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


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Bury Bach Choir is active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram To find out about joining the choir or coming to our concerts visit burybachchoir.co.uk
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Rachel Dyson makes a welcome return to sing with the Choir

Northumbrian soprano Rachel Dyson will join the Choir for our concert on Saturday 21 May at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, to sing Vivaldi’s Gloria, which she has sung previously at The Sage in Gateshead. Rachel was a member of the Estonian National Opera ensemble in Tallinn until recently. Her performances included Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Kalman's Die Zirkusprinzessin, Wagner’s Fliegende Hollander, Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s La Bohème and Tosca, and Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades.This will be Rachel’s fourth appearance with the Choir – she says ‘I’m so much looking forward to coming back to Bury St Edmunds and singing with the Choir again’.Other performances include the title role in Patience at the Buxton International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, as well as a ‘Pot Luck’Pirates of Penzance in which she sang Mabel, Columbina in Lusvardi’s comic opera Colombo Tutto Tondo at the Galway Festival, Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen for The Sage Gateshead Opera Chorus, and an evening performance for Gourmet Opera at Wembley Stadium. Rachel has also appeared in recent TV and DVD recordings of Wagner's Tannhäuser and Gounod's Faust.She’ll be sure of a great welcome in Bury St Edmunds next weekend.For more details of the concert, and to buy tickets, go to the choir's website www.burybachchoir.co.uk
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International star Robert Murray sings with the Bury Bach Choir

We are delighted that world-renowned tenor Robert Murray will join the Bury Bach Choir for our 90th anniversary concert on Saturday 19 March at St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

He will sing the Evangelist in Bach’s St John Passion, telling the story through intricate recitative and the beautiful tenor arias.  If you came to our performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion three years ago, you will remember how movingly and brilliantly he conveyed the emotion of the piece.

We are so lucky to have him to sing with us in Bury St Edmunds and it will be a performance not to be missed!  He is fitting in our concert between his debut at the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, in their new production of Peter Grimes conducted by Edward Gardner, and the Symphony Hall Boston, in Haydn’s Creation, conducted by Harry Christophers. 

Robert Murray studied voice at the Royal College of Music before joining the National Opera Studio and then the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. 

He has performed principal roles with the Royal Opera House and Hamburg State Opera, the English National, Welsh National, Norwegian and Bergen National operas, the Venice Biennale, and the Edinburgh, Beijing and Salzburg festivals.

In concert, Murray has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Spira Mirabilis, Barokksolistene, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Aurora Orchestra, The Handel & Haydn Society of Boston, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

Later this year, Rob will return to Garsington Opera as Peter Quint/Prologue in The Turn of the Screw, sing Mark in The Midsummer Marriage in concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Edward Gardner, make his debut as Florestan in Fidelio with the Irish National Opera, before joining The Cunning Little Vixen on tour with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Further ahead, Rob will make his debut at Teatro alla Scala Milan as Antonio in The Tempest.

Recent highlights include the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground at the Royal Opera House and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.  He will also appear at the Aldeburgh Festival, Brighton Festival, Wigmore Hall, Dartington Hall and Oxford Lieder Festival.

In addition to recordings for major labels, Rob is committed to contemporary music and has performed the music of Gerald Barry, Hans Werne Henze, Harrison Birtwistle, Colin Matthews, Cecilia McDowell, George Benjamin, Elliott Carter and Emily Hall.

To buy tickets for this special anniversary concert, which starts at 7.30pm, phone the box office on 01284 758000, or go to burybachchoir.co.uk and follow the links.


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Bury Bach Choir singing again 

Members of the Bury Bach Choir have started having socially distanced rehearsals in the Apex concert hall.  The choir numbers about one hundred members, but due to limitations imposed by the current situation fewer than forty have been able to start singing together at this stage (see photos). Nevertheless, this is a milestone after such a difficult nine months and is welcomed by the entire choir. The rehearsals are being live streamed so that those members unable to attend can join in from home.

The choir’s Chair, Tess Wright, said “We are delighted to be able to start singing again, and hope soon to be able to announce details of our 2021 concert programme”.

The choir’s last concert was Verdi’s Requiem, performed in St Edmundsbury Cathedral on 7 March 2020. Since then, despite not being allowed to sing together, choir members have been busy with many other activities including online voice coaching from the choir’s Co-Presidents Graeme Danby and Valerie Reid; online lectures from the choir’s Music Director, Philip Reed; a continually active WhatsApp group; and a weekly zoom meeting when choir members chat together and discuss plans. 

As always, the choir’s committee has been highly active, holding everything together and making sure we are ready to perform again when the conditions allow.  

A significant event has been the retirement of alto singer Pam Reed, the choir’s Treasurer for the last fourteen years. During this time, she has been a key member of the management team and has contributed immensely to the choir’s ability to do what we do - make music for the people of West Suffolk. She is replaced by tenor Richard Fletcher. 

The saddest event during the year has been the death of James Recknell, the choir’s outstanding accompanist. Details of his work for the choir over many years are here on the choir’s website. We plan to dedicate a concert to him in due course. We are extremely fortunate that the immensely talented pianist Christopher Moore is happy to take his place until we appoint a new accompanist.

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Videntes Stellam – a carol by Chelsea Haward At our Christmas concert at Lavenham church on 14 December the Bury Bach Choir will sing a carol written by one of our own members, soprano Chelsea Haward.  Videntes Stellam (seeing the star) is an ethereally beautiful depiction of the Magi bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrhh to the baby Jesus. Chelsea, who was born and bred in Bury St Edmunds, read music at the University of Edinburgh for four years and followed her BMus (Hons) with an MA in Applied Psychology of Music at Leeds University, focusing on background music and how it affects cognitive performance. She has been in the choir for four years, since returning to Bury to teach piano and continue composing. ‘When I’m composing music’, Chelsea says, ‘I always use the words as my inspiration – I’m fascinated by etymology and different languages and how they link together, and how you can portray their meaning in music’. She wrote her first music, a piano piece about Halloween, when she was ten, and was encouraged to write more by the music teachers at King Edward VI School. She wrote a choral piece for A Level and asked her teacher if the choir could try it out, ‘then the teacher suggested we do it in a concert, and that was the most exciting thing ever, I couldn’t believe that the people around me were singing what I’d written, it was really magical’. Chelsea chose the course at Edinburgh because it was very traditional, focusing on harmony and composition. Students were encouraged to compose their own work, and Videntes Stellam was first performed at a carol concert at McEwan Hall. ‘I really love texts that mention nature or stars and the moon.  Texts centred around space and nature are the biggest inspiration for me and I love finding harmonies to represent their meanings.’ Although she is commissioned to write two or three pieces each year, Chelsea spends most of her time teaching piano to her students, ranging from age four upwards! She loves teaching children, ‘It’s wonderful when you’re talking about a new concept or piece and you can see that they have understood how it works and how it links to things they have already learnt’, but with all her students she tries to focus on what they want to learn and work from there. ‘People process information in different ways so even if I am working on the same pieces with different students, the approach isn’t always the same.  Everyone has their own learning style and a lovely part of being a teacher is making music accessible to all of your students.’ She is hoping to go back to university next year to do a PhD in Composition, with a focus on the relationship between words and harmony. ‘Voices are what I find most moving – the way you can layer voices, the way they blend and the sounds you can create with them, I think it’s really magical.  Choral music is particularly special to me as the music is enhanced by the meaning of words through harmonies and the words are heightened by the music’. The choir is really enjoying rehearsing Videntes Stellam and we’re all looking forward to the concert, especially Chelsea – ‘It’s just as exciting every time it’s performed, it doesn’t get any less exciting!’ The concert, on Saturday 14 December, is at The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Lavenham, and starts at 7.30pm.  For full details, and for information about how to buy tickets (£15 for adults, £7.50 for under 21’s) go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk. Residents of Lavenham can buy tickets from Lavenham Blue Tea Rooms in the Market Place.
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Christopher Moore – Piano four hands secondo Christopher started his musical career when he was very young: ‘my grandmother played piano, organ and violin and sat me on her knee at the piano as a baby to get me interested!’ He started piano lessons when he was eight, oboe at eleven and organ at thirteen. He worked for a firm of organ builders for a year after school and then read music at Durham University, where he played the organ a lot.   Christopher taught in schools and churches in Dorset, London and Sussex before moving to Cambridge in 1986 to take up the post of Director of Music at Great St Mary’s. This was a great challenge, he says, ‘but I enjoyed it, I built up the choirs, had a new organ, very supportive vicars, a lot of autonomy and a lot of fun! It became quite a centre for music and still is’. In 1998 Christopher moved to Sudbury while he was working as an examiner for the ABRSM, ‘because I fell in love with a beautiful old house which I had great fun restoring – architecture and old buildings are a passion’. In 2004 he moved to South Africa to be Director of Music at the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown. He did a lot of work with big African choirs; ‘they learn everything by Tonic sol-fa but have amazing ambition, sang Schubert masses, Handel’s oratorios, the full traditional repertoire, as well as African music’. Christopher formed a choir of street children from a local shelter. ‘It was inspiring, a lot of them were orphans, some were HIV positive, some had been rescued from living in drains. They were so enthusiastic, they used to come and sing in the cathedral most weeks and would come running in, saying “Mr Chris, can we sing another song?” ’ Christopher returned to the UK in 2006 and was Director of Music at St Michael and All Angels, Croydon for eighteen months before resuming a freelance career. For thirty years he was an examiner for the ABRSM, examining in 28 countries. He holds the Fellowship diplomas of the Royal College of Organists and Trinity College of Music and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Diploma in Church Music. He has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Guild of Church Musicians. Christopher was until recently conductor of the Bury St Edmunds Friendly Orchestra and the Tudor Rose Singers, and Choir Director at St Mary’s church. He is busy as a pianist, organist, harpsichordist, accompanist and teacher as well as pianist of the Sokolowski Trio and the Linnet Ensemble. ‘I play the piano now much more than the organ, I practise a lot because we play quite tricky music!’ His favourite composers? ‘Bach and Handel – I love Handel in particular. But also Elgar and Rachmaninov, Haydn, Mozart and Britten – I saw him conduct quite often as a boy’. We’re very much looking forward to Christopher accompanying our Brahms Requiem along with James Recknell at Saturday’s concert. The concert is at the Apex concert hall, Charter Square, Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 16 November 2019, starting at 7.30pm. To get tickets, go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk, phone 01284 760101, or click here. Tickets are selling fast.
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James Recknell – Piano four hands primo James was the Bury Bach Choir’s rehearsal accompanist for around ten years under its former Music Director, Fred Oxley, and rejoined us as our hugely liked and respected accompanist in the early 2000s. He regularly plays the piano, harpsichord or organ at our concerts and is accompanying the choir at our concert on 16 November for both the Choral Suite from Karl Jenkins’s The Armed Man and as the primo player in Brahms’s piano four-hands arrangement for Ein deutsches Requiem. Keyboard playing has always been James’s passion and by the age of twelve he had passed his piano exams up to Grade VII. James went on to study music at Cambridge University and took lessons on the new harpsichord at Magdalen College. His first teaching job was in maths, and James thinks ‘there is definitely a correlation between music and maths, I did both at ‘A’ level – I suppose it’s to do with the analytical part of the brain’. While he was teaching maths he took some organ lessons, and went on to take his ARCO and FRCO organ examinations, achieving prizes in both. Does he have a preference? ‘I think, heart of hearts, I enjoy the piano more, the harpsichord too.’ He worked at Meridian Records with John Shuttleworth as a producer and continued this while doing his day job at Culford School, where he was Director of Music from 1981 until retiring in 2013, though he is still the Head of Keyboard at the school. ‘At Culford I tried to be as versatile a general musician as possible’, he says, ‘in charge of musical events, running a chapel choir, accompanying for exams and concerts, doing musicals and playing the violin too!’ James has been associated with East Anglian music for many years and has directed many music groups and choirs, including the Thetford Singers, the St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir, the Culford Choral Society and the Churchgate Sinfonia. He has been the Musical Director for the Suffolk Young People’s Theatre for over ten years and he has worked on many occasions with the Bury St Edmunds Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. He enjoys being an accompanist for many talented soloists and he is also the organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford. James likes the challenge of accompanying the choir. ‘One very important thing you must have as an accompanist is very good sight-reading – you can’t possibly learn everything you have to play.’ And he has to listen intently to everything at rehearsal, ‘I have to be on the ball so I’m ready for what Philip wants next, so the rehearsal can flow – and I like to interfere occasionally if I hear a wrong note!’ The choir members know how lucky we are to have him as our accompanist, and how helpful he is at rehearsals, doing his job with consummate skill and endless patience! ‘I enjoy it’, he says, in his usual understated way, ‘it’s nice just to be able to sit back and play!’ The concert is at the Apex concert hall, Charter Square, Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 16 November 2019, starting at 7.30pm. To get tickets, go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk, phone 01284 760101, or click here. Tickets are selling fast.
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Brahms Requiem and piano four-hands At our concert on 16 November at The Apex, our performance of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem will be accompanied by two pianists – James Recknell (the choir’s accompanist and keyboard player at our concerts) and Christopher Moore – playing one piano. This piano four-hands version was transcribed from the orchestral score by Brahms himself. Although his Requiem was conceived and written for a large chorus and full orchestra, Brahms also made two piano arrangements, one for two hands, and the four hands version that will accompany the choir at the concert. Each version has equal authority although the performances are inevitably different, and in each version the power and sincerity of Brahms’s invention shine through. So – why do this at all, and why do it for one piano rather than two? The main reason is that one piano is more easily available than two, and massively more available than a full orchestra! The first known piano four-hands works were produced in the late 18th century, by which time the piano keyboard was generally large enough for two people – four hands – to share. Schubert later made full use of the original effects four hands could make, as did Schumann and Brahms, especially in his Liebeslieder Walzer. People could play these works in their own homes, and duet transcriptions played the same role as recording equipment did over a century later – they made classical music accessible for people outside the concert hall. The two pianists sit side by side: the one on the right is called the Primo (James in our concert) and the other is the Secondo (Christopher). The score is usually printed side by side so each player has their own music directly in front of them. It helps if the pianists know each other and get on well, as ours certainly do! James and Christopher often cover events for each other in and around Bury St Edmunds (Christopher has stood in as our accompanist several times when James has been away, and they have both played for the choir before on harmonium and piano for Rossini's Petite Messe Solonelle). Of the Brahms Requiem, Christopher says ‘this version for four hands is very effective because you’ve got a lovely wide range and depth of notes – four hands can obviously produce more notes than two. Inevitably, a piano doesn’t give all the colours that an orchestra can give, but the choir can give so much colour. It’s a big choir, there should be some splendid noise! An orchestra has its own dominance and the choir won’t be shielded by that this time’. James, who used to play duets of Beethoven symphonies with his father, is mindful of the technicalities of piano four-hands. ‘When the work is so chordal, like the Brahms, you have to make sure you’re playing absolutely together.’ Christopher agrees: ‘Twenty fingers have to go down at exactly the same moment!’ ‘The Secondo player uses the pedals’, says James, ‘so you have to synchronise that – and for the page turner, we’re going to have to decide who nods, and will we both want the page turned at exactly the same time!’ Not to mention potential tangles when the Secondo's right hand has to intersect with the Primo's left hand… One thing is for sure, the Apex audience members sitting above the piano will have a fascinating view! ‘I’m looking forward to it’, says James. ‘It will be great fun’ Christopher says, ‘exciting!’ The concert is at the Apex concert hall, Charter Square, Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 16 November 2019, starting at 7.30pm. To get tickets, go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk, phone 01284 760101, or click here. Tickets are selling fast.
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How Brahms composed his German Requiem On Saturday 16 November the Bury Bach Choir will perform Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem accompanied by piano four hands – one piano played by two people, James Recknell and Christopher Moore. The concert will also feature soprano Helen Bailey and baritone Tom Asher.  Although his Requiem was conceived and written for a large chorus and full orchestra, Brahms made two piano arrangements, one for two hands, and the four hands version that will accompany the choir at this concert. Each version has equal authority although the performances are inevitably different, and in each version the power and sincerity of Brahms’s invention shine through. Future posts will discuss piano four hands - and our pianists and soloists - in more detail, but this post considers the work itself. As its title suggests, Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) is not a requiem setting in the conventional liturgical Latin tradition of Mozart or Verdi. Rather, by choosing words from the Lutheran Bible which focus on suffering and consolation as opposed to judgement and the afterlife, Brahms allies himself to the North German Protestantism of his upbringing and, moreover, the Lutheran musical tradition of J S Bach and Schütz. Brahms had studied the Lutheran Bible: his copy, preserved in a Viennese collection, is covered in pencil annotations and he kept a notebook with potentially useful texts. Lutheran theology rejected the concept of Purgatory and many of the Catholic rites, and while the traditional Latin Requiem is a plea for peace for the souls of the dead, Brahms’s Requiem seeks to provide comfort for the bereaved and proclaim the hope of resurrection and reunion after death. The composition of the German Requiem was a prolonged affair. While Brahms had formulated the idea in 1861, by when texts for four of the seven movements were selected, the sombre yet powerful B flat minor funeral march of the second movement originally started life in a symphony written under the shadow of Schumann’s death five years earlier. Schumann had championed Brahms as a young composer from provincial Hamburg, believing he had found the man whose ‘destiny should be to express the spirit of the age in the highest and most ideal fashion’. Later in life Brahms enjoyed showing his friends the manuscript of the work in its many different paper sizes, reflecting that when he began it, he couldn’t afford more than a few sheets of paper at a time! The German Requiem received its first performance on Good Friday 1868 at Bremen Cathedral, but it was not until the following year that the work was premiered in the version with which we are now familiar, with the inclusion of the fifth movement. This, with its reference to motherly love, was perhaps inspired and influenced by the death of Brahms’s mother in 1865. The work - Brahms’s first for major choir and orchestra - met with great acclaim at the Bremen performance, which was attended by over 2000 people, including many significant figures in German musical life. It was performed more than one hundred times throughout Europe over the next ten years. Brahms had finally fulfilled Schumann’s prophetic words written in 1853: ‘when he lowers his magic wand on the masses of choir and orchestra whose powers endow him with strength, we shall await wondrous glimpses into the world of the spirit’.The concert is at the Apex concert hall, Charter Square, Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 16 November 2019, starting at 7.30pm. To get tickets, go to www.burybachchoir.co.uk, phone 01284 760101, or click here. Tickets are selling fast.
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Bury Bach Choir singers – James the tenor Whether you’re working, studying or enjoying the freedom of retirement, and whatever you sing – soprano, alto, tenor or bass – come and join us as our new term starts on 4 September. This post features the third of three interviews with current members of the choir, to give you a bit of encouragement! James, a tenor, is one of the Choir’s newest members, joining in January 2019.  He is a GP. James lived in Bury through his primary school years, then went away to school and university.  There wasn’t a job here for him after that so he lived in London for 35 years, singing in small choirs.   He says he’d been back in Bury for about a year and hadn’t been singing, so it was time!  He was determined, though, not just to join the first choir he came across and took time to find the right one.   ‘One of the things that attracted me to the Bury Bach Choir was the opportunity to sing big stuff, which I’ve never done’, he says.  ‘It’s very different, if you sing in a chamber choir you sing a certain repertoire and if there are only a few of you, you’re quite exposed, so singing St Matthew Passion as my first piece with the choir was amazing.  And I’m so looking forward to Verdi’s Requiem later in the year, I’ve never sung it, so it will be brilliant.’ ‘I like the fact that it’s so disciplined, Philip demands a lot so the two hour rehearsals are quite intense and I feel very focused, which is good for me.  Philip is very good at taking a phrase and making us work to get it better and better before going on to the next one.  He works on it until it’s just as he feels it should be, which gives us a sense of achievement, and means you can’t really think about anything else while you’re doing it.’ ‘Being in the choir is part of having a balanced life – a lot of people lead very stressful lives and don’t do anything to de-stress: no variety, no gym, no gardening etc.  The choir is a very nice component in my week.’ What would you say to someone who is thinking of joining us but doesn’t feel very confident? ‘I was made to feel very welcome, and that feeling of welcome has continued.  You can come and sing for a few weeks and you’ll know if it’s right for you by the time you have your voice check.  There’s so much help on-line now that if you’re willing to put some work in you can arrive at rehearsals well prepared, but the best thing to help with confidence is to realise that we’re all learning together.’ If you’re interested in joining us, find out more from our website here, or contact our New Members’ Secretary, Linda Cleveley, on 01284 703348 or 07757 316553, or newmember@burybachchoir.co.uk.   We’ve already had several enquiries for this year, so you won’t be alone, and you will be very welcome!


Saturday 21 May 2022


Vivaldi Gloria and glorious Bach

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Tickets on sale 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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