bury  singing bach  since choir  1932
bury                                 singing bach                                 since  choir                                 1932

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24.05.2019
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23.05.2019
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Suffolk singer returns to sing Dido with the Bury Bach Choir Clare Presland, born and brought up in Bury St Edmunds, is coming home to sing the title role in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, with the Bury Bach Choir, on Saturday 15 June at The Apex. Described by the Times as ‘mesmerising with an intensity that almost sears the flesh’, Clare is a former winner of the Chilcott Award and has firmly established herself on the international operatic and concert platforms. Dido and Aeneas, an opera which the choir will perform in concert format, recounts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her, having been tricked and lured away by the evil Sorceress and her attendant witches. ‘When I am laid in earth’, Dido’s lament, expresses her grief before she kills herself and is one of the most plangent and moving operatic arias of all time. Clare trained at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama and ENO’s Opera Works. She says ‘I started singing because I wanted to act! So, when I discovered the world of opera and that the most incredible music was married with theatre it excited me beyond belief’. Clare’s recent and future engagements include Page in Salome for English National Opera, her debut at Théatre des Champs Elysées as Annina in La Traviata, her main-stage debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and a return to Opera Holland Park in a title role. For Dido and Aeneas, the Bury Bach Choir will be joined by five other excellent soloists and the Suffolk Baroque orchestra. Clare is very much looking forward to the concert and the Choir is delighted to welcome her home. ‘I feel so blessed to have been brought up in Bury St Edmunds and I have some glorious memories. It’s a very special place. I’m still as close as ever to my school friends and the continued support I have had from so many Suffolk folk from the moment I started singing is something I will continue to cherish - thank you!’ Tickets for the concert, priced from £15, can be purchased through the choir's website www.burybachchoir.co.uk, by visiting the Apex Box Office, or by calling the Apex on 01284 758000.
01.04.2019
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Robert Murray sings The Evangelist in St Matthew Passion The Bury Bach Choir is delighted that distinguished tenor Robert Murray will be joining us to sing the role of The Evangelist at our performance of Bach’s masterpiece, the St Matthew Passion, at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Saturday 6 April. Robert Murray studied at the Royal College of Music and National Opera Studio.  He won second prize in the Kathleen Ferrier awards in 2003 and was a Jette Parker Young Artist at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.  For the Royal Opera, he sang Tamino Die Zauberflote, Borsa Rigoletto, Gastone La Traviata, Harry La Fanciulla del West, Lysander A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jaquino Fidelio and Don Ottavio Don Giovanni.  For English National Opera he sang Simpleton Boris Godunov, Tamino, Toni Reischmann in Henze’s Elegy For Young Lovers, Idamante Idomeneo, Don  Ottavio, Steuerman Der fliegende Holländer and Frederic Pirates of Penzance.  He has also performed for Welsh National Opera, Opera North, Garsington Opera, Hamburg Opera, Norwegian Opera and Glyndebourne on Tour. He has performed in concert and recital at the Wigmore Hall, the Newbury, Two Moors, Brighton, Aldeburgh and Edinburgh festivals, and with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra (Gustavo Dudamel), Le Concert D’Astrée (Emmanuelle Haïm), City of  Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (Sir Charles Mackerras), Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (Yannick Nezet-Seguin), Philharmonia Orchestra (Esk-Pekka Salonen) and with Sir John Eliot Gardiner at the BBC Proms.  In recording, he appears on Malcolm Martineau’s Complete Poulenc Songs series for Signum, excerpts from Britten’s Gloriana with Ed Gardner for Chandos, Mendelssohn's Elijah and Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts with the Gabrieli Consort & Players, Giacomo Carissimi's Jephte with La Nuova Musica and David Bates, and Stanford's Stabat Mater with The Bach Choir conducted by David Hill. Recent highlights include Dream of Gerontius with the Seattle Symphony (Gardner) and Boston Philharmonic (Zander), and a staging of the St John Passion by Calixto Bieito, in Bilbao.  Engagements for 2018/19 and beyond include Katie Mitchell’s staging of Written on Skin in Beijing and Shanghai, The Merry Widow with the English National Opera and a return to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; also concerts with the City of Birmingham Symphony  Orchestra (Kazuki Yamada), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Gardner) and London Symphony Orchestra (Sir Simon Rattle).  Tickets at £16 and £21 are available from www.burybachchoir.co.uk or by phoning the Box Office on 01284 758000.
27.03.2019
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JS Bach’s masterpiece - St Matthew Passion On Saturday 6 April Bury Bach Choir will sing the St Matthew Passion in St Edmundsbury cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, accompanied by five wonderful soloists – Robert Murray, Graeme Danby, Valerie Reid, Fae Evelyn and Tom Asher, with the Suffolk Baroque Players and the cathedral’s Boy Choristers. St Edmundsbury Cathedral Bach’s musical inheritance was rich with the accumulated wealth of many centuries, nowhere more so than in his settings of the story of Christ’s Passion, whose history is one of gradually evolving elaboration and complexity. Of the five Passions listed in Bach’s obituary only two survive: the St John (1724, revised 1725) and the St Matthew, which probably received its first performance in 1727 and was certainly sung on 15 April 1729, as part of the already lengthy Good Friday service at Leipzig’s Thomaskirche.   It was on an altogether vaster scale, not just in duration, but in its whole conception.  Apparently forced by circumstances to compile his own text for the St John Passion, Bach chose for the lyrical sections of the St Matthew an amateur poet, Picander (C F Henrici), who here produced his best work (surely under Bach’s guidance).  The narrative came from Luther’s translation of the Bible (Matthew 26 and 27), following tradition, and Bach himself chose the chorale melodies. As in the St John Passion, the work exists in layers. The story unfolds in a series of scenes (recitatives and crowd choruses) closing with lyrical reflections away from the action.  At a third level are the chorales – communal, devotional, part of the ‘present’.  The congregation may have joined in these, certainly in thought, so familiar were the hymns.   In the St Matthew Passion there are further dimensions: with double choir and orchestra, Bach was able to represent the disciples with one choir, the scattered groups of a crowd in eight-part polyphony, and humanity in the combined choir singing as one.  The choir are both observers and participants: as the music makes clear, this is a surging crowd.  The trebles’ chorale melody cuts in, as through time. Bach’s ability to create a great architectural framework was allied to a vivid imagination that could take stock motifs and imbue them with something deeper - jagged chromatic shapes for ‘crucified’, accompaniments built from ‘scourging’ dotted rhythms or ‘weeping’ triplets, and so on.  Number symbolism was also important to Bach and he made sure the disciples’ ‘Lord, is it I?’ was uttered eleven times (Judas, the twelfth disciple, remains silent.) The St Matthew Passion was performed by Bach at least once after 1736. Later, although his keyboard music was kept alive by pupils, the choral works sank into near oblivion, partly through changes in taste, but also because the standard of performance of church music had deteriorated. (And Bach complained bitterly about Leipzig’s standards!) When the St Matthew was eventually revived in Berlin in 1829 by Mendelssohn it was in the concert hall.  Mendelssohn had the good fortune to grow up in a Bach-loving household and at the Berlin Singakademie his teacher was a Bach enthusiast who rehearsed parts of the St Matthew Passion with his choir.  At fourteen Mendelssohn owned a score of the work, and it came as a shock to him that the musical public did not share his enthusiasm.  Mendelssohn’s performances were well received but the first English performance in 1854 was not appreciated.  Later, it was increasingly performed and admired:  to Hubert Parry the St Matthew Passion was ‘the richest and noblest example of devotional music in existence’.  It was not until 1950 that this country heard a complete performance in German – at Aldeburgh Parish Church as part of the Third Aldeburgh Festival. Tickets at £16 and £21 are available from www.burybachchoir.co.uk or by phoning the Box Office on 01284 758000.
05.12.2018
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Bury Bach Choir sings Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols The centrepiece of the Bury Bach Choir’s carol concert this year, at the church of St Peter and St Paul in Lavenham, will be Benjamin Britten’s delightful A Ceremony of Carols. Mainly written in 1942 during his sea crossing from the USA back to Britain (‘one had to alleviate the boredom!’, Britten wrote to a friend), the collection of eleven movements takes its text from The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems and is mainly in Middle English, with some parts in Latin. Britten and Peter Pears were sailing across the Atlantic on a Swedish cargo vessel which called in at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Britten bought his copy of the poems, eventually setting five of them to music. The voyage was clearly uncomfortable as well as dangerous at the height of World War II, with German U-boats everywhere. Pears described their cabin as ‘miserable, very near the huge provisions Ice Box, and the smell & heat were intolerable, & it was difficult for [Britten] as people seemed to whistle up & down the corridor all day!’. Despite the conditions in which most of them were written, the carols are variously joyful, poignant, reverent and festive. They are enjoyable both to listen to and to sing: composed originally for children’s choirs, several of them are written in rounds or as call and response pieces. The full version was first sung on 4 December 1943 by the Morriston Boys’ Choir at the Wigmore Hall in London. The huge popularity of the work led Boosey & Hawkes eventually to commission a four-part arrangement for soprano, alto, tenor and bass, composed by Julius Harrison and first published in 1955. Our concert will feature the choir’s Co-Presidents, soloists Valerie Reid and Graeme Danby, as well as well as several soloists from the ranks of the choir. The choir will perform several other works, including John Rutter’s Nativity Carol, Good King Wenceslas, Adam lay Ybounden and a beautiful version of Away in a Manger, set to a Normandy folk tune. There will also be favourite carols for the audience to join in, as well as a complimentary glass of mulled wine and a delicious mince pie after the concert – all in all, a terrific way to begin the Christmas celebrations! For tickets (priced at £15 for adults and £7.50 for under-21s) go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk or click here.
02.11.2018
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Welcoming back Valerie Reid. We’re delighted that our Co-President, Valerie Reid, will be singing with us at our concert on 10 November to commemorate the Armistice Centenary. Valerie, a mezzo soprano, will sing the gorgeous Pie Jesu from Duruflé’s Requiem. She says ‘This was one of the first pieces I learnt with my first teacher - Patricia MacMahon - at the Royal Scottish Academy. Although there is not a huge amount for the mezzo to sing it's the most beautifully written textural section of music in any requiem’. While studying singing at the Academy in Glasgow, Valerie won the Governor’s Recital Prize, two Caird Scholarships and the John Noble Award which, with further support from the Friends of Covent Garden, enabled her to undertake a year’s study at the National Opera Studio in London. She made her debut with English National Opera as Mercedes in the David Pountney production of Carmen, and this was followed by further appearances as 2nd Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, 3rd Nymph in Rusalka, Maddalena in Rigoletto, The Lady in David Sawer’s acclaimed opera Morning to Midnight, Grimgerde in Die Walküre, which was also performed at the Glastonbury Festival, and Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro. Other operatic appearances include Dorabella (Cosi Fan Tutte), Cherubino (The Marriage of Figaro), Charlotte (The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein) for Scottish Opera, Natasha in The Electrification of the Soviet Union for Music Theatre Wales, Carmen in Hong Kong, Rosina (The Barber of Seville) at the Festival de la Vézère in France, Krobyle in the Richard Strauss opera Des Esels Schatten with Sir Peter Ustinov at the Covent Garden Festival and Mrs Turner in Will Todd’s opera The Blackened Man at the Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden. Recent concert appearances include Mendelssohn’s Elijah in St Helier, Barbican Concert Hall, Truro Cathedral; Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in Dunblane Cathedral, St Albans Abbey; Elgar’s Sea Pictures in Athens, Mahler’s 8th Symphony in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and Midsummer Music with the English Sinfonia at Gibside. Valerie took the role of Glasha in David Alden’s production of Katya Kabanova at ENO and performed in Verdi’s Requiem in Birmingham and Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s St John Passion in St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Valerie is Co-President of the Bury Bach Choir with her husband, renowned bass Graeme Danby, and they both sing with us regularly. She says ‘Being back with Bury Bach Choir means so much to me - Graeme will of course be with us in spirit from his Aida rehearsals in Dublin and I can report back about two of his pupils, Camilla [Jeppeson] and Tom [Asher]! The whole programme will warm the hearts of both audience and choir alike’. For tickets (priced at £25, £20 and £15) go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk or click here.
01.11.2018
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Listen to the choir as we prepare for 'War and Peace'. At a recent rehearsal we were visited by BBC Radio Suffolk, who recorded us as we prepared for our War and Peace concert in the Apex, Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 10 November at 7.30pm. To hear us, go to our website and click on the links near the top of the home page.  You'll learn more about the work we put in to prepare for our concerts, and the fun we have doing it.
29.10.2018
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Camilla Jeppeson sings with Bury Bach Choir on 10 November. Bury Bach Choir is delighted that Camilla Jeppeson is making a very welcome return to sing with us in the Apex at our "War and Peace" concert on 10 November, for the Armistice Centenary; she last sang with the choir in "The Glory of France", a concert of French music in St Edmundsbury Cathedral in June 2014. Camilla seems equally pleased: ‘I am very much looking forward to singing with the Bury Bach Choir again; they are a very welcoming choir and are such a pleasure to sing with’. Camilla will sing the hauntingly beautiful soprano solos in Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem – relatively short, but of pivotal importance to the piece. She says ‘The recurring plea for peace throughout the score is chameleon-like; at first ethereal, later sobering and solemn and ultimately heart-wrenching, especially so as we will be singing it on the eve of such a momentous anniversary’. Camilla studied as a pianist before training as a singer. After completing the Associated Studios Opera Course in London, she began studies with world-renowned bass Graeme Danby - the Choir’s Co-President, dubbed ‘the Great British Bass’ by BBC Music Magazine. Most recently, Camilla made her Italian debut as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, and her house debut at the Teatro del Giglio in Puccini's Tuscan home town, Lucca. Her operatic roles have included Blonde (Die Entführung aus den Serail), La Sagesse/Lucinde as part of the Grimeborn Opera Festival at the Arcola Theatre and Zerlina (Don Giovanni), for which Camilla received critical acclaim: ‘her “Batti, batti” was a highlight of Act 1’. Other engagements have included performances at the Royal Greenwich International Early Music Festival, an appearance with the Rameau Academy accompanied by Rob Howarth and performing as a soloist for Benslow Music's prestigious Baroque opera. Camilla enjoys chamber music, and this year has marked the inaugural UK tour of her voice and harp dup Voce47. The tour will culminate in a recital at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street. Also in demand as an oratorio soloist and recitalist, Camilla has performed all across the UK including the Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral and The Ritz. She says ‘Vaughan Williams' music has always struck a chord with me. I find his folk-like symphonic writings particularly peaceful and moving. Dona Nobis Pacem is no exception to this and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to sing the soprano solos for the Bury Bach Choir’. Other notable works Camilla has performed include Fauré’s Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C Minor, Rutter’s Magnificat and Jenkins’ The Armed Man. For tickets to "War and Peace" (priced at £25, £20 and £15) go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk or click here.
19.10.2018
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War and Peace – a concert to commemorate the Armistice Centenary. On 10 November the Bury Bach Choir will perform a concert for Remembrance weekend at The Apex, opening with Benjamin Britten’s Fanfare for St Edmundsbury, followed by Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, and concluding, after the interval, with Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem. [see previous blog] Britten’s Fanfare for St Edmundsbury was composed in 1959 for the Pageant of Magna Carta in the grounds of the cathedral. It’s less than three minutes long, for three trumpets, which each play a short solo and then come together for an emphatic and thrilling finale. Because it is so short it is rarely performed, but its evocation of the Last Post, through the clarity of its trumpets, fits our theme beautifully. Maurice Duruflé Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem began as an organ mass during World War II, but after the death of his father, to whom it is dedicated, he changed it to a requiem mass, and it was published in 1947. Duruflé belongs to the tradition of French organist composers such as Widor and Vierne. He studied with Vierne at the Paris Conservatoire, and was his assistant at Notre Dame before becoming organist at St Etienne-du-Mont, one of Paris’s major parish churches, in 1930 - a position Duruflé held until his death in 1986. Duruflé was celebrated as a virtuoso recital organist – for example, he gave the première of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto in 1939 – and noted for his skills as an improviser. As a composer he was critical about his own compositions, publishing a few finely crafted works mainly for organ or choir, the longest and most famous of which is the Requiem. He wrote ‘I am incapable of adding anything to the piano repertoire, view the string quartet with apprehension and envisage with terror the idea of composing a song after the finished examples of Schubert, Fauré and Debussy.’ These composers, along with Ravel, were Duruflé’s main influences, and the Requiem, with melodies inspired by Gregorian chant to which the composer added his own luxuriant harmonies, evokes feelings of rest and peace, rather than the dramatic visions of hell and damnation inspired by other requiems. In a programme note written towards the end of his life, Duruflé commented that his Requiem ‘represents the idea of peace, of faith, and of hope’: very appropriate for a concert for Remembrance. At the performance on 10 November the Bury Bach Choir will be joined by our co-President, Valerie Reid (mezzo soprano), soprano Camilla Jeppeson, baritone Tom Asher and the Prometheus Orchestra. For tickets (priced at £25, £20 and £15) go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk or click here.
29.09.2018
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Vaughan Williams:  Dona Nobis Pacem On 10 November the Bury Bach Choir will sing Vaughan Williams’ hauntingly beautiful cantata Dona Nobis Pacem as part of our commemoration of the Armistice Centenary.   The concert is supported by the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust. The cantata was commissioned in 1936 for the centenary of the Huddersfield Choral Society, and written amid growing fears of a new war in Europe.  The words come principally from the scriptures and the poetry of Walt Whitman, written during the American Civil War. Whitman’s poetry seems to have had a profound fascination for British composers in the early 20th century, including Delius (Seadrift), Vaughan Williams (A Sea Symphony) and Holst (Ode to Death).  In 1911 Vaughan Williams began to compose a setting for Whitman’s Dirge for two veterans, but perhaps because he felt it was insufficient on its own, he put it away for 25 years, when it emerged as the solemn fourth movement of Dona Nobis Pacem, describing the moonlit burial of a father and son killed in battle. Huddersfield Choral Society is one of the UK’s oldest amateur choirs, conducted at its centenary by Malcolm Sargent.  When Vaughan Williams discovered that Sargent was due to be touring Australia at the time of the centenary concert, he wrote saying that he would have to reconsider his decision to write the new work if anyone other than Sargent was to conduct it.  It seems Sargent talked him round, as DonaNobis Pacem was performed on 2 October 1936 with the Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Albert Coates.  Vaughan Williams was there, and according to the Society’s official history, he came on stage to acknowledge the applause ‘and counted it an honour to have it performed for the first time by such a distinguished company’. Bury Bach Choir has a direct link to that concert – the father of one of our current members was a member of the Huddersfield Choral Society and performed in the premier, and she is actually using his score for our concert!   Dona Nobis Pacem is performed less often than many other choral works, but received an acclaimed performance at this year’s BBC Proms, with the BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edward Gardner.   Its original orchestration is for a full orchestra and would be impossible to stage at The Apex, but in 2017 Jonathan Rathbone - formerly a choral scholar at Christ’s College, Cambridge and Music Director of the Swingle Singers, and currently director of several London choirs – composed a new arrangement for small orchestra, originally for King’s College, Cambridge, which we will perform on 10 November.  This has made the work accessible to many choirs while retaining all of its drama, power and beauty. For the other half of the concert we will perform Duruflé’s Requiem, another work of great beauty, which will be the subject of another post very soon; now published, click here to view. For tickets (priced at £25, £20 and £15) go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk or click here.

Concerts

2018/19 Season

Saturday 15 June 2019

7.30pm

The Apex, Charter Square

Purcell Dido and Aeneas

Tickets now on sale

2019/20 Season

Saturday 16 November 2019

7.30pm

The Apex, Charter Square

Brahms and The Armed Man

Tickets on sale 2 September

Saturday 14 December 2019

7.30pm

The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Lavenham

A Christmas Celebration

Tickets on sale 2 September

Saturday 7 March 2020

7.30pm

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Verdi Requiem

Tickets on sale 2 September

Future Concerts

Details here

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The Choir’s purpose is “to prepare and give public performances primarily of the core choral repertoire, using professional soloists and instrumentalists, to the highest possible standard”. 

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Bury Bach Choir (Bury St Edmunds Bach Society) is a registered charity in England and Wales, number 226700.