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'A Bach Choir Christmas' celebrates the choir’s illustrious past

'A Bach Choir Christmas' celebrates the choir’s illustrious past

Sunday 19th December 2021

The RLSBC’s Christmas concert on Saturday December 11th included music by no fewer than eight of its Musical Directors, past and present.

Having been cheated of its 80th anniversary celebrations last season by the pandemic, the choir decided to dip into its illustrious past for this year’s Christmas concert. The choir’s current Musical Director, Lee Dunleavy, put in a lot of time and effort digging out previously unpublished and unperformed Christmas pieces by his predecessors.

Stanley Vann, the choir’s founder, was represented by two carol arrangements, On Christmas Day and I saw a maiden, and John Martindale Sidwell, who looked after the choir while Stanley was away on war service, contributed an arrangement of I saw three ships.

Peter Hurford, who directed the choir from 1956 to 1958 and went on to have distinguished international career as an organist, was represented by a quirky version of Sunny Bank, and from the pen of Raymond Calcraft, in charge from 1986 to 1988, the choir performed an arrangement of a Gaelic carol, The Christ-Child’s Lullaby.

Two of the choir’s previous Musical Directors were in the audience to hear their works being performed. Paul Trepte, who recently retired after 29 years as Director of Music at Ely Cathedral, kindly took a rehearsal a few weeks before the concert, to introduce the choir to his carol sequence My Dancing Day. Janet Lincé, who directed the choir from 1995 to 2005, wrote Awake! Awake! as her leaving present to the choir.

Members of the choir were greatly saddened earlier this year to hear of the death of Malcolm Goldring, our much-loved conductor from 1988 to 1995. It was therefore particularly fitting that the concert should include Three Carols arranged by Malcolm. Finally, we sang one of Lee Dunleavy’s own arrangements, Balulalow, written for one of the other choirs he directs, the Wellingborough Singers.

For the Christmas concert, the choir shared the platform with the Clarendon Brass Ensemble, and the Kingsley School Choir. The Clarendon Brass Ensemble played for the Paul Trepte carols, and also contributed their own carol sequence, arranged by Roger Harvey. The Kingsley girls, directed by Julian Smith, sang three movements from Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols. Throughout the concert, the choir was ably accompanied by Colin Druce on the organ.

We are indeed fortunate to have such a distinguished line-up of Musical Directors to celebrate, and we look forward to performing more of their music in the years to come. We are enormously grateful to Lee Dunleavy for the huge amount of work he put into researching the choir’s musical heritage, unearthing unpublished works by previous Musical Directors, obtaining permission from composers, relatives and publishers, and collating a selection of the results into this year’s highly enjoyable Christmas programme.

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