Birmingham Bach Choir review


St Paul's Church, Jewellery Quarter *****

The last choral concert I reviewed in this gracious old church proved a dire experience; not so this one, from the expertly understated Birmingham Bach Choir, so confidently accustomed to the gentle but firm direction of Paul Spicer.
British offerings sandwiched three Bach motets, great works which here were delivered in far lighter a manner surely than the way in which the Birmingham Bach Society Choir would have given them more than a century ago.
Organist Callum Alger introduced this Bach sequence with the Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist from one of the organ masses, the complex lines clearly delineated, before the motets then unfolded. Lobet den Herrn was neat and agile, its Halleluja unfolding with great swells of tone.
Komm, Jesu, komm is for me Bach at his best, emotion so obvious within every well-controlled bar, and this was a deeply-felt, delicately uncovered reading under Spicer, seamlessly phrased and the cascading sequences of "Du bist der rechte Weg" spoke straight to the heart.
The long lines of O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht were well sustained, the whole atmosphere as comforting as "Sheep may safely graze".
Orlando Gibbons' O clap your hands had launched the evening, light and clear, and with well-balanced sonority. Two works from opposite ends of John Joubert's career followed, O Lorde, the maker of al thing well-paced and flowing, immediately atmospheric, and with admirable maintenance of pitch, This is the gate of the Lord sturdy and confident.
Despite a tentative organ opening (we need more of an expectant launch) Britten's Te Deum was supple and responsive from Spicer's choristers, Emily Carew-Gibbs' soprano solo radiant in its innocence.
Two motets by James MacMillan were rapt (Lux Aeterna) and ecstatic (Benedicimus Caeli), and Gerald Finzi's Lo, the full final sacrifice completed a wonderful programme in which Spicer had coached his singers to pay as much attention to the words as to the notes they were singing.
Christopher Morley

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