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On this page you can 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

2016/17programme Season's programme

Forthcoming Concerts

   

 

Saturday 25th November 2017 at 7.30 pm

St James the Greater

 

 

 

Saturday 27th January 2018

Leicester Grammar School

Come & Sing Day


Director: Richard Laing

 

Saturday 24th March 2018 at 7.30 pm

St James the Greater

 

Saturday 16th June 2018 at 7.30 pm

St James the Greater

 


 

Reviews and Audience Comments

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

Saturday 11thJune 2016 - Parry: Songs of Farewell - Dvořák: Mass in D Major


Conductor: Richard Laing
Organist: Ivan Linford

An Evening to Treasure

The Leicester Bach Choir’s summer concert was notable for two things in particular: the imaginative pairing of Parry’s Songs of Farewell with Dvorak’s Mass in D major, and the sheer quality of the performers. We have become used to high standards from the Bach Choir, under the direction of Richard Laing, and this concert was no exception. The total conviction of My soul, there is a country, with its excellent dynamic contrasts and sense both of urgency and peace, set the tone for the rest of the evening. The pace was nicely varied, with good attention to detail and excellent communication with the conductor. The same was evident in the second song, I know my soul hath power to know all things, and indeed throughout the evening: this is a choir that simply loves producing a good sound, and Richard Laing clearly knows how to draw out the best in them. As with any amateur choir, the result is not perfect, but I would personally trade soulless perfection for human passion any day, linked as the latter was with such excellent word painting (particularly in Never Weather-beaten Sail), the serene confidence of There is an old belief, and the skilful handling of complex harmonies in At the round earth’s imagined corners. The best of the Parry, though, was saved for the final song, the very atmospheric Lord, let me know mine end. Here the changes of mood were reflected in the dynamics and pace, with a strong sense of anger towards God in the invocation, "take thy plague away from me" and again really effective word painting as the psalmist laments God making his beauty "to consume away, like as it were a moth fretting a garment". The tenors were suitably heartfelt in their pleas " For I am a stranger with thee….O spare me a little... " and the final well-judged ritardando brought the first half of the concert to a satisfying close with the spine-chilling words of Psalm 39v13: "before I go hence and be no more seen. "

Clearly none of the audience felt the need to go hence and be no more seen, however, because there was an air of anticipation about the opening of the Dvorak Mass that boded well for the second half of the concert. The Kyrie was serene and well-sustained, with some very effective organ registration from accompanist Ivan Linford. Again, precision was the order of the day, and the Gloria was notable for the bright and exciting opening as well as the crisp clean entries on the fugal sections. The basses were particularly impressive. Some sensitive singing from tenors and basses in Qui tollis peccata was matched by the sopranos and altos, and there was a good picking up of pace afterwards for Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, leading to a lively conclusion. The Credo was full of dramatic contrasts, from the joyful descendit de coeli to the dreamy et incarnatus est. While the tuning was slightly rocky in et homo factus est, this was well compensated for by the positively Wagnerian Crucifixus and the way you could almost feel the blood dripping during et sepultus est. After expending all this energy, the quieter Credo in spiritu sancto provided a moment of restfulness before the tenors let rip in an excellent Confiteor embellished by a triumphant full organ.

Proving their versatility, the Leicester Bach Choir reined back significantly for the very disciplined Sanctus, demonstrating that something rather like a controlled explosion could be achieved in the Hosanna section. This led to a very effective diminuendo on the organ going into the Benedictus, and further proof that this is a choir that can sing a sustained piano dynamic and keep pitch. The tenors opened the concluding Agnus Dei very sensitively, and there were some long lyrical phrases before the final dona nobis pacem brought the Mass to a conclusion which can only be described as sublime.

This was indeed an evening to treasure, and I shall certainly look forward to the next season.

Susan Paterson, June 2016

Saturday 23rd January 2016 - Thomas Tallis - Spem in Alium

200 people came from all parts of the UK to take part in our Come & Sing, one person flying back from America the day before! Just some of the kind comments we received are below.


We had a super day out and enjoyed singing Spem again! Fun morning with Christopher.. He juggled 4 choirs with ease... Looking fwd to your next event!

I enjoyed the whole day, but of course the climax was the actual performance - Richard Laing did a superb job of conducting in 360 degrees with good humour throughout and inspired us with confidence. I have always wanted to sing this piece and never thought I'd get the chance to do it, so thank you very much for the opportunity. It was an unforgettable experience.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to sing with you. A group of us came from Sheffield and we all loved it.

I just wanted to thank you very much for making it possible to have such an amazing experience, singing wonderful music and meeting many new and interesting people. I really enjoyed the day - it was the first time I'd sung the Tallis, and it's something I will always remember.

I can't thank you and the Leicester Bach Choir enough for the wonderful opportunity to sing Tallis's beautiful music. What an achievement though! All we singers making that beautiful sound - a once in a lifetime event. In the audience, my husband was just overwhelmed by it all and said that the gentleman alongside him was in tears at such a beautiful sound.

I just wanted to say thank you to Richard Laing, Ivan Linford, Angela Zemlak and ALL the Leicester Bach Choir members who gave us such a wonderful memorable day yesterday. It was the best ever.

Thank you to you and your choir for organising a great day. It was quite a challenging piece, but I found it a very rewarding experience, especially seeing it all coming together - and I learnt a lot!

It was lovely to listen to, we heard it twice as we arrived just as you were starting the final run through.

Thank you for the opportunity to take part in this. It was a great day (the organisation was excellent) and the final performance was an experience I will never forget.

Saturday 28th November 2015 - JS Bach: B Minor Mass

The Leicester Bach Choir excelled themselves last week with a fine performance of the Bach B minor Mass at St James the Greater. The opening Kyrie was spectacularly successful, beginning as it did with the entire choir pitching their notes perfectly from the orchestral tuning up, music copies firmly closed and totally focused on their excellent conductor, Richard Laing. The effect was stunning, and the commitment of everyone to accuracy and detail was notable throughout the evening. The whole performance demonstrated an impressive array of light and shade, dramatic contrasts which really brought the music to life. Gratias agimus tibi, for instance, was beautifully sustained with some lovely legato singing and sensitive dynamics, whereas Domine deus was very light and delicate, and the Qui tollis fantastically atmospheric, with some great orchestral playing. Full credit must be given to Richard Laing, whose attention to detail brought choir and orchestra together with a high degree of sensitivity, while excitement of Cum sancto spiritu was heightened visually by the apparently imminent prospect of the conductor physically taking off....! The pace of this would have daunted a less able choir, but Leicester's Bach Choir rose magnificently to the challenge, and the Gloria positively erupted into glorious exuberant action. Other highlights in the performance included the high quality of tone from the tenors in the Credo especially, and the evident enjoyment of the basses in the Sanctus, which was regal and magnificent, while swirls of angels were conjured up by the sopranos.

In all this the choir was ably supported by the four very well-matched soloists, Katie Trethewey, Cathy Bell, Edward Goater and Angus McPhee, and fine playing by the Bach Camerata. Whilst the continuo was always pleasing, especially from the strings accompanying the Agnus Dei, the contribution of the trumpets in particular was the icing on the cake throughout the evening.

The B minor Mass is an exhausting work, and just occasionally there was a slight sense of weariness leading to a momentary lapse of concentration, but such instances were rare and well compensated for by the fire and passion in a quality performance of a clearly much loved choral work. I look forward to the Bach Choir's next concert, but they have set themselves a hard act to follow.

Susan Paterson

Saturday 6th June 2015 - Morten Lauridsen: Lux Aeterna - Eric Whitacre:Lux Aurumque -Selection of Russian and European music


Conductor: Richard Laing
Organ:Ivan Linford

"A fine summer evening and an uplifting programme of Russian music, and works by Lauridsen and Whitacre, not forgetting Ivan Linford playing music by Philip Glass."

Saturday 28th March 2015 - The Lark Ascending and Flos Campi - Vaughan Williams, An English Mass - Herbert Howells and selection from King Richard III - William Walton


Conductor: Richard Laing
Violin and Viola: Shulah Oliver
With Bach Camerata

Leicester Bach Choir wishes to thank the Herbert Howells Trust for their generous financial support of our March concert, when the choir performed An English Mass by Herbert Howells.

Howells – and so much more

"Congratulations are due to the Leicester Bach Choir and their conductor Richard Laing for a superb and quintessentially English concert. It was a brave decision to put on a concert consisting of relatively obscure works: although Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending has gained fame through Classic FM, his haunting and beautiful Flos Campi is much less well known, as are the topical Music from Richard III by Walton and the showpiece of the evening, Howells’ An English Mass. Those who went to concerts of more familiar music on the same night missed a treat here, as the audience at St James the Greater can testify.

Although this is billed as a Bach Choir concert, first and foremost tribute must be paid to the Bach Camerata, whose beautifully sustained and sensitive playing both opened and underpinned the whole concert. The mood of innocence and yet wistfulness conjured up especially during the Walton was breathtaking. But the prize for pure magic has to go to the violin soloist Shulah Oliver, whose gorgeous depiction of the lark ascending kept the audience silent at the end for a good twenty seconds of delight as we all imagined the bird spiralling away.

Shulah was no less outstanding as the viola soloist in Flos Campi, producing a tender and gentle solo after the climax of the piece, which was reminiscent of another Vaughan Williams’ masterpiece, The Oxford Elegy (perhaps another year, Bach Choir…?) . The choir made a major contribution to the atmosphere conjured up: in all this wash of emotional intensity it would be easy for it not to sound as though the piece knew where it was going, but the accuracy of the choral singing, with its excellent phrasing and attention to dynamics, carried the momentum forward and provided a sensitive backing to the solo viola with sustained quiet singing which was hugely effective.

All this set the scene beautifully for the dark and brooding Kyrie that opens Howells’ An English Mass. There was so much that was good that it is hard to pick out particulars, but I was struck by the exciting Credo, the excellent bass solo by Phil Hawkins in the Sursum Corda, the sense of awe conjured up by the Sanctus and the sublime Benedictus. There was a stunning ending to the Agnus Dei and a very confident and atmospheric Gloria. The only thing that marred the performance was the strident note struck by a siren outside the church, which spoilt a highly effective solo by tenor Sam Wood at the very end. We were left wanting more, an encore sans ambulance, but we will have to wait. One thing is certain – the Leicester Bach Choir and its conductor Richard Laing know how to give a great concert."

Susan Paterson

Saturday 29th November 2014 - Messiah by George Frederick Handel


Conductor: Richard Laing
Soprano: Katie Tretheway
Mezzo-Soprano: Cathy Bell
Tenor: Julian Forbes
Bass: James Oldfield
with Bach Camerata

"At the start of Advent, as we journey towards Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ, a performance of Handel’s Messiah is a timely reminder of the life of The Saviour; from Old Testament Prophesy through birth, miracles, death, resurrection and future return.

The Leicester Bach choir were joined by the Bach Camerata and four vocal soloists in a performance which had a tight but lively feel to it right from the opening bars of the Overture.

Tenor soloist, Julian Forbes gave a clear and subtle performance beginning with the aria "Comfort Ye My People". The same could be said of the other soloists’ performances, never overdone, but always clear and utterly musical.

Bass soloist James Oldfield grew up in Leicester and sang with the Leicester Cathedral Choir, so it was good to have him back in Leicester for this performance. His rich tones particularly conveyed well the dark mood of "The People That Walked in Darkness".

I thought the chorus sounded perhaps at their very finest in "For Unto Us a Child is Born"; really tight singing in a performance which really conveyed the joy of the birth of the Saviour of the world. Similarly "His Yoke is Easy" was vivacious and full of joy, with the sound of the chorus really filling the building with authority.

Soprano Katie Trethewey’s performance in the movements immediately preceding the Chorus’ "Glory to God" seemed almost effortless, the notes beautifully floating above the sound of the orchestra..

Moving into the Part II of the work, I was particularly captivated by mezzo-soprano Cathy Bell as her performance conveyed the sorrow and hurt of "He Was Despised", perfectly, both in tone of voice and facial expression.

Having commented earlier on the quality of the chorus, it is worth noting that as the concert progressed they seemed to excel themselves, " All We Like Sheep" and "He Trusted in God" seeming to have incredible energy.

One of the highlights of Part II was the aria "Why do the Nations" in which James Oldfield captured the frustration and anger in an emphatic rendition.

Probably the best known chorus of Messiah and possibly the most popularly acclaimed piece written by Handel, the "Hallelujah" simply rang with joy and effervesced in a rendition which surely equalled many of the finest performances.

Part III was notable for the wonderfully bright trumpet solo in "The Trumpet Shall Sound", which contrasted beautifully with the bass solo. Also for the only duet in the work, mezzo–soprano and tenor balancing each other well in "O Death, Where is Thy Sting? ".

Messiah concludes with the Chorus "Worthy is the Lamb; Amen"; and a more fitting performance I cannot imagine. The movement began with an engaging wall of sound, heralding bright, lively singing, the like of which had very much characterised this performance.

Conductor Richard Laing had worked hard to get the emphasis that he wanted from the ensemble and chorus, both responded to produce a performance full of light and shade and with a wonderful lyrical feel to it – the music really came off the page to produce an engaging performance.

The Camerata received no write up in the programme, so I suspect were an ad-hoc group of talented musicians; all the more praise-worthy as they seemed not to put a foot wrong, providing a cohesive, solid, sensitive accompaniment which perfectly balanced soloists and chorus alike!

I found the performance nicely "choreographed", with standing/sitting of the choir and entry/exit of soloists nicely timed to cause as little distraction from the performance as possible.

The combination of the Leicester Bach Choir and Richard Laing once again proved themselves to be a formidable force in the musical life of Leicester, bringing together their own excellent performance with that of a superb sounding ensemble and professional soloists to produce a performance of a high standard which had a real shine to it."

Peter Collett

Saturday 7th June 2014 - Mozart: Exsultate, Jubilate Laudate Dominum


Mendelssohn: Hear My Prayer
Grieg: Ave Maris Stella
       Hvad est du dog skjøn
       Blegnet, segnet
Rheinberger: Stabat Mater
Gjeilo: Dark Night of the Soul


Conductor: Richard Laing
Featuring: Joanne Lunn

" It was a real pleasure to hear Joanne Lunn again in her home City. I knew that I would enjoy the first part of the programme, and I did. I did not know the Gjeilo, so did not know what to expect. It was wonderfully atmospheric."

"Joanne Lunn in Mendelssohn and Mozart was stunning, but my outstanding memory of the evening is the spine-tingling performance of Gjeilo's 'Dark Night of the Soul', which earned the choir a standing ovation."

April 2014 - Rutter:Gloria


Purcell: Funeral Sentences for Queen Mary
Parry: I was glad
Ireland: Vexilla Regis
Walton: Coronation Te Deum


Saturday 12th April 2014 at 7.30 in St James the Greater Church, Leicester , with Bach Camerata Brass Ensemble directed by Richard Laing.

"A pleasure to hear this concert in a full church. The concert started with the Purcell Funeral Sentences, the brass hidden from sight. An exciting mix of music enhanced by the Bach Camerata Brass Ensemble, culminating in Rutter's Gloria."

December 2013 - Bach's Christmas Oratorio


Saturday 7th December 2013 at 7.30 in St James the Greater Church, Leicester , with Bach Camerata directed by Richard Laing.

"It was fantastic experience for the Bach Choir to be singing Bach's Christmas Oratorio to a full Church. Special thanks must go to the soloists, who made this such an uplifting event. An excellent start to the Christmas Season."

June 2013 - Tavener, Nystedt, Ola Gjeilo, Arensky, Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Arvo Pärt.


Saturday 8th June 2013 at 7.30 in St James the Greater Church, Leicester , with Rowena Calvert, ‘cello, directed by Richard Laing.

"This varied and fine example of programme building was played to a smaller than usual audience. Those who stayed away because of ‘modern’ composers (Arensky, Bach and Tchaikovsky modern?) missed a treat! There were eight items. In these demanding days it is de rigueur for a good choir not only to sing in Latin, French and German, but, as in this concert, Church Slavonic.

From the beginning, Rowena Calvert created an atmosphere of serenity and gravitas with Bach: the Prelude of the unaccompanied D minor ‘cello suite. The choir responded with Arensky’s Lord’s Prayer, sung (in Russian or Church Slavonic) with conviction and typical Russian sonority. Then choir and ‘cello were joined in a remarkably powerful and expressive ‘modern’ work (1987) by Norwegian Knut Nystedt – a setting of the Stabat Mater, a 13th century devotional poem describing the emotions of Jesus’ mother Mary at his crucifixion. Nystedt’s setting caught the tone to such an extent that, at the end, I felt I had been inwardly weeping. The cello commented in brief and sometimes extensive ritornelli between some verses, and accompanied powerfully the interestingly written choral part. Richard Laing said it was a ‘cello concerto with choir accompaniment’: is it really? It seemed to me to be fine choral writing with a fascinatingly virtuosic and integrated ‘cello line. At the end of this piece the mood changed from the painful and sad through the meditative and excited, to inward joy.

As if this were not enough, the choir sang Tschaikovsky’s Hymn to the Virgin, again in the original language: a passionate outpouring of vibrantly surging choral sound alternating with gently atmospheric devotional music.

It is my conviction that music conveys things which no other art form can. During the next piece, a setting of O Magnum Mysterium by the young Norwegian composer (b. 1978), Ola Gjeilo, the sound of the warm-toned choir, accompanied by the soaring ‘cello, gave me a completely new insight into the familiar thought of the Christ child as sacrament. The interval followed. Chatter was out of the question. I sought stillness. Music needs silence.

Arvo Pärt’s Fratres began with vigorous ‘cello arpeggios, and continued with a piano accompaniment which produced chords of choral quality, later subsumed into eerie sounds of miraculous harmonics on the ‘cello. Then more Bach in a ‘cello Gigue. Then the gloriously simple Cherubic Hymn by Glinka with a big Russian sound. Finally John Tavener rounded off the evening with Svyati – a mesmeric choral prayer on a drone bass, with the choir at the front and the ‘cello at the back of St James’s providing their own evocations of celestial sounds.

This was an evening when I was reminded what the purpose of music really is. "

David H Clark, 9.6.13

March 2013 - Rheinberger: Mass in E flat for double choir 'Cantus Missae'
Kodály: Missa Brevis


Saturday 23rd March 2013 at 7.30 in St James the Greater Church, Leicester.

Rheinberger: Mass in E flat for double choir, interspersed with choice organ music; Kodaly: Missa Brevis for choir and organ; coda – Abendlied – Evening Song.

From the ridiculous to the sublime! Emergency exits and toilet runs explained. Then: a burst of rich sound as the choir in two groups of four launched into the Kyrie and the even richer sounds of the Gloria. A slightly smaller than usual but enthusiastic audience braved the cold and snow to listen to this 19th century Mass directed by Richard Laing. It was good programming, not merely as padding or to give the choir a breather, to insert Bruckner's Prelude in C minor between the Gloria and the Credo and Reger’s Chorale Prelude between the Sanctus and the Benedictus. This chorale, appropriately enough for the season of Holy Week, sings of the union of God and Nature being an image of the union of God and humanity brought about by Jesus' death on a cross. This hidden knowledge became apparent through the choir's committed singing of the Credo with its bursts of overlapping sounds. Richard Laing helped the choir to bring out the tenderness of the Incarnatus, and emphasised the rude interpolation of the Crucifixus with its staccato setting of the words passus (suffered) et sepultus est (was buried). Further organ insertions enhanced the Mass, including a well-known Adagio by Mendelssohn and a lesser known Rheinberger Trio played sensitively by Ivan Linford on the magnificent St James's organ.

The Mass in E flat is a beautiful late romantic work (1878) with luscious phrases of polyphony and homophony. The choir rose to the challenge of this large piece well, given that the weather prevented some key singers to be present. Nevertheless, the choir made a strong mature sound in all parts, even with two of the eight tenors missing, and seemed to me to be well-balanced. I felt the choir's enthusiasm occasionally outran its moderation, especially in the soprano line, where, to my ears, a more covered sound was needed in the upper registers.

In the second half of the concert the Missa Brevis (subtitled in tempore bello – in time of war) made even greater demands here. The sopranos did well to reach the very high phrases Kodaly calls for, especially in the Hosanna in excelsis and the Agnus Dei at the end. The part of the Kyrie setting for upper voices reminded me of sirens (I’m a war baby, but were there sirens in Budapest in 1943?) The Gloria was sung beautifully with appropriate attention to its romanticism. There is an independent accompaniment for organ with a striking introduction (Introitus), ably played by Ivan Linford.

The concert was adorned with a well-presented and informative programme, which gave this listener at least a heightened awareness of the import and circumstances of the compositions. This was dramatic in the case of the Kodaly Mass, completed under war time conditions in a cellar of a Benedictine convent, and performed for the first time in 1943 in the basement of the opera house in Budapest, ‘accompanied by harmonium and distant gunfire.’ It was a rich and inspiring evening, well worth the effort. It is worth remembering that such artistic achievements are largely built on massive voluntary support, aided by very few professionals.

David H Clark, 24 March, 2012.

Audience Comments

December 2012 - Christmas Concert with Musical Village and Elizabeth Woodville School

"I've never heard LBC sing before - it sounded wonderful! A really, really exciting sound!!" - Susan.

"What a lovely concert, the children were inspiring." - Jacquie.

"Tanya, the harpist, was awesome - spellbinding." - Jane.

November 2012 - Handel's Israel in Egypt

"Excellent soloists and orchestra. You really could hear the flies, lice and hail stones!" .

" I thought the chorus sounded great. Lots of really polished singing, even when the sopranos were in the stratosphere! Well done all!"

June 2012 - Antonín Dvořák's Stabat Mater

"Flew in from America yesterday, and really enjoyed this concert on the first day of my trip." - Donna.

March 2012 - Italian Baroque Concert

"A delightfully programmed concert"

"The choir has moved on a lot in the last few years."

"I was so glad to be able to get to the concert. I thought the programming was imaginative. The duet and solo complemented the choir singing, particularly in the solid block of the Scarlatti. It gave a well-balanced evening."

Press Reviews

December 2011 - Rachmaninov Vespers; Mendelssohn's Hymns - Leicester Mercury

"A clash with a performance of Handel’s Messiah just down the road seems to have done little to weaken the support for the Leicester Bach Choir’s December performance at St James the Greater Church.

Claire Bartrum’s rich soprano tones opened a concert of contrasts, beginning with Felix Mendelssohn’s Hymns.

Interspersed with full choir passages, the rich tones of this bright, beautiful piece reverberated in the church’s excellent acoustic. Full of energy, the choir brought the work to a joyful conclusion.

Mendelssohn’s grand Sonata No 2 in C minor for organ provided a transition to the main work of the evening, with organist Ivan Linford giving a wonderfully flowing and expressive performance. Ivan made excellent use of the tonal resources of this powerful instrument.

With soloists Clare Bartrum and tenor Kelvin Steele, the scene was set for Sergei Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil; commonly known as Vespers.

The bright and stunningly performed opening, O Come Let Us Worship, led into the dark-sounding Bless the Lord O My Soul. One could almost smell the incense in its atmospheric Russian Orthodox harmonies and this set the scene for the rest of the performance.

The choir conveyed the complex harmonies and multiple parts with clarity and beauty. The basses deserve particular credit. Thrilling; conductor Richard Laing was in charge of a breathtaking performance."

Leicester Mercury review of summer concert June 2011

"This concert of mainly 20th century French music began with Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine. The choir interpreted the piece brilliantly, highlighting the elegant and subtle character of the music, enhanced in parts by the unique almost mesmerising quality of a young tenor in the choir.


Faure’s Romance followed, exquisitely played on the cello with the organ, rich, fulsome and delicate sounds providing a sublime experience. Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus was beautifully sung, accompanied sensitively by the cello and organ though there were moments when it was difficult to hear the former in the louder sections of singing. Two motets for a Time of Penitence by Poulenc described a range of emotions, partly as a result of personal tragedy. The aria Erbarme Dich from Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion was stunning. The cello, organ and violin with luscious, flowing harmonies was moving and intense.


Vierne’s Messe Solennelle is vibrant, thrilling and passionate in nature and both choir and organ achieved these effects.
It was a truly suberb and enriching evening."

 

Leicester Mercury review of St Matthew Passion, April 2011

"A truly excellent evening, all performers were utterly convincing in their individual roles and provided a moving experience ... It is hard to think of any other demanding work of such complexity that I have heard recently that has been performed so magnificently."

 

Review of 13.11.10 Leicester Mercury

After several concerts in the warm, resonant acoustic of St. James the Greater, the Bach Choir and conductor Richard Laing were back in the much “dryer” surroundings of the Cathedral. Listening to them once again in this less forgiving space, it’s clear they are not resting on their laurels. Balance, attack and dynamic control were impressive, as was Laing’s clear and authoritative direction.

We began with Holst’s exquisite setting of Psalm 86; its spare, haunting quality beautifully realised. Laing’s handling of the textures and dynamics showed his instinctive empathy with the idiom, as did his conducting of Debussy’s Danses Sacree et Profane, in which the shimmering, evanescent quality of the music was elegantly captured by soloist, Stephanie Beck and the accomplished string players.

Gerald Finzi’s magically evocative “Christmas Scene”, In Terra Pax, also showed Laing’s feeling for sensitive word setting. Warm-toned baritone, Angus Mc Phee was a good choice as the narrator and 16 year-old soprano Hollie Burton showed considerable promise as the Angel.

Another young soloist, counter-tenor Tim Morgan, featured in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. His accurate pitch, fine diction and pure tone greatly enhanced Psalm 23. The choir, singing in Hebrew, managed the work’s spiky rhythms, big tunes and lush harmonies (West Side Story goes to Church) with considerable panache.

Angus McPhee excelled in Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs. His expressive phrasing of George Herbert’s immortal words and the choir’s inspired singing were a delight, despite the curious “hybrid” accompaniment of strings, organ - and piano.   

 

 

Review of 12.6.10 by Neil Crutchley, Leicester Mercury

The Leicester Bach Choir during Richard Laing’s time as Music Director, has become an exceptional ensemble with a distinctive musical personality and sense of purpose.

That’s not to say it’s perfect – thank goodness. Musical “perfection” is often sterile. With the LBC and its inspiring conductor there’s an exhilarating sense of excitement and spontaneity – of pushing to the limits .... it’s compelling music making, full of life and spirit.

The attractively varied programme of 20th century works began with an arresting account of Gerald Finzi’s uncharacteristically extrovert anthem God is gone up. Later we heard its exquisite companion pieces: My lovely one and Welcome sweet and sacred feast; both performed with expressive, affectionate phrasing and an instinctive sense of pace.

Gorecki’s sensual and hypnotic Totus Tuus, couldn’t have been a greater contrast to Britten’s masterly cantata Rejoice in the Lamb. There was an appealing sense of urgency and restlessness in this performance, which captured the varying moods of the text most effectively. Excellent young soloists and brilliant organ playing from Mark Batten added to the enjoyment.

A sensitive account of Ivor Gurney’s lovely song, Sleep, from bass Angus McPhee and pianist Mark Batten, was sandwiched between the gloriously rich harmonies of Cesar Cui’s radiant setting of the Magnificat and Samuel Barber’s equally lush Agnus Dei (Adagio). The concert ended with a virtuoso performance of Matyas Seiber’s highly entertaining Yugoslav Folk Songs.    

 

Uplifting account of masterpieces

John Dilleigh, Leicester Mercury 31.3.10

An evening of sumptuous choral music made up of two substantial masterpieces and two delightful smaller-scale works was presented by Leicester Bach Choir with Queens Park Sinfonia and soloists. The sparkling Magnificat is one of J S Bach's most engaging vocal works. The text is the canticle of Mary, mother of Jesus, as recounted by Luke.

The wonderful celebratory Mass in C Major by Mozart was originally composed for an Easter Day service but then given the nickname "Coronation" in the mistaken belief it was intended for the anniversary of the crowning of the Virgin Mary in Salzburg.

In both works the soloists were April Fredrick (soprano), Suzanna Purkis (mezzo soprano), Tim Ochala-Greenhough (tenor) and Gwion Thomas (baritone), all demonstrating style and sincerity. For the most part they displayed clear diction although at times the tenor was a little too light to be heard clearly.

Conductor Richard Laing achieved balance and articulation from the impressive choir and the young orchestra were outstanding.

Mendelssohn's exultant setting of Psalm 98 (Sing to the Lord a New Song) and Brahms's ravishing, rarely heard Nanie - a eulogy to his artist friend Anselm Feuerbach - fitted perfectly into a splendid and uplifting evening of music.

....................................................................................................................

Psalmfest, though eclectic and easy on the ear, presents quite a challenge to performers with its ever-changing rhythms, differing styles and tricky tempo and key changes. Singers have to be alert and very well drilled to bring off these colourful psalm settings with confidence and panache. Clearly, the Bach Choir had worked hard and under the inspired direction of Richard Laing, produced an impressive performance, capturing the mood of each psalm with stylish, disciplined singing. The performance was enhanced by assured and imaginative accompaniment from organist Mark Batten.


Neil Crutchley, Leicester Mercury

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"Soaring harmonies and excellent dynamics were the hallmarks of a wonderful concert of European sacred music by the Leicester Bach Choir.  . . . a joyous and reflective occasion.”
(June Concert, 2008)

 

“Many of us think of the Leicester Bach Choir as an old friend and it was good to be part of the capacity audience for its 80th birthday celebration.  [The performance] brimmed over with vitality.  Richard Laing …succeeded in capturing both the grandeur and humanity of the work, with good dynamic contrasts, lively rhythmic pointing and a strong sense of drama.”
(Bach’s B Minor Mass – April 2008)

 


 

Past Events

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

 

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