Choir produces concert of two halves

Ipswich Bach Choir, Great School, Ipswich School, December 6Conductor Patrick McCarthy had put together an imaginative programme of works by Bach and Haydn.

Ipswich Bach Choir, Great School, Ipswich School, December 6

Conductor Patrick McCarthy had put together an imaginative programme of works by Bach and Haydn. But, despite its name, Ipswich Bach Choir truly rose to the occasion in performing the music of Haydn.

The first half of the concert consisted of Bach's Cantata No 21 (Ich hatte viel Bek├╝mmernis) with two extra purely orchestral pieces preceding and partway through the Cantata. The Ipswich Chamber Orchestra, led by Jessie Ridley, played these pieces stylishly with oboeist, Janet Brook, outstanding. In the Cantata the choir managed Bach's very demanding intricate lines adequately but only confidently so in the last two choruses. The choir is generally happier with the variety and narrative of Bach's St John and St Matthew Passions.

After the interval both choir and orchestra launched enthusiastically into Haydn's Nelson' Mass. The inherent drama and variety in the words of the Latin Mass have inspired many a composer, Haydn above all since his final six masses written to commemorate the name-day of Princess Esterhazy constitute arguably his finest body of work. Of these six the 'Nelson' is the best known, partly because of its title. Actually Haydn's own title was 'Mass in Times of Distress', reflecting Austria's fear of French invasion in 1798.

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Choir, orchestra and the four soloists made a perfect match for this wonderful work. Tenors and basses especially seemed like different people in the Haydn, heard for example in the whole choir's stirring performance of the fugal ending of the Gloria. Throughout there was an impressive range of expression from the fearful to the exultant - a tribute to Patrick McCarthy's conducting.

The soloists were Lindsay Gowers (soprano), Elaine Henson (mezzo-soprano), Paul Bloomfield (tenor) and Stephen Holloway (bass) and they made a pleasing well-balanced group. The soprano's role is much the most prominent and Lindsay Gowers' contributions were delivered with a beautiful and appropriate tonal quality, warm but not too operatic.

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Clearly everyone enjoyed performing the Nelson' Mass, an experience shared by the audience. If it had been a football match it would have been called 'a game of two halves'!

Neil Salmon

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