The German composer’s Christmas cantata of 1725, Unsere Mund sei voll Lachens (May our mouths be full of laughter), made for an uplifting start.
The enthusiastic choir supported baritone Michael Davis who strode forward confidently, but could have taken some German pronunciation lessons from tenor Charles Daniels.
The triumphant cantata 51, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen! (Exult in God in every land!), was then powered around the hall by the statuesque soprano Joanne Lunn.
Accompanied by Crispian Steele- Perkins on trumpet, her voice would have excited the most tone deaf of eardrums.
The stirring start to cantata 51 gave way to a darker movement in which the soprano movingly conveyed the beauty of Bach’s music.
His Lutheran lyrics might have less significance for a 21st Century audience but the work of a man dead for 260 years reverberated powerfully.
The string section’s bows bounced through Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major towards the finale –Magnificat in D major.
Sung in Latin, the final composition carried less power than the two earlier cantatas, but with the beauty of Bach’s baroque brought so professionally to life few would have minded.
The Journal, 9/3/10
Baroque trumpeter joins Tyneside Bach concert
Let's blow the trumpet for an international Baroque music star who joins a Tyneside choir this weekend for a concert Bach enthusiasts will not want to miss. Trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins has worked with many of the world’s top classical orchestras and has, through recordings, TV and films, contributed to pop CDs and James Bond movie soundtracks.
At The Sage Gateshead on Sunday he’s the guest of the Newcastle Bach Choir for a performance of JS Bach’s Magnificat.
Crispian’s skills on the valveless Baroque trumpet will be familiar to many TV viewers through his playing of the Antiques Roadshow signature tune, and his tally of studio work includes more than 80 film and TV scores, as well as work alongside Cliff Richard, Kate Bush and Chris Rea.
His recordings of Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim with Dame Kiri te Kanawa and Eternal Source of Light Divine with James Bowman have been classical chart-toppers.
Other distinguished soloists for the Magnificat in Hall One from 7.30pm include soprano Joanne Lunn, the Belgian counter- tenor Patrick van Goetham – making his North East debut – tenor Charles Daniels and baritone Michael Davis.
Sunday’s programme also includes the Brandenburg Concerto No 3 with the Newcastle Baroque ensemble, and the choir come into their own with two cantatas – No 110, Unser Mund sei voll Lachens and No 51, Jauchzet Gott.
Cantata 51 features the partnership of Crispian Steele-Perkins and soprano Joanne Lunn and is musical fireworks at its best, in the view of the choir’s publicity manager Alex Murchie.
To celebrate the Sage’s fifth birthday the Newcastle Bach Choir is offering tickets at 2005 prices, from £8-£18 with concessions available. Call 0191 443 4661.
Richard Yates Evening Chronicle, March 5th, 2010
Evening Chronicle, March 5th, 2010
Newcastle Bach Choir, in Hexham Abbey
High expectations of Newcastle Bach Choir were amply fulfilled
Their concert consisted wholly of liturgical settings by modern composers interspersed by an organ solo. The first half of the concert opened with Benjamin Britten’s Festival Te Deum. Britten wrote a mere handful of settings for recognised liturgical texts. To those he brought a delightful freshness which makes one wish that his output in the field had been greater. The Festival Te Deum is a piece of exciting dramatic contrasts and variation of tempi and the choir tackled these with superb assurance enhancing the meaning of the text.
Durufle’s Prelude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain pays homage to his younger colleague, the organist-composer Jehan Alain, whose promising career was sadly terminated when he was killed in action in the Second World War. It demands a skilled and sure organ technique and Michael Haynes was very much in command. His deft mastery of the intricate fingerwork required in the Prelude as it twitters along like a spinning wheel made it all seem so easy. Michael took the sure-footed Fugue at a lively speed without losing its magisterial quality as it builds to its exciting climax. Michael is a very fine organist who has given recitals in many English Cathedrals and in Germany and the U.S.A. He is very much in demand on the Northern recital circuit. He made a major contribution to the success of this concert both in the performance of this piece and also in his accompaniment of the choral works, particularly the Durufle Requiem. It should be added that the Phelps organ was just the right instrument for all the music performed.
I must confess that, hitherto, I have been totally unfamiliar with the music of contemporary composer, James MacMillan. His festival setting of the Magnificat was commissioned by the BBC for the first Choral Evensong of the new Millennium when it was sung by the choir of St Johns College, Cambridge. I have always thought that the purpose of setting liturgical texts to music was to bring out and enhance the meaning of the words. While the choral part of this work did so to some extent and provided dramatic contrapuntal build-up to the Gloria, to my ears, the extensive organ interludes with their quirky phrases seemed to supplement rather than complement and to bear scant relation to the text The Nunc Dimmitis and the Magnificat share some musical material.
It starts with subdued, very low, bass notes which I gather portray the elderly Simeon. With this in mind, I thought the piece was more successful in relating to the text. Perhaps these works might become more easy to understand with greater familiarity. Of course, these comments are solely related to the music and not the performers whose presentation had conviction and assurance.
The finest music of the concert was reserved for the second half. Maurice Durufle published a very limited number of works. This was due to his self-critical search for perfection. To my mind, he comes very close to that goal in his Requiem. It is, without question, my favourite piece of church music.
Stemming from his days as a choirboy at Rouen Cathedral, he grew to love Gregorian chant which led to his beautifully crafted, flowing modal style. To fully succeed, the work requires a controlled purity of tone. This is difficult for a large choir to achieve. The Bach Choir succeeded admirably, a tribute to their training and discipline. The soloist in the Piu Jesu, Julia Regan, has a beautiful and clear voice and sang with moving expression. The use of the cello, played by Deborah Thorne, as a supplementary instrument proved to be very effective. The other soloist, Martin Wheeler, is a fine baritone and made a very satisfying contribution.
Everyone concerned can be congratulated on a fine performance of a difficult work which clearly delighted a large and appreciative audience. Indeed the whole concert was a great success and a wonderful musical experience.
Hexham Courant 26/6/2009
Newcastle Bach Choir, at King's Hall, Newcastle
The Bach Choir's programme booklet quotes Ralph Vaughan Williams who wrote of conducting the choir at St Nicholas' Cathedral, Newcastle, as 'a great experience.'
That was in the 1920s, only a few years after the choir was formed to sing the then barely known cantatas of J S Bach.
And the Bach Choir continues to thrive, filling the King's Hall with an audience no doubt keen to hear the still barely known choral music of Pressburg-born (now Bratislava) composer Jan Nepomuk Hummel.
Like RVW, Hummel, too, visited the North East, giving a concert at Durham - friend to both Haydn and Beethoven, Hummel's fame as a pianist and composer spread far and wide.
Haydn later recommended him as his successor to the prestigious position of Konzertmeister at the Esterházy palace, Eisenstadt, where Hummel wrotethe Mass in E flat major, Op.80.
A work none the worse for it's debt to its composer's mentor, it leaves me keen to explore Hummel's operas - the tenor solo in the Et incarnatus (and was incarnate of the holy ghost), coming in a heartfelt reading by Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks, the accompanying oboe melody, winningly expressive.
Mezzo soprano Beth Mackay and bass Christopher Foster matched him in vocal prowess, but it was soprano Olivia Robinson who had most to do and negotiated the soaring vocal lines and intricate decorations with fluency and seeming ease.
Unlike that of Haydn, Hummel's music has never had a modern revival, but the Bach Choir's performance argued strongly for his place in the classical canon. Hummel's work sat well next to Haydn's Mass in B flat major, 'Harmoniemesse' - his last composition for the Esterházys.
Again the singers proved as well matched in ensemble as they were as soloists, the choir, alive to every interpretive direction from conductor Eric Cross, singing with precision and subtlety while the orchestra did full justice to both composers in finely articulated and polished performances.
The Journal 25/11/08
Bach Choir at The Sage Newcastle Gateshead
As well as its regular series, the Newcastle Bach Choir puts on an annual grand concert of one of the blockbusters of the repertoire and at around 80-minutes long and involving 350 performers, Mahler’s Symphony no. 8, in E flat major was as grand a blockbuster as they come.
Saturday November 15th 2003.
The Bach Choir, conducted by Eric Cross, set the highest standards for its new season, joining with orchestra and four guest soloists to shine in an all-Bach programme.
A cantata for St Michael's Day, There Arose A Great Strife does battle with drums and trumpet calls in the opening fugue, depicting the saint's struggle with Satan.
The more reflective solos introduced baritone Andrew Ashton, soprano Catherine Bott and tenor James Gilchrist.
Leader Simon Jones elicited a vigorous performance from period instrument orchestra Newcastle Baroque.
Regular Bach Choir guest, counter-tenor James Bowman, brought equal clarity to a work of ambiguous origins, the aria Strike Then Long Awaited Hour.
He then joined the other soloists for the Magnificat in D major.
Thomas J. Hall