Bath Cantata Group: St Stephens Church, Bath
Bath Cantata Group
St Stephens Church, Bath
This is the longest established chamber choir in Bath, the programme told us: and I auditioned for it, more than 40years ago, with the then conductor Jim Peschek. Edna Blackwell, the current incumbent, has been at the helm for more than 30 years and the group is a little smaller now than when I last heard them.
They gave us an interestingly varied programme, starting with a Haydn Te Deum, full of energy and hope, as the words suggest, especially in the final In te Domini speravi. Schubert's Magnificat followed, with its exuberant combination of solo quartet, Tracey Hansford (soprano), Gill Clark (mezzo), Bruce Evans (tenor), and Paul Fletcher (baritone), with chorus, given extra colour and finesse by the plangent oboe line: and blithe trumpet in the closing chorus.
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Matthew Taylor, the leader of the admirable orchestra played RVW's The Lark Ascending, romantic and piquant, as it climbs up into the stratosphere. It was a very appealing and moving performance, as the final high note said its poignant farewell.
After the interval, another combination of solo quartet and chorus, in Haydn's St Nicholas Mass, ebullient and full of interesting harmonies, which move from buoyant life to more sombre mood in the Crucifixus and the Agnus Dei, finishing with the very evocative Dona nobis pacem. It is a beautifully constructed, relatively small-scale setting of the Mass, and the chorus with solo quartet provided a profoundly committed performance, well supported by a sympathetic orchestral accompaniment, with horn, trumpets and woodwind complementing the strings.
The final Christmas Day, by Holst, was a delightful preview of the festive season, its elegantly crafted arrangement of carols again scored for the solo quartet, this time with Philippa Neaverson, (soprano), and chorus. This is a thoroughly joyful piece, finishing with Gill Clark's burnished mezzo singing the final phrase, Christ was born today. An enjoyable evening's music for those brave souls who ventured out on a dark and stormy night.
Peter Lloyd Williams