2016 Summer Concert Transatlantic Journey
Performed on Saturday, 25th June 2015
at St Matthew's Church, Chichester Road, Croydon
Rufus Jones, aged thirteen, is impressed by the performance of a boy soprano in a varied and lively summer concert
As I walked into St Matthew's church, I didn't know what to expect. I'd been to past concerts by the Croydon Bach Choir due to my mother being a member, but this was a change of pace for me. The performances that I had been to before were more traditional but I was open to change. My mother said that she felt nervous before the performance too, as some of the music was difficult to sing.
Clad in his finest suit, Tim Horton, the conductor and music director of the choir, walked to the stage. The audience went silent as he bowed and proceeded to make an introductory speech about Croydon's many festivals and what the concert had in store. He let us know in advance that some of the music would be sung in Hebrew, saying that he couldn't guarantee the choir's pronunciation.
The Hebrew music was called the Chichester Psalms and was written by Carl Bernstein. This was the first to be performed and the most interesting to me because it featured a boy soprano around the same age as I am.
His name was Benn Hill. He comes from Trinity School and is a member of its choir and a really good singer who also seemed extremely composed during the performance. I was extra impressed at the fact that he could memorise all of that Hebrew... so good on him! I'm not mainstream in the hymns department, but the Chichester Psalms were a real ear-opener. The music was very discordant and sometimes the choir was almost shouting. It was very different from the way you would expect a psalm to sound.
After the interval, which included drinks, we heard a series of sea shanties, Songs of the Fleet, by Stanford. These were quite dramatic and featured another very good soloist, this time Peter Brooke, who is a bass. Finally came From the Bavarian Highlands, songs by Edward Elgar which Tim Horton explained to us seemed to have rather silly words and he was right: one was about a man who saw another man outside his girlfriend's house, immediately assumed she was cheating on him and according to the song, stormed off and never came back. My mother told me that he'd only seen the postman. But I did like the lively way that the choir sang the songs and the performance was very varied.
Overall, I would say that the concert had its ups and downs but it was a great show with the star very definitely Benn Hill. It can be an effort to listen to things that are very different to your usual tastes but I find that it can be very rewarding.
Rufus Jones, The Croydon Citizen
2016 Spring Concert Beethoven's Missa Solemnis
Performed on Saturday, 19th March 2016
at St Mildred's Church, Bingham Road, Croydon
You can never accuse the Croydon Bach Choir of lack of ambition. In Tim Horton it has a musical director unflinching in his desire to stretch the choir by tackling technically difficult pieces, and they don't come much more technically difficult than Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. More than four years in the writing, Missa Solemnis has been variously described as 'Beethoven's least approachable score', and 'displaying Beethoven's characteristic disregard for the performer'. Unsurprisingly, it is a work seldom attempted by amateur performers.
The work requires a full orchestra, four soloists and a substantial choir, and not least a setting large enough comfortably to accommodate them. Church or concert hall? That debate has raged ever since the work was completed, and not without good cause. St Mildred's Church in Addiscombe was the venue for this performance, and to my mind and my admittedly untrained ears, it was a problematic choice. It was big enough, but maybe only just, and I'd suggest that it didn't offer quite enough room to allow the work to breathe. The choir and four soloists were heroic in their efforts to be heard, but for me they were too often lost in the mix, which was a great shame.
The vocal soloists comprised the familiar faces, and voices, of Belinda Evans (soprano), Vanessa Heine (alto), Adam Tunnicliffe (tenor) and Peter Brooke (bass), all giving accomplished and polished performances. However, I can't pass without giving an extra mention to Adam Tunnicliffe, whose execution of the sforzando elements of the score was outstanding throughout.
In similar vein, the violin solo from Olly Sapsford in the Benedictus section was spellbinding, with the stately underlying pizzicato strings from the orchestra giving the movement a nod of acknowledgement by Beethoven to Bach. All told, the CBC's Missa Solemnis was a treat. It's a tough piece of work, physically as well as technically, and there is a lot that can go wrong during the eighty or so minutes of performance.
In Tim Horton, the CBC has a real gem of a musical director, and he shows huge confidence in his singers in the pieces that he chooses for them. It's a confidence that isn't misplaced and the choir always gives its all. I left the concert full of admiration and I'm already looking forward to the choir's next production, Transatlantic Journey, set for this summer. However, slipping on my Columbo raincoat, I have just one final question: why so little Bach in the Croydon Bach Choir's repertoire?
Paul Dennis, The Croydon Citizen