Review: Rewardingly different programme at Bach concert

Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir Concert, December 13, Holy Trinity church

Hot on the heels of their very stirring Messiah last month RLSBC turned to another very enterprising concert before Christmas.

Importing an extra state-of-the-art electronic organ to Holy Trinity Church seemed highly unnecessary at first glance – but the programme of two twentieth century French masses and one modern English setting of the same texts brought together three rarely heard works which all call for double organ accompaniment.

The choir was at times almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the organs in the Widor Mass but held their own and delivered some magical moments, notably in the Agnus Dei.

The Briggs Mass was a real challenge for a choir of this size with the compressed rehearsal timetable and they can feel proud of their achievement.

The shifting harmonies and tricky intervals threatened to defeat them, but they came through time and again on pitch, and particularly the Sanctus showed them at their best with well matched tone and real cohesion.

The Vierne Mass was in a more familiar melodic vein again, and the choir responded to Nigel Stark’s conducting with care and attention to detail, producing a convincing performance of a lovely work.

Organist Colin Druce provided the one instrumental item just before the interval.

On this new developed organ which is primed to recreate the sound of every individual stop and pipe of particular instruments in their own context (in this case the magnificent Cavaille-Coll organ in the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris) Colin gave us a stylish performance of movements from Widor’s Fifth Symphonie including the brilliant Toccata everyone knows from weddings.

Verdict: a rewardingly different programme

Rating 8/10

By Malcolm Burns