Sheffield Bach Choir has come up with an attractively diverse collection of ‘Music for a Summer Evening’ for its final concert of the season on the 10th of June.
As in recent years, the concert forms a Broomhill Festival event at St Mark’s Church; a much-reduced festival this year which gets underway on the day of the Bach Choir’s concert and ends a week later.
Stylistically varied, the programme ranges from early Baroque to the present day and the thoughts of the choir’s eminent conductor Simon Lindley are italicised in the following.
Some items are unaccompanied and others instrumentally supported by six members of the splendid National Festival Orchestra and Alan Horsey at the restored St Mark’s organ – “what an absolutely superb job Wood of Huddersfield have done for the church. The instrument is magnificently re-born!”
In fact, it could be said the organ has a ‘starring’ role at the concert with “Handel’s magical Cuckoo and the Nightingale concerto for organ and strings” (Organ Concerto No 13 in F), “and Marcel Grandjany’s evocative and luxuriant Aria in Classic Style for harp and organ.”
Grandjany was a celebrated French-born American harpist and composer of harp music if you have not come across him before; and, there is Haydn’s Missa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo dating from around 1765, probably better known by its later attached alternative title.
“It’s likely that Haydn himself played the elaborate solo organ part (at its first outing) in the Benedictus from which the work is widely known as the ‘Little Organ Mass’.”
The other major accompanied choral work is the charming Magnificat setting attributed to Buxtehude, “a work as famous for its compelling instrumental interludes for strings as for its glorious choral writing.
“It is very well known indeed in Germany and has been for eight decades after its re-discovery. Somehow, it’s never been as familiar in the UK or the States – the jury’s out on whether it’s actually by Buxtehude.”
A friend and colleague of the composer, Gustav Düben, transcribed the piece along with over 100 other Buxtehude works, and it has gained greater currency outside Germany since John Rutter included it in his OUP volume ‘European Sacred Music’ in 1996.
Also being performed, though hardly in need of dwelling on, is the young Fauré’s evergreen classic Cantique de Jean Racine in John Rutter’s orchestration, although you may be not aware that Racine’s French text is a much earlier Latin hymn from a breviary for matins.
Unaccompanied choral music takes in the unfairly, almost forgotten E J Moeran’s “evocative” Songs of Springtime – “okay, a bit late for Spring, but far too good to be excluded!”
Indeed, the seven fairly brief Elizabethan settings, including two Shakespeare texts, from 1932 deserve wider circulation, even if they do have difficult chromaticism to get thoraxes round without instrumental aid to help with pitch.
Can’t speak for Robert Cockroft’s “superb” Three Yorkshire Folk Songs (The Ripon Sword Dance, Scarborough Fair and An acre of land), “composed in April two years ago specifically for Gordon Stewart to conduct in a gala concert at Blackburn Cathedral” – though knew him many years ago without being aware that he was a closet composer!
He has, however, written three pieces previously for the distinguished concert organist, conductor and teacher, long-time resident organist at Huddersfield Town Hall, Andrew Carter, Noel Rawsthorne and Lionel Rogg being among others who have penned pieces for him.
Completing the programme is Karl Jenkins’s Adiemus for choir, organ and solo treble recorder, a huge success when the Bach Choir sang it at a Classical Sheffield Saturday morning event at Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street in March.