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The RLSBC’s triumphant return to the concert platform

The RLSBC’s triumphant return to the concert platform

Saturday 30th October 2021

The Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir’s first live concert since Christmas 2019, given on Saturday 23rd October in All Saints’ Church, was met with a standing ovation.

The occasion also marked the choir’s first public appearance under the baton of its new Musical Director, Lee Dunleavy. Lee’s infectious energy and enthusiasm inspired the choir to give of their best, and the audience seemed delighted with the results. We were fortunate to have two wonderful soloists, Jessica Smith and Natasha Thompson, and the support of a chamber orchestra of professional musicians, many local but some from further afield.

The programme began with two works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a former patron of the choir. His The Hundredth Psalm is a rousing setting of Psalm 100, its opening fanfare and concluding doxology familiar to many from the setting ‘All people that on earth do dwell…’ which was written for the Queen’s coronation in 1953. This was followed by a stirring performance of RVW’s The Lark Ascending, with the violin solo exquisitely played by Jeremy Sampson, who is well-known locally as the Head of Strings at Warwick School.

In the second half of the concert, we introduced our audience to a very recently composed work, the exuberant Jubilate Deo by Dan Forrest. This also sets Psalm 100, but takes the words “All ye lands…” as an excuse for a truly global approach, using seven different languages in its seven movements. Each section has a different musical flavour, exploiting musical timbres appropriate to the culture being evoked. In one movement the choir sings in Zulu, accompanied by insistent drumming; in another, soprano and contralto soloists, one singing in Hebrew, the other in Arabic, intertwine to the characteristic Middle Eastern sound of alto flute and finger percussion. Words sung in Mandarin are accompanied by the Erhu, a Chinese two-stringed spike fiddle, and guitar and rainsticks evoke a South American feel for the movement in Spanish.

It was gratifying to see over 130 people in the audience, including the choir’s President the Mayor of Royal Leamington Spa, Cllr Susan Rasmussen, and even more gratifying that our audience responded so warmly to the performance. What a wonderful start to the 2021-2 season, and to what we hope will be a long and happy relationship with our new MD, Lee Dunleavy!

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