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The RLSBC gets ‘Back to Bach’

The RLSBC gets ‘Back to Bach’

Sunday 10th April 2022

The RLSBC presents its most ambitious programme yet under its current Musical Director, Lee Dunleavy.

On Saturday 9th April, a large and appreciative audience in All Saints’ Church, Leamington Spa, were treated to a veritable feast of the music of J S Bach. The choir sang four of the great composer’s most well-known motets, accompanied by a basso continuo section consisting of Johan Löfving on theorbo, John-Henry Baker on violone and Colin Druce on chamber organ. This is challenging music for any amateur choir, and really tested the singers’ stamina, technique and commitment, but the choir acquitted themselves very creditably indeed, thanks to Lee’s expert tuition and enthusiastic direction.

Just learning the notes (of which there are a lot!) was the first challenge, and then we had to get to grips with the complexity of Bach’s writing - the way he sets the texts, and balances the voices, and the huge contrasts in form and style between the four motets, and indeed between the different movements. of each motet. The concert began with the joyful Lobet den Herrn alle Heiden, and the first half concluded with Jesu, meine Freude, with its perfectly symmetrical eleven movement structure. The two eight part motets in the second half of the concert, Komm, Jesu, Komm and Singet dem Herrn, are masterpieces of rhetorical form, contrapuntal technique, and Biblical exegesis - and as a result are highly demanding to sing. The much-loved Jesu, Joy… provided a popular encore to end the concert.

In between the motets, we were treated to magnificent performances by Colin Druce of two of Bach’s Preludes and Fugues for organ, the one in E minor (often nicknamed ‘The Wedge’) and the one in E flat major (known as ‘St Anne’ because of the fugue melody). Colin was using the ‘Hauptwerk’ system (please click here for more details), an advanced software sampler for a virtual pipe organ, which combines state-of-the-art software along with world-class sampled instruments. We heard the Bach pieces as if performed on the Marcussen organ from the Laurenskerk, Rotterdam.

Clive Peacock of the Leamington Courier summed up the audience’s reaction when he said: “What a fine event last night. RLS Bach Choir has always demonstrated considerable ambition in their programming, in spite of the difficulties during the pandemic. All deserve congratulations.” His full review can be seen via the link below.

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