Summer Concert 22 June

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For our summer concert this year we are doing something rather different – different for the Southport Bach Choir, that is. As well as Schubert’s Mass in E flat, we are singing four very popular opera choruses:

Mascagni: Easter hymn (Cavalliera rusticana)
Rossini: Prayer (Moïse)
Verdi: Chorus of Hebrew slaves (Nabucco)
Verdi: Triumphal scene (Aida)

Anyone who attended our last concert may remember that we sang Schubert’s short Stabat Mater. The Mass that we shall be singing on 22 June is a different matter altogether. It is scored for 4-part choir, 4 soloists and orchestra and lasts about an hour. There are the usual Schubertian lovely melodies, but also great dramatic writing and some sinewy chromaticism that is quite challenging for singers. Schubert’s music makes the well-known words of the Mass come alive so that you are brought face to face with, for instance, the awe-inspiring events underlying the Credo.

The repertoire of a choir like the Southport Bach Choir is inevitably dominated by religious music, so it is a refreshing change to be singing pieces from the secular repertoire. But, in fact, the religious element is strong in the choruses that we shall be performing. Mascagni’s opera, Cavalliera rusticana (1890), features the lovely Easter hymn. It is Easter Day and one choir represents the people in church singing the Regina coeli; the other choir represents the villagers outside singing an Easter hymn rejoicing in the life of the Saviour.

Rossini first wrote an opera loosely based on the story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to an Italian libretto in 1818, but he revised it and set a French libretto in 1827. Moïse is seldom performed, but the tuneful Prayer will be familiar to many. It is sung by Moses and the Israelites asking the Lord for safe guidance home.

Nabucco (1814) is generally thought to be the opera that established Verdi as a considerable composer. The romantic story is based on the time when the Jews were exiled by the Babylonian King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar). The famous chorus of Hebrew slaves laments their loss of a beautiful and beloved homeland.

The grand Triumphal scene in Aida (1871), by contrast, might seem to be purely secular as Radames marches triumphantly into Thebes with the spoils of war. But the chorus of people sing in praise of the King of Egypt and are supported by a chorus of (male) priests who remind everyone to thank the gods.

Praise, prayer and lament: these are features of music, as they are of life that unite the religious and the secular. And in this concert the choir will enjoy singing music of uplifting beauty. We shall be accompanied by members of the Southport Orchestra and four soloists from the Royal Northern College of Musicwho will each be singing an operatic aria.

Kimberley Raw (soprano)

Joanna Harries (mezzo-soprano)

Matthew Palfreyman (tenor)

David Cane (bass)

The concert will be conducted by our Director of Music Marc Murray.

Saturday, 22 June 2019 at 7.30pm.

Holy Trinity Church, Hoghton St, Southport PR9 0PT.

Tickets: £12 at the door. In advance: 01704 540097 or 01704 535208.

 

Spring Concert 6 April

 

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Since our Spring Concert falls, as usual, in the Lenten period, Marc Murray, our Director of Music, has chosen three settings of Stabat Mater for half the programme. Stabat Mater is a thirteenth-century hymn to the Virgin Mary, exploring her sorrow as she stands by the cross on which her Son has been crucified, begging to share in her grief and praying to join Christ in paradise when death eventually comes. The poem consists of twenty 3-line stanzas; the language is vivid and emotional. So it is not surprising to find that it has attracted many composers over the centuries since it was written, though they don’t all set the complete poem.

The earliest and best known setting that we shall be singing, dating from the end of the 16th century, is by Palestrina. This is an impressive work for double chorus, which sets all 20 stanzas, creating different effects with the eight vocal lines at his disposal.

Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, a  Spanish composer, working in the 17th century sets just the first two stanzas of the poem, in music that is heartfelt and melodic. The third setting that we shall be singing is by the youthful Schubert. He set the first four stanzas in music that is both lyrical and dramatic.

The other half of our programme is taken up by Dvorak’s Mass in D. He too did write a Stabat Mater, but perhaps a whole evening of such settings would have been a bit indigestible, and in any case his is a very long one! The Mass that we shall be performing has the lovely melodies we associate with that composer and plenty of drama in his setting of the well-known words.

The concert will be conducted by Marc Murray, with Shaun Turnbull on the organ.

Saturday, 6 April 2019 at 7.30pm.

Holy Trinity Church, Hoghton St, Southport PR9 0PT.

Tickets: £12 at the door. In advance: 01704 540097 or 01704 535208.

Come and Sing 2019

Come and Sing 2019: Mozart Requiem

Join the Southport Bach Choir for another of our popular Come and Sing events featuring the beautiful Mozart Requiem.

At the end of Come and Sing days we always ask visitors to suggest works for future singing days. Mozart’s Requiem heads the list every time. The story behind its composition is sheer drama, and the work itself is suffused with Mozart’s unique melodic and harmonic genius.

The day will run from 10am to 5pm ending with a performance run-through of the whole work which non-singing guests are welcome to attend free of charge.

10.00 – 10.45        Arrival and registration in the church hall. Coffee and biscuits.

10.45 – 12.15        Rehearsal in church

12.15 – 1.15          Lunch in church hall

2.30 – 3.00           Tea and biscuits in church hall

3.00 – 4.00           Final rehearsal

4.15 – 5.00           Performance

If you would like to attend this event, please complete the booking form and return it with the full amount payable by 29th January 2019 to SBC Come and Sing 2018, 29 Clovelly Drive, Southport PR8 3AJ. Please make cheques payable to Southport Bach Choir.

Click here for further details and booking form: Come&Sing 2019

 

Messiah – 8 December

The choir has performed Handel’s well-loved and well-known masterpiece at least once every 10 years in the course of its existence, and each of the conductors who have directed the choir has included this work . This seems trifling compared with some choirs who perform the work every year, but it means that the choir comes to the music perhaps rather more freshly.

Each of the conductors we have had  (5 so far) has chosen to take the choir through this piece, and each time we singers learn something new. No performance is the same; each conductor has his (no female musical director of the SBC yet!) individual preferences regarding speed, dynamics, interpretation, and over the years there have been cultural changes in the way eighteenth-century music is interpreted and performed, as the slower-paced, rather heavier versions have been replaced by lighter, faster preferences, with greater emphasis on the dance-like aspect of the music, and precise articulation of the words.

Our first musical director, David Bowman, conducted a performance of Messiah early in the choir’s second year, when he used the edition by Watkins Shaw, which had fairly recently been published, and made significant changes from the Prout edition which choirs had been using for many years. Since then we have performed Part I as part of a December concert, sung choruses from the work and sung complete versions in both the Watkins Shaw and the Prout edition.

Tonight our Director of Music, Marc Murray, will conduct the complete work (with a few cuts), using the Watkins Shaw edition. We are delighted to welcome our soloists – Rosanna Harris, Charlotte Badham, Charles-Louis Gagnon and Samuel Jackson – and members of Crosby Symphony Orchestra.

The performance starts at 7.30 at Holy Trinity Church, Southport.

Tickets are £12, at the door, or from 01704 540097, or 01704 535208.

Carmina Burana in summer concert 2018

On 23 June 2018 the choir will be singing Carl Orff’s every-popular Carmina Burana, aided by the boys of Holy Trinity Church Choir and soloists Margarita Wood (soprano), Matthew Palfreyman (tenor), and Arthur Bruce (baritone). The accompaniment will be provided by Elin Rees and Robert Woods on pianos and percussion. The conductor will be our Director of Music, Marc Murray.

These forces will also be employed in the other piece in the programme, Jonathan Dove’s Arion and the Dolphin.  This work is a dramatic cantata that was conceived as a companion piece for Carmina Burana. It is scored for countertenor or alto solo, children’s choir, adult mixed choir, two pianos and percussion and told in lively verse by Dove’s long-time collaborator Alasdair Middleton. It was commissioned for Making Music members, receiving its premiere in March 2016. As a member of Making Music, the Southport Bach Choir is delighted to be giving one of the first performances of this delightful work.

The concert will be in our usual venue: Holy Trinity Church, Southport, PR9 0TE, at 7.30 pm.

Tickets £12 available from 01704 540097 or 01704 535208 – or at the door.

 

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Love and Loss: sacred and profane

Our concert on 14 April 2018 takes the theme of love and loss in both the sacred and the secular spheres. We shall be singing a variety of pieces, some of which are firm favourites in the field of choral music, such as Fauré’s lovely ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’; others are less well-known. Perhaps the most unusual of these is the arrangement of Japanese songs by Bob Chilcott. This is absolutely delightful music, which is sure to please our audience, and we are greatly enjoying rehearsing the songs. As we have a Japanese member of the choir, we might even attempt to sing one of them in Japanese!

Here is the full programme of pieces:

Antiphon ‘Let all the world’  by Ralph Vaughan Williams

‘Rise up my Love’ by Healey Willan

‘Geistliches Lied’  by Johannes Brahms

‘Cantique de Jean Racine’ by Gabriel Fauré

‘Stabat Mater’ by Schubert

‘Christus factus’ est by Bruckner

Furusato (5 Arrangements of Japanese Songs) by Bob Chilcott

6 moravských dvojzpěvů by Antonin Dvorák

Hungarian Folksongs by Matyas Seiber

 

The concert will be conducted by our Director of Music, Marc Murray and the choir will be accompanied by Robert Woods, our valued rehearsal accompanist.

The concert is at Holy Trinity Church, Southport PT9 0PR, starting at 7.30 pm.

Tickets £10 in advance from 01704 540097, or 01704 535208, or available at the door.

Southport Bach Choir

Come and Sing 2018

Come and Sing Rutter’s Gift of Life

***Closing date extending to 31 January 2018.***

You are invited to join the Southport Bach Choir in a day’s workshop on John Rutter’s recent work, The Gift of Life on Saturday, 3 February 2018First performed in New York in February 2017, the work was given its first UK performance by the SBC in June this year (2017). It is a six-movement choral celebration of the living earth, of creation, and of life itself, offering a kaleidoscope of moods from contemplative and prayerful to majestic and inspirational. The music ranges from relatively simple to complex, from lyrical to dynamic, and is very rewarding to sing.

Under the guidance of Marc Murray, the SBC’s Director of Music, and with the assistance of Robert Woods on the organ, this is sure to be an inspiring and satisfying day of music-making. There will of course be the usual splendid sandwich lunch available for those want it, and the usual magnificent array of cakes!

Emmanuel Church on Cambridge Road, Southport, has proved to be a super venue for a ‘come and sing’, with the church hall available for lunch and tea. We have learned from the experience of last year that we need to provide coffee/tea before the day gets under way, as people are likely to have travelled some distance, and this is reflected in the timings below.

10.00 to 10.45 – Arrival and Registration in the Church Hall (coffee and biscuits available).

10.45 to 12.15 – Rehearsal in the Church

12.15 to 1.15  –   Lunch in the Church Hall

1.15 to 2.30 –    Rehearsal in the Church

2.30 to 3.00 –   Tea and biscuits in the Church Hall

3.00 to 4.00 –   Final rehearsal

4.15 to 5.00 –    Performance

If you would like to attend this event, please complete the Booking form and return it with the full amount payable by 31 January 2018 to SBC Come and Sing 2018, 29 Clovelly Drive, Southport PR8 3AJ.

We look forward to seeing and making music with you.

Christmas Concert

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Our Christmas concert on Saturday 9 December 2017 will be a feast of carols old and new. There will be well-known carols that the audience can join in, new settings of traditional words and of course carols by a favourite composer who always features in our Christmas concerts – John Rutter.

This year, for the first time, we are delighted to welcome the choir of Merchant Taylors’ Primary School (which used to be known as Stanfield School) who will perform in both halves of the concert.

As well as conducting the concert, Marc Murray, our Director of Music. will play a solo organ piece. Marc, who is also Director of Music at St Mary the Virgin, Bury Parish Church, is a first-class organist, who has played in cathedrals throughout the country.

The choir will be accompanied on the organ by Robert Woods, our valued rehearsal accompanist.

The concert is at Holy Trinity Church, Southport PT9 0PR. It starts at 7.30 and there will be the usual mince pies in the interval!

Tickets £8 at the door, or in advance: 01704 540097 or 01704 535208.

Alexander’s Feast

Alexander’s Feast will be performed by the Southport Bach Choir on Saturday, 24 June 2017, with chamber orchestra and soloists:

Hayley Swanton (Soprano)

Andrew Masterson (Tenor)

Ed Robinson (Bass)

The work is a setting of Dryden’s poem of the same name, a poem that had been written explicitly for musical performance and that functions as a celebration of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music, whose nameday falls on 22 November.

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St Cecilia playing the portative organ by the Meister des Bartholomäus, 1501.

 

Her story – which may, or may not be true – is that she was a Roman woman forced to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian, despite her vow of chastity. During the wedding, it is said, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and this led to her later being declared the patron saint of musicians. The story goes that Valerian saw her guardian angel crowning Cecilia with a chaplet of roses and converted to Christianity. Cecilia’s martyrdom followed that of both Valerian and his brother Tiburtius. She is supposed to have lived on for 3 days after having been struck on the neck by a sword.

 

 

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Sts Cecilia, Valerian and Tiburtius by Bononcini, 1495.

It’s not surprising, I suppose, to find that composers are attracted to the idea of writing music in honour of St Cecilia, and the Southport Bach Choir has performed quite a few of these works over the years, most frequently Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia. This is a setting of a poem by W.H.Auden, written between 1940 and 1942. Auden’s words celebrate the power of music and pray for its ability to bring peace to mankind. On two occasions the choir’s programme also included Haydn’s St Cecilia Mass. We have also performed Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass and Herbert Howell’s Hymn for St Cecilia.

 

 

 

Handel in fact wrote two pieces in St Cecilia’s honour, and his Ode to St Cecilia was included in the   choir’s 1983/4 season. There are still other pieces which the SBC hasn’t ever performed: a Purcell Ode to St Cecilia, oratorios by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a setting by Gerald Finzi of a poem by Edmund Blunden,  and an Ode on St Cecilia’s Day by Hubert Parry.

The concert on 24 June will take place at Holy Trinity Church, Southport, 7.30pm.

Tickets: £12, at the door or in advance from 01704 535208/564205.

 

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life is the title of John Rutter’s new choral work which the choir will be performing as part of their concert on 1 April, 2017. This will be the first performance in the North of England.

Rutter’s work comprises 6 ‘Canticles of Creation’ with words from a variety of sources. The first canticle is a Benedicite, the second has words by the American Joshua Smith (‘The tree of life’). The third and most ambitious canticle for double choir is a ‘Hymn to the Creator of Light’ with words by Lancelot Andrewes and J. Franck. This piece was originally written in 1992 in memory of Herbert Howells and performed at the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival as an unaccompanied motet. Taking words from Psalm 104, the fourth canticle praises the Lord and extols the gifts of creation – ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works’. Rutter himself has written the words for the final two canticles: ‘The gift of each day’ and ‘Believe in life’.

The choir will be performing the work with the accompaniment of an instrumental ensemble: piano, organ, harp, timpani and percussion.

If this work anticipates the joy of Easter Day, the first half of the programme consists of more solemn music, suitable for the Lenten season. Schubert’s Stabat Mater, written in 1815 when the composer was only 18, despite the solemnity of the words, is lighter, more dancelike than many other settings. He uses only 4 of the 20 stanzas of the poem, and the work is thought to have been originally performed in church rather than a concert hall. The following year he made another setting of all 20 stanzas, a much bigger work that would have had a secular performance.

The concert will also include Bruckner‘s well-known (and glorious) unaccompanied motet, ‘Christus factus est’, and a piece by Liszt that is not well-known, and which in fact the choir has never sung before. This is ‘Via crucis’. In the last 20 years of his life, Liszt’s style changed from one of exuberance, virtuosity and abundance, to one of stark simplicity. After an introductory movement this piece is divided into 14 short sections, 3 of which are for organ solo, representing the 14 Stages of the Cross. The music uses traditional chants and hymns, and words from the Stabat Mater, but Liszt creates a unique work inspired by fervent religious devotion.

The concert will be conducted by the choir’s Director of Music, Marc Murray.

1 April, 2007 at 7.30 pm.

Holy Trinity Church, Hoghton Street, Southport PR9 0PR.

Tickets: £10 (01704 535208 or 01704 564205)