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:
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 Music, who 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.