Sunday, 27 January 2013

With Johann Sebastian Bach in Bath

This was the lunch time scene yesterday at Pulteny Bridge in the centre of Bath.  The River Avon was flooded with melted snow and heavy rain that fell overnight.   The city was, as usual, full of foreign visitors and students, there never seems to be a time, when this city is quiet.

I was in the city to attend a choral workshop, and performance of part of the "St John Passion" by JS Bach, (my hero.)   The "City of Bath Bach Choir"  hosted the event in the church of  "St Michael's Without,"   with our conductor was Nigel Perrin, a wonderfully enthusiastic man, who worked hard all day, to encourage us to sing the passion with great feeling and understanding.  Fortunately I have sung the work several times before, although it took me the first hour to remember many of the chorals and choruses.  I had just about got into full swing, when it was time to come home after a wonderful day of singing.

The photo above shows part of the choir of almost 175 singers.  To the left sit the sopranos, to the right the altos, and somewhere at the back a handful of tenors and basses.  Every choir seems to have a shortage of male singers!    Sir Thomas Beecham, the great conductor of many years back, is reputed to have said, "Never be rude to the wife of a tenor," meaning, if you can keep his wife sweet, she may allow her husband sing in a choir!

I took the photo after lunch, as we were waiting for the final run through to begin, before we sang part of the work in concert form,  with Nigel as the narrator.  The Passion contains many beautiful chorals, the themes of which are so sad, that I always want to cry.   But I managed to hold back the tears, and thoroughly enjoy the day.

Above can be seen Nigel our conductor, talking over points in the score with Marcus Sealy our accompanist.   Nigel Perrin was a founder member of the "King's Singers," a group of choral scholars from King's College, Cambridge, who formed a quartet in the early 1960's,  to sing a wide variety of songs,.  They became very famous, and toured the world, and appeared on  television singing their close harmony songs.  The group, with new singers of course, still perform today.

 We had problems initially with the piano, as it was not loud enough to be heard above our singing, and especially by the gentlemen sitting in the back rows.  After much juggling around with microphones here, there and everywhere, a louder sound was produced.    It would have been much better if a loud organ had accompanied us, but we achieved a good sound.   We all had a good time, and came home feeling that we knew and understood much more about this great piece of choral writing.

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