting sense of urgency, and the ensuing Hostias baritone solo was mature and heartfelt. At the end, it was good to have a sensitive piano to pianissimo conclusion. The Sanctus opened with good pitch and tone from sopranos and altos, and the organ accompaniment on flutes was very apt. The tenors' Hosanna made a big contrast, and there was a satisfying climax, with sopranos at full throttle. Congratulations are due to Simon Hogan for a terrific change of registration for the Benedictus - and indeed for amazing dexterity throughout. The mezzo-soprano solo Pie Jesu, while overall of Karen Wise’s usual high standard, on this occasion perhaps worked better in the upper registers: the concluding Requiem sempiternam, on a low C, sounded slightly uncomfortable. The following Agnus Dei was arguably the most beautiful sound of the evening, with some well-blended tenor tone and a good diminuendo into the organ solo and bass entry, and the lovely quiet singing led to a beautiful, sustained ending. After a slightly indulgent organ introduction to the Lux Aeterna, the choir did well to pick up pace on their entry: overall it was a very relaxed movement, lulling the audience into a false sense of well-being before an exciting Libera me. Here the choir and organ were not quite together at the beginning, but an impressive baritone solo contrasted well with the choir’s quando coeli movent et terra, and while the Dies irae section was a little uneven, it improved quickly in confidence, so that by the end an effective reprise of Libera me, Domine brought the strong sensation of the cavalry arriving. This melted into a magical, hushed ending; and just when one thought it could hardly get any better, we were treated to a fittingly serene In Paradisum, bringing a sense of hope and light. The great pause on the final chord was beautifully judged: who would ever want to leave Paradise?

Looking back over the evening, it is clear that the choir under Richard Laing continues to create and maintain high standards, especially when tackling sensitive quiet passages, where they are at their best. Perhaps it is over-excitement that sometimes causes a slight lack of blending among the tenors, but with music like this, who can blame them? Well done, Leicester Bach Choir, for providing yet another excellent night out!

Susan Paterson

Saturday 16th October 2016 at - De Montfort Hall - Elgar: Dream of Gerontius

In a major musical event for Leicester, the Bardi’s 30th Anniversary Season opened with a landmark performance of Edward Elgar’s oratorio The Dream of Gerontius. For the first time Leicester Philharmonic Choir, Leicester Bach Choir and Leicestershire Chorale joined forces in a chorus of more than 150 voices with the Bardi Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Claus Efland to perform one of the greatest choral works in the repertoire.


Conductor: Claus Efland
Mezzo-Soprano: Catherine Griffiths
Tenor: Robert Johnson
Bass: James Gower

Follow links to see reviews from previous seasons

2015-16 Season

2014-15 Season

2013-14 Season

2012-13 Season

2011-12 Season

Pre 2011-12 Season

 


 

Past Events

We are developing a resource of programmes and memorabilia from past concerts and events on this adjoining page.

 

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