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Concert Reviews and Audience Comments



2015-16 Season

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



Past Events

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