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The Angel, the Nun and the Red Priest

The Angel, the Nun and the Red Priest

Monday 21st September 2020

Although government guidelines and concern for the well-being of our members prevent the Bach Choir from meeting in person to rehearse at present, we are continuing to sing together via Zoom - and even to learn new music!

Under the leadership of our dynamic new Director of Music, Lee Dunleavy, choir members have already started work this term on three pieces of sacred music from the Baroque period.

The most well-known is the Gloria by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), who was dubbed ‘the Red Priest’ because of his flaming hair, although the picture above shows him in his trademark white wig. Many of us have sung this piece many times before, but we are already learning new things about it from our sessions with Lee, such as the way the chorus in the Agnus Dei repeatedly tries to ‘persuade’ the alto soloist out of the minor key and into the major.

The second piece we are working on is the Christmas Cantata by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), which is more familiar, especially to string players, as one of his Opus 6 Concerti Grossi. This version includes skilfully constructed vocal lines drawn usually from the orchestral parts, and it is a joy to sing. The third piece is a Magnificat by someone most of us had never heard of before, the nun Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704), who lived all her adult life in an Ursuline convent in Novara in Piedmont, Italy, and was a prolific composer of sacred music.

We very much hope that we shall be able to perform these pieces by ‘the Angel, the Nun and the Red Priest’ in public for you at some point, but meanwhile we are thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to learn/ revisit this wonderful music.

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