How good it was to see the Mayor and Mayoress at Bury Choral Society’s first concert with their new conductor Chris Gill. The programme was firmly based in the Austro-German liturgical tradition with music by Back, Bruckner and Mozart.
The opening pair of motets by Bruckner displayed the choir in firm, warm voice with notable clarity of diction. Bach’s cantata Sleepers, Wake! fared less well.
Not because of any problems in the choral movements. In fact the tenors were very impressive in the well known fourth movement. No, it was the reverberant acoustics of St John’s Church Seedfield that caused the problems.
Although the choir worked hard to give clarity to Bach’s intricate contrapuntal weavings around the hymn tune on which the cantata is based the acoustics turned their efforts into an aural mush.
The soloists were not helped wither as Mr Gill had to choose slower speeds for them to accommodate their large voices.
This gave an impression of upright stolidity in the arias and recitatives. Matters changed after the interval. Mozart’s great C minor Mass was the sole item.
The composer left it unfinished and so all that we have is a magnificent torso. Whether affirming the Creed, begging forgiveness or singing praises the choir sang with commitment, rhythmic alertness and notable dynamic shading, the scramble in the final chorus notwithstanding.
Mr Gill certainly kept them on their toes with his authoritative direction. The soloists were much more suited to this music. Sarah Helsby-Hughes’s creamy soprano soared in the ecstatic Et Incarnatus despite the unfortunate hiatus in the final bars. Serenna Wagner’s radiant and agile voice lit up the Laudamus Te. Although the tenor and bass soloists Petro Wychrij and martin Lamb, have little to do they provided firm support. Ronald Frost’s accompaniment was master class in how to overcome the almost, insuperable problems of dealing with poor sightless, being situated a long way behind the choir and use of a less than suitable instrument. The warm applause that greeted his bow indicated the large audience’s awareness and appreciation of his art.
This was a most enjoyable evening and Bury Choral Society’s future seems to be set fair with Mr Gill at the helm.