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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.

Featured News

RLSBC appoints new Musical Director

RLSBC appoints new Musical Director

Thursday 20th August 2020

The Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir (RLSBC) is delighted to announce that Lee Dunleavy has been appointed as their sixteenth Musical Director, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Malcolm Goldring, Peter Hurford, Janet Lincé, Nigel Stark, Paul Trepte, and most recently, Christopher Cromar, who has been appointed Director of Music at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen.

Lee Dunleavy is also Musical Director of the Northampton Bach Choir and the Wellingborough Singers, Chorus Master of the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic, and Director of Music at St Mary's Church, Wellingborough. He studied at the University of Oxford, where he held both choral and organ scholarships, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and a prize-winning holder of the Archbishops' Certificate in Church Music. He has held organist positions in churches in London, the Midlands, Yorkshire, and at York Minster, where he also worked with the York Musical Society, which traces its origins back to 1767.

Lee is a distinguished choral composer, and his works have been broadcast and recorded, as well as performed in many of Europe’s most prestigious concert and ecclesiastical venues. He has also commissioned over one hundred new works for choir, organ, and piano, including works by no fewer than five Commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire: Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Sir Stephen Cleobury, Jonathan Dove, Stephen Hough, and Sir James MacMillan.

Melanie Forse, the Chairman of RLSBC, said "I am truly excited to be welcoming Lee to work with the RLSBC, and I look forward to his plans to perform music from the Choir's earlier directors, as well as embarking on an ambitious programme of choral music, new and old. Lee's broad knowledge of the repertoire and his experience and enthusiasm will serve to inspire all our members to strive for a very high standard of performance".

Lee Dunleavy said "I am honoured to have been chosen to take the helm of this historic and innovative historic choir, and the opportunity to build on the extraordinary work of my illustrious predecessors is a truly exciting prospect. Taking up the mantle in the midst of these unprecedented times will mean that our first steps together will necessarily be virtual, but I hugely look forward to forging a lasting relationship with the choir and its supporters in the months and years to come."

Over the next two seasons the choir is planning performances of major works by Bach, Brahms, Monteverdi, Mozart, Orff, and Rachmaninov, including collaborations with early music groups, youth choirs, and prize-winning pianist Colin Druce.

Photograph © David Jones Photography (instagram @jonesfotografie)

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