Birmingham Bach Choir review

A WONDERFUL RETURN TO LIVE MUSIC FROM THE BIRMINGHAM BACH CHOIR

We also celebrated the return of the Birmingham Bach Choir to live performance after so many months of lockdown, and also celebrated the heroism of Ukraine, the choristers sporting that besieged country's national colours, and singing A Prayer for Ukraine to open the concert.
A more personal celebration came with the world premiere of conductor Paul Spicer's Sound the Invisible Trumps (beginning in the organ depths like Honegger's Christmas Cantata), dedicated to the memory of Pauline Round, a valued and much-loved past-President of the Choir, and which indeed sets two little gems of her poems amidst medieval poetry and Walter de la Mare. There was an inner dedication, too, the second setting "Brief is our Life" remembering Mike Lloyd, a valued long-term supporter of the choir, succumbing to Covid at the very onset of the pandemic, the actual subtext of Spicer's well-structured piece.
Emily Matthews was the radiant soloist in that movement, as well as in one of the Round settings. In the other Round setting Ed Ballard was the warm-toned baritone.
Ballard was also the engaging, self-effacing soloist in Vaughan Williams' Five Mystical Songs, the choir enjoying at last the release of "Let all the world in every corner sing". Preceding this we had relished the choir's balance and intonation in Vaughan Williams' "Lord, Thou hast been our refuge" and Prayer to the Father of Heaven. "Turn back O Man" was a lovely contribution, typically striding in its bass line, from RVW's great friend, Gustav Holst.
Heroic organist Martyn Rawles was a strong support, outstanding in the finale from Spicer's Suite for Organ, and coping magnificently with the orchestral textures underlying Parry's "Blest Pair of Sirens" with which the Birmingham Bach Choir concluded this heartwarming concert so triumphantly.
Finally, a word of praise for the programme-book, a model of clarity, presentation, and informative notes.
Christopher Morley

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