FURNESS Bach Choir gave its performance of Haydn's Creation with full orchestra at the Victoria Hall, Grange-over-Sands, writes ALAN BOLT. As a visiting choir, it drew a good audience to hear this popular work, and many of its regular followers made the journey to join the locals. The choir was in top form and returned to the practice of drawing most of the soloists from its members. Naomi Marczak sang the part of Gabriel; her lovely voice was a joy to hear, and showed what talent is in the choir. Her performance of the aria With verdure clad was one of the evening's highlights. Ron Eadington was in good form and his arias, as Raphael, were dramatic and expressive. The choir sang the fugual parts of the choruses with exceptional clarity, and the balance between the parts was excellent. I have never heard the word 'Light' performed with such emphasis, as all the brass, wind and strings join the singers at full power! Nick Hardy, as Uriel, sang the aria Now vanish with appropriate feeling, for the choir to follow with Despairing, cursing rage. The trio of these three soloists sounded fine in the interludes that give the choir their opportunity to sing The Heavens are telling. This fine chorus ends the first part. Part 2 describes the creation of birds and animals ranging from lions and whales to "the creeping worm." Domestic animals - sheep and cattle - are made, and then, finally, man. It contains fine arias for all three soloists, who brought the drama of creation to life. We have to wait until part 3 to hear the other choir members, Ciara Preston Myakicheff as Eve and Mark Horsley as Adam. Ciara's beautiful silvery tone provided the other highlight of the evening in her duets with Mark. Her words "Ye purling fountains" showed the beauty of her singing as she joined Adam in their duets and they sang with drama and conviction. This series of duets between Adam and Eve is followed by the final chorus. Throughout the performance the orchestra played well and some of the solo passages deserve mention. Furness Bach Choir and its musical director Marco Bellasi is to be congratulated on giving the audience such a fine performance of this popular work, and I am sure they enjoyed it as much as I did.
IT WAS obvious how much the audience enjoyed and appreciated Furness Bach Choir’s concert Music for Double Choir from the warmth and enthusiasm of the applause at the end, writes Margaret Harrison.
Challenged to divide into separate groups of singers, and then sing a wholly choral programme of music in so many different styles, the choir proved themselves equal to the job, and in many cases excelled in the performance.
Conductor Marco Bellasi had provided an introduction to the music and its links with architecture in the printed programme. His verbal explanations between items helpfully set the scene in an informative and sometimes amusing way.
Making use of the layout of Ulverston Parish Church, the choir performed in a number of different formats – most notably successful in this was Gabrieli’s Hodie Christus Natus Est where a quintet of strong voices positioned in front of the altar contrasted with the body of the choir several yards further forward on the chancel steps. I also particularly enjoyed the choruses from Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the swelling sounds and words tossed backwards and forwards between the two sets of singers positioned in the choir stalls. This aptly provided a musical picture of the Red Sea, parting and converging. From the gentle blend of the a capella Hymn to the Virgin by Britten, to the final flourish of Handel’s Praise the Lord, the latter enhanced by Colin Dean’s virtuosic organ accompaniment, the choir with their conductor have worked hard to display the intricate and varying ways in which composers have written for a subdivided choir.
The Furness Bach Choir may bear the name of one world famous composer, but they frequently take on works by some other major names. On Saturday, at St Mary of Furness R C Church, in Ulverston, they turned their attentions to pieces by Haydn FOR their concert Haydn Revealed, the Furness Bach Choir chose his Stabat Mater and the Nelson Mass. The Stabat Mater, written in 1867, rapidly became a popular choral work, with performances across Europe. It is not an easy work, but the choir took the harmonic and rhythmic shifts in their stride, and gave a fine, secure and sensitive performance. The music for soloists was sung by members of the choir, and the quality of their contribution shows what considerable talent they have available. Particularly impressive was the bass solo Pro peccata sui gentis, sung by Ron Eadington. It is a work full of passionate drama and pathos, and the choir and soloists responded admirably to its demands. Thirty years later Haydn wrote the Mass which came to be known as the “Nelson” Mass as it was performed in 1787, on the day Nelson won his victory at Aboukir Bay. This is a choral composition written at the height of Haydn's musical career. From the opening Kyrie for choir and soprano solo, beautifully sung by Naomi Marczak, the music is robust and singable, and the choir obviously enjoyed it. The balance of the choir was splendid, and in the contrapuntal fugues the parts came through with great clarity. It was nice to see a tribute to organist Colin Dean in the programme. He has accompanied the choir for some 40 years and has contributed much to its continuing success. As ever, the training and direction of the choir is crucial, and Anthony Milledge is to be congratulated for producing a most enjoyable concert. Review by ALAN BOLT
RELATIVES and friends will be joined by former colleagues, choristers, servicemen and pupils to celebrate the life of a centenarian in style. Following on from the sad passing of well-known musician Alan Bolt from Leece the choir he conducted will perform a piece penned by him at his funeral. Written to God Be In My Head, the ensemble by Mr Bolt will be sung to what is expected to be a packed Aldingham Church on Thursday at 11am. Born in London in March 1919 Mr Bolt attended King’s College where he studied English. After graduating he joined up with the Royal Signals and fought in the North African desert. Captured by the Italians, he was passed over to the Germans and eventually landed in a POW camp at Mühlberg, on the Elbe river in what became East Germany. There he formed an orchestra made up of inmates from many different countries, before liberation by the Russians in 1945. In peacetime Mr Bolt taught English at his old school, as well as taking part in amateur dramatics, running his own orchestra, conducting choirs, learning to ride and joining the Surrey Union Hunt. By the time he retired from teaching he was director of curriculum at Esher College, a large sixth form in Surrey, and he moved up to Cumbria to be with Alison, his wife, in 1984. He became chairman of governors at Dendron School, then of Low Furness School when Dendron, Scales and Urswick schools merged. He celebrated his 100th birthday with his wife Alison over two days with a party for more than 130 guests at Rampside Village Hall; a quiet lunch for two at the Wilson Arms, Torver; and a hunt breakfast of champagne and cake with the North Lonsdale Foxhounds. He passed away at home with his wife by his side on the morning of Saturday March 23. Mrs Bolt said she had received endless calls from well-wishers and friends who planned to attend her husband’s funeral on Thursday. Many of those who knew Mr Bolt through his many varied interests are expected to head to Aldingham Church for the service. She said: “The choir will perform an ensemble he wrote, which is a lovely touch, and we hope the church will be full. “I’ve had calls from two groups of people from Manchester who will be coming and from people in Harrogate. “He had an absolute ball for his 100th birthday and he certainly lived life to the full. “We expect his funeral to reflect that; and to be a true celebration of his life.”