Bury Choral Society’s concert at Bury Parish Church, Saturday, 14th March 2020

Two days after this concert the Prime Minister announced that all theatres, bars, venues and gatherings in the country would close and a week later directed everyone to Stay at Home.  And in its 182nd year Bury Choral Society suspended all rehearsals and cancelled their May concert.  With these events, writing a review of the choir’s concert, where the main work was Mozart’s sublime Requiem (a prescient choice?) is surreal.  

Mozart never finished the work though he completed some sections and is thought to have sketched out the rest.  His colleague, Sussmayr, finished it thus enabling Mozart’s wife, Constance, to deliver it to Count von Walsegg and keep the money he had paid in advance.  What is not in question is that this superb choral work is at the pinnacle of classical music.  The choir, soloists with organist Elin Rees and the Bury Camerata under conductor Juan Ortuño clearly knew it and gave us a memorable performance.

The opening Requiem Aeternam is well known; lilting woodwind and strings with the clarinet climbing above followed by the timpani and brass, measured entry by the basses then the rest of the choir interrupted by a short soprano phrase, which was beautifully sung here by Alicia Hill.  The opening set the tone for the performance and the choir and ensemble provided a profound start to this work of genius which continued with few blemishes to the final chords of the Agnus Dei.  The other soloists contributed in equal part.  Laura Wood’s deep mezzo, Peter Lidbetter’s solid, deep bass and Joseph Buckmaster’s high and ringing tenor made a fine quartet with Alicia; the choral society is fortunate to be able to draw upon, and afford, soloists of this quality together with the excellent orchestral players, largely drawn from the Royal Northern College of Music.

The performance of the Requiem should not overshadow a wonderful account of Mozart’s Piano Concert no 23 with soloist Jonathan Ellis, who is also the choir’s regular accompanist.  Another well-known work but one in which Jonathan delighted us and, blessedly, with a small chamber orchestra produced a fresh, bright sound all brought together under the expert hands of Juan Ortuño.

The piano concerto in the first half of the concert was sandwiched by short choral pieces, the pick of which was Schubert’s youthful Magnificat, a work new to me. It was not without blemishes, notably in the final part amongst the many “Amens”.  Nonetheless, it was very enjoyable with the choir showing commitment and clearly heard words in this fast moving and uplifting piece.

A very enjoyable concert.  What a great pity that their scheduled May concert, Glorious Rhythm, is cancelled; I do hope we will hear the intended works in the not too distant future.