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Concert Reviews and Audience Comments



2014-15 Season

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



Past Events

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