Previous Concerts (from Autumn 2013)

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Saturday 1st April 2017   7.30pm   St Mary's Church, Lace Market. 

Mendelssohn   Saint Paul

Conductor  Paul Hale

Soloists  Alison Rose,  Andrew Tortise and Marcus Farnsworth

Virtuoso Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy had already composed several highly regarded large scale works when he was commissioned to compose his first oratorio at the comparatively young age of 22 years. His setting of an account of the life of St Paul, as taken from the Acts of the Apostles, is suitably dramatic.

As a renowned Bach revivalist, Mendelssohn’s writing was influenced by Bach’s Passions and also the works Handel and Haydn. When first premièred in 1836, in Dusseldorf, the work was well received by audience and critics alike. Such was its popularity, within eighteen months the work had been performed on 50 occasions. Mendelssohn extensively revised the work, conducting it four months later in England and in the USA within a year.  Although this masterpiece of orchestral writing became less popular in the early part of the 20th century, the classical elegance and melodic beauty of the work still captivates audiences today.


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JS Bach     Christmas Oratorio BWV 248    Parts I, II, V & VI

Saturday 26th November 2016   7.30 pm     St Mary's Church, Lace Market

Conductor  Roger Bryan

Soloists    Ruth Provost, Martha McLorinan, Peter Davoren & Andrew Ashwin

In late 1734, and in his eleventh year as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, Bach composed a major new cycle of six cantatas. The cantatas were to be performed at the Thomaskirche and the Nikolaikirche on six feast days from Christmas Day to Epiphany.

The Christmas Oratorio is closer to Bach’s Passions in form, using a tenor Evangelist as narrator, with arias, choruses and chorales illustrating and reflecting on the Gospel texts. Much of the Christmas Oratorio is founded on music composed for earlier cantatas, both sacred and secular. The celebratory cantatas composed for the royal family of Dresden in 1733 are reworked to great effect. In the opening chorus, the bright orchestration of these earlier works is heard accompanied by voices heralding the birth of Christ with the words “Jauchzet! frohlocket (“Shout for joy! Exult!”) with timpani and trumpets echoing the statement. From its exultant opening to the exquisite Pastoral Sinfonia, the spectacular and colourful orchestration ensures Christmas Oratorio remains an audience favourite.

Review by William Ruff, Nottingham Post, November 2016.

Yes, I know: the cards, calendars and chocolate Santas have been in the local garden centre since early August. But now the real festive season can begin. The Nottingham Bach Choir have sung their patron composer's Christmas Oratorio.

The outstanding feature of their performance on Saturday was its story-telling. The Christmas narrative of baby, manger, shepherds, wise men etc was delivered with propulsive energy by tenor Peter Davoren, whose words seemed to take flight as they brought the familiar bible story to life. His fellow, similarly eloquent soloists were Ruth Provost (soprano), Martha McLorinan (mezzo) and Andrew Ashwin (bass), all of whom transmitted the text as if Bach's German were not only their native language but also that of the audience. And very stylish they were too, enunciating clearly and carefully moulding phrases. Breath control in the mezzo aria Schlafe, mein Liebster must have been a challenge - but its effect was both tender and poignant.

The Bach Choir was on sprightly form too. It's not easy to keep choral textures clear in the reverberant acoustic of St Mary's - but under conductor Roger Bryan they sang as if Bach's notes had been swirling in their bloodstream for years. Their chorales had touching simplicity whilst the big choruses were light on their feet and brightly, bouncily confident and assertive. They looked and sounded particularly impassioned at the start of Part VI as they painted a vivid picture of sharp-clawed enemies snorting with rage.

In this they were aided by some top-notch ensemble and solo playing from the orchestra. The continuo section offered subtle and tireless support whilst arias were coloured by incisive contributions from, amongst others, solo violin and oboes. And amongst the loud cheers at the end, perhaps the loudest were reserved for the dazzling trumpeters.

Spring concert 2016

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Saturday March 19th 2016 7.30pm

J S Bach   Mass in B Minor

J S Bach’s Mass in B Minor is undoubtedly his final and crowning masterpiece. During his latter years, Bach embarked on a systematic summarization of all his work, adding innovative concepts to some of his finest compositions. Bach assembled an untitled compilation of four movements 1. Missa (Kyrie & Gloria) (1733); 2.Symbolum Nicenum (Credo) (1742-45 and earlier work); 3. Sanctus (1724) 4. Osanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei & Dona nobis pacem (1740’s) into a grand setting of the Latin mass. Unsuitable for use in a liturgical context due to its scale and complexity, (the later named) Mass in B Minor received its first performance in entirety more than one hundred years after Bach’s death.

From the intense Kyrie to the triumphal closing Dona nobis pacem,
Bach’s final chapter is a glorious summation of his life, faith and work; one which transcends all boundaries


Saturday 21st November 2015, 7.30pm

St Mary’s Church, Lace Market

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HOLST   Hymn of Jesus


DVOŘÁK   Mass in D Major

Written during the darkest days of WW1, Holst’s response to the abject horror of war was not music of consolation but a spellbinding work of hope, expressing unorthodox and philosophical beliefs. The use of plainsong and the lively dance rhythms of folk music giving this work spirituality and a life enhancing vivacity.

Bruckner completed his Te Deum during the final stages of composing his highly successful Symphony No. 7. Te Deum is a joyous hymn of praise and celebration, and is considered to be Bruckner’s greatest choral work. Mahler wrote in his score “for the
tongues of angels, heaven-blessed, chastened hearts and souls purified in the fire”.

Dvorak’s lyrical and prayerful setting of the Mass was commissioned for the consecration of the new chapel at Luzany. Such was the success of Dvorak’s simple but beautifully crafted expression of faith, an orchestral version was premiered in London in 1893 to great acclaim. Surrounded by the beautiful countryside at his beloved summer residence, Dvorak was inspired to write this exquisite work, rich in melodic and harmonic imagery.

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J.S.Bach   Jesu meine freude

Jean Langlais    Messe Solennelle

Guy Turner    Songs and Legends of Robin Hood

Date:   Saturday 13th June 2015  7.30 pm

Venue:   St. Mary’s Church, Lace Market, Nottingham

Bach’s motet Jesu meine Freude and the choral works of J S Bach form the core repertoire of Nottingham Bach Choir. It is the earliest (1723) and longest of Bach’s motets and is set in eleven short movements arranged in symmetrical almost palindromic style and is a work of great virtuousity and sensitivity.

Commissioned for Nottingham Bach Choir ‘Songs and Legends of Robin Hood’ is a sequence of nine pieces for Choir, Piano and two French Horns, celebrating and reflecting on our great local folk hero. Characters from the traditional stories, such as Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian and Allen-a-Dale all make their appearance. Texts include poems by Tennyson and Walter Scott plus those from Elizabethan and Mediaeval times. The centre piece of the work is a setting of the oldest written down Robin Hood story, ‘Robin Hood and the Monk’, which includes a scene in St Mary’s Church itself – the setting for this first performance.


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Featuring:  Elgar The Dream of Gerontius, Vaughan Williams Toward the Unknown Region                    

with Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra and Southwell Minster Choir

Date:  Saturday 14th March 2015 7.30pm

Venue:  Southwell Minster

Conductor:  Paul Hale

Soloists:  Madeleine Shaw, Robert Murray and Marcus Farnsworth

As the centrepiece of NBC's 60th Anniversary Year, Elgar's  setting of Cardinal Newman's famous poem is a suitably epic work. Newman’s vision of life, death and the journey of the soul to the next world provided Elgar the inspiration for what is regarded by many to be one of his greatest choral and orchestral works. On completion of his score and quoting John Ruskin, Elgar added “This is the best of me…this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.”

Popular with Vaughan Williams and other composers of the English musical renaissance - the writing of American Poet Walt Whitman captured the essence of a new age. Vaughan Williams found Whitman’s free style and spiritual intensity musically liberating. Whitman’s poem Toward the Unknown Region is an ambiguous representation of the spiritual journey of the soul from darkness to light, in the form of a dialogue between man as his soul as he makes his final journey.

This concert is supported by the Skinners’ Company Lady Neville Charity, awarding small grants to local grass roots organisations

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and the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust.


Review by William Ruff, Nottingham Post 

The Nottingham Bach Choir and Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra have boldly gone where no musical organisations have gone before.  On Saturday night they presented an entire programme, two hours of English choral music, without an interval.  And anyone who has ever suffered cruel and unusual punishment at the hands of the Minster's back-breaking chairs will know what that means.

So was this a good way to celebrate the Choir's 60th anniversary season?  To that there must be a resounding 'Yes!'  Such were the performances of Vaughan Williams' Towards the Unknown Region and Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius that the music gripped and moved the audience from the outset and no interval meant that the grip was never relaxed.  

The opening Vaughan Williams work gave the Choir plenty to get its teeth into.  Paul Hale ensured the performance was full of drama, sharp contrasts of mood and control of a wide dynamic range. The climax of the piece packed a huge sonic punch.

If death was an 'unknown region' for Vaughan Williams, it was something much more knowable for Elgar. The Catholic and highly specific language  of The Dream of Gerontius may not be to everyone's taste, but its music plunges deep into the human spirit and can move and inspire the most convinced unbeliever.  

Robert Murray was an outstanding Gerontius, conveying calm serenity or spiritual passion in equal measure. Madeleine Shaw as the Angel would have melted the hardest of hearts, and Marcus Farnsworth was strongly commanding both as the Priest and as the Angel of the Agony.

The performance had all of the Bach Choir's attention to detail – such as way the first choral entry melted imperceptibly into the musical texture, or the explosive charge given to the opening of 'Praise to the Holiest'.  It made all thoughts of time and chairs dissolve.


CONCERT SEASON 2014-2015NBC_November_2014_Flyer

Featuring: Haydn  Nelson Mass,  Mozart Requiem
Date: Saturday 22nd November 2014  7.30pm
Venue: St Mary’s Church, Nottingham

Seven years after the untimely demise of Mozart in 1791, Europe was experiencing a period of great political and financial unrest; Austria, Haydn's homeland was under threat of invasion by Napoleon. In the year Haydn composed his 'Mass in Troubled Times', Horatio Nelson was to defeat Napoleon in the battle of the Nile. Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar followed seven years later and Nelson's achievements and place in British naval history are likely to have led to the popular title 'Nelson Mass'Mozart's final opus, the enigmatic Requiem, continues to stimulate the interest of audiences and music scholars alike. Mozart's extraordinary ability to absorb, develop and improve musical genres of others is demonstrated in the drama, intensity and beauty of his Requiem Mass.

Haydn's opening Kyrie shares the same dark sound world of Mozart's Requiem, with its sense of foreboding and terror but develops into exultant praise in the Gloria, followed by movements both contemplative and joyful with a jubilant finale.


Concert Review by William Ruff

Nottingham Post                        Monday November 24th 2014

Two of the greatest sacred choral works of the classical era were written just a few years apart in the 1790s: Mozart’s Requiem and Haydn’s ‘Nelson’ Mass. And the Nottingham Bach Choir sang both in their Saturday concert. If anyone had thought for a moment that including both would have placed too many demands on singers and audience, the performances entirely vindicated the decision. And each masterpiece was illuminated by the other.

What was impressive was not only the grandeur of the big effects but the amount of subtle detail which conductor Paul Hale’s rehearsals had clearly unearthed and imprinted on the performance of his singers and players.

Mozart’s Requiem skilfully blended power, gravitas and lightness of touch. The score’s dark sonorities were movingly projected and the chorus sang with passion and energy, highly responsive to dynamic contrasts and to the meaning of the text. The tearful sighing at the start of the Lacrymosa concluded with a shatteringly powerful ‘Amen’. The Dies Irae gained much of its terrifying power not through brute force but through the choir’s disciplined control of rhythm. Throughout entries were always confident and secure, giving the Hosannas at the end of the Agnus Dei and Benedictus a real sense of elation.

The Haydn Mass had a similar wealth of precisely crafted effects – such as the brief pauses in the Kyrie in which the music was allowed to hang in the air awaiting completion. The well-balanced choral textures, set against an orchestra dominated by drums and trumpets, produced thrilling results, especially at the end of the Credo.

Abigail Broughton, Ruth Massey, Nicholas Scott and William Townend were the four impressive soloists. All sang eloquently, clearly at one in their vision of the works with all the musicians ranged behind them.


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Date: Saturday 14th June 2014, 7.30pm
Venue: St John’s Church, Carrington

The architecturally grand and resonant space of the Basilica St Marco, Venice was the source of inspiration for a remarkable and influential body of sacred choral and instrumental music in the late 16th century. Composers and organists at the Basilica, Andrea
and Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi used polyphonic and antiphonal settings for both voice and instrument in order to exploit the extraordinary acoustic space.

Fine examples of their work are included in a delightful programme of music for double choir and brass at St John’s Church, Carrington (with its own agreeably resonant acoustic) providing the perfect setting for a summer’s evening concert.

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Date: Saturday 8th March 2014, 7.30pm
Venue: St Mary’s Church, Nottingham

Historically, Bach’s oldest surviving setting of the Passion has been overshadowed by the complexity and scale of the better known St Matthew Passion, however St John Passion has its own distinctive appeal. On the occasion of the first performance at Good Friday Vespers in 1724, St John Passion would have astonished the congregation with the richness of its complex harmonies, drama, colour and variety in musical style.

Considered to be less contemplative and more immediate than St Matthew Passion, St John Passion’s magnificent choruses form the framework with interlacing chorales and virtuosic arias enhancing the strong dramatic narrative throughout. From the opening chorus of declaration and prayer “Herr, unser herrscher” to the consoling farewell of “Ruht wohl”, Bach’s music commands the listener to reflect on the Passion story and its ultimate promise for mankind.

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Saturday 16th November 2013: 7.30pm

Albert Hall  Nottingham

Commissioned in 1958, War Requiem provided Britten the vehicle for his own long-held pacifist beliefs. The libretto of his large scale orchestral and choral work incorporates the poems by one of the greatest War poets, Wilfred Owen with the traditional Latin Requiem Mass. Owen’s graphic representation of the horror and futility of war is reflected in Britten’s powerful, direct style of composition with its underlying themes of conflict and reconciliation.

In collaboration with Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chamber Ensemble of RNCM and Choristers of Southwell Minster and Nottingham Boys’ Choir,  Nottingham Bach Choir performs this deeply affecting work of which Times music critic William Mann wrote ‘…every performance it is given ought to be a momentous occasion’.


Quote Nottingham Post November 2013. Britten War Requiem

Just before the start of Saturday’s Bach Choir/NPO performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem there came a request for the audience to delay their applause at the end to allow a space for silent meditation. This was a sensible precaution, but such was the feeling of almost tangible grief generated by this fine performance that such advice was surely unnecessary.

Britten’s music was written for the inauguration of Coventry’s new cathedral in 1962 and interweaves the traditional Latin requiem with nine poems written by Wilfred Owen, perhaps the greatest of all First World War poets.

It is not an easy work to stage, as must have been apparent to anyone entering the Albert Hall on Saturday. Not only does the composer call for a huge symphony orchestra and chorus, but he also requires a separate chamber ensemble accompanying the soloists, two organs and a boys’ choir. This creates problems of balance and logistics especially when performers needed more space than audience. However, Paul Hale triumphed in his conducting of these remarkable forces.

He was assisted by Mark Heron (chamber ensemble) and Simon Hogan conducting wonderfully pure-voiced boys from Southwell Minster at the back of the Hall.

There were so many highlights of this shatteringly moving concert: the choir’s whispered opening, the explosive Dies Irae, the NPO’s thrilling brass and percussion, the deeply felt performances of soloists Katherine Broderick, Thomas Walker and Benjamin Appl, the crisp diction and rhythmic bite of the Bach Choir.

No wonder there was silence at the end.


Saturday 25th November 2017
St Mary's Church. Lacemarket.

Saturday 24th March 2018
St Mary's Church, Lacemarket.

Saturday 16th June 2018
St Mary's Church, Lacemarket,