A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHOIR
The Newcastle upon Tyne Bach Choir was founded in 1915 by W.G. Whittaker, the musicologist, Bach scholar, folksong collector, composer, choral arranger and conductor. He gathered a group of 24 singers to study and perform the cantatas of J.S. Bach which were almost totally unknown at the time.
Whittaker was a personal friend of many British composers, particularly Holst and Vaughan Williams, and championed their music, giving many ‘first performances outside London’. In 1924, the choir sang William Byrd’s ‘Great Service’ in St Margaret’s Westminster, the first time it had been heard in public since the C16.
These enthusiasms still figure largely in the choir’s repertoire, making due allowance for a much larger membership. Three major concerts are given annually; one of works by Bach, one of British music, the third a contrasting programme. There may also be additional events at Christmas, and recently the choir has sung in Middlesbrough Cathedral, Fountains Abbey, on Holy Island and in Alnwick for Voices for Hospices and at The Sage Gateshead. COV Ijmuiden from The Netherlands visited the region some years ago as guests of the choir, and we hope to return the visit in due course.
Throughout its history, the Newcastle Bach Choir has been based in the Music Department of what is now Newcastle University. Professor Eric Cross is the latest in a succession of distinguished Artistic Directors. Vaughan Williams, Edmund Rubbra and Denis Matthews have all been Presidents of the choir, a position currently held by Sir Thomas Allen, the internationally-acclaimed baritone.
INTERESTING ARCHIVE LETTERS
I did not know before that so small a body of voices could produce such a wonderful volume of tone. But this is only one of their many virtues. Even more important is their clearness of diction and beautiful quality. But my greatest delight was in their flexibility which rivalled that of a first rate orchestra. I know no other body of singers who equal them in this.
Accept my warmest congratulations and thanks and ask them to do the same.
Dear Whittaker, Will you convey to your Bach Choir my warmest thanks for their splendid performance of my mass.
Will you convey to your Bach Choir my warmest thanks for their splendid performance of my mass.
I know what hard work and perseverance such perfection must have entailed.
It was indeed a great experience for me to hear my music so beautifully sung under such ideal conditions.
R. Vaughan Williams.