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Masses for our time: RLSBC wows its audience

Masses for our time: RLSBC wows its audience

Monday 14th November 2022

On Saturday November 12th, the RLSBC presented a ground-breaking programme of works by 20th century and contemporary North American composers, in the modern surroundings of the new hall at King’s High School, Warwick.

As our Musical Director, Lee Dunleavy, wrote in the programme note: “Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of a conductor when selecting music for a choir to perform? … more and more the question which comes to the top of my thinking is – what are we wanting to say to the world in which we live? Are we telling a story which has something to say to you, our audience?”

He went on to explain: “Over the course of our 2022/3 season we explore and reflect on the familiar words of the Mass across time and circumstance… but in tonight’s programme they form the sculptural armature around which concerns of our time are built.” The opening work, the Missa Gaia by Libby Larsen, which uses words from a wide variety of sources, reminded us that it is not that we have dominion of nature, but rather that the Earth let us live with it. This was followed by an impassioned Credo by Margaret Bonds, who as a black woman working in a world dominated by white male composers faced racism and prejudice throughout her life. The second half saw a performance of the concert version of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, which pleads for the world to return to a ‘simple song’, a profound message of peace and hope and faith and reconciliation.

No wonder members of our audience found the concert ‘compelling’ and ‘thought-provoking’. But it was also an utterly joyous celebration of the power of music to uplift the soul, and the choir gave of their very best, with commitment and enthusiasm, despite having had only eight weeks of rehearsals in which to learn some really very tricky music. We had two wonderful soloists, Lynda Nwabudike (soprano) and Jack Dolan (tenor), and were ably supported by an excellent group of instrumentalists - strings, woodwind, electric guitars, keyboard/piano and an absolute army of percussion. Audience members commented on ‘the fabulous sound produced by all the performers’.

It is beyond doubt that Saturday’s concert succeeded brilliantly in communicating an important message to our audience, as well as providing them with a great evening’s entertainment. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Lee Dunleavy for his vision in proposing such a programme, and for the huge amount of work he put in at rehearsals and during the run-up to the concert, as well as his energy and enthusiasm on the night.

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Another RLSBC Christmas cracker

Another RLSBC Christmas cracker

Wednesday 21st December 2022

The church may have been chilly but the welcome was warm at the RLSBC’s annual carol concert at Holy Trinity Church in Leamington on Saturday 17 December.

For the second year running, the choir performed a selection of carols composed or arranged by the choir’s musical directors. These included two by our founder, Dr Stanley Vann, and the first performance of a brand new piece by our current MD, Lee Dunleavy. This was a setting of the poem God bless you brother by Eleanor Farjeon, on the theme of homelessness. There was a retiring collection for the Mayor of Royal Leamington Spa’s charity, the LWS Night Shelter, which provides much-needed support for homeless people in the local area. Thanks to the generosity of our wonderful audience, we raised over £1,100 for this good cause.

Our audience were also generous in their singing, joining in the congregational carols with great enthusiasm - no doubt partly in an attempt to keep themselves warm! The church resounded to the sound of the organ, played by Colin Druce, and also of the ARC Brass Ensemble, a group of young musicians recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music. This talented septet delighted us with a number of inventive arrangements, including music from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, as well as providing opening fanfares for a couple of congregational carols. They also added a very appropriate brass-band style accompaniment to Paul Trepte’s carol arrangements.

As always, the Christmas concert was hugely satisfying for our members as well as our audience. If you’d like to find out what it’s like to be part of this enthusiastic choir, why not come to one of our open rehearsals in January, as we start to prepare for our performance of Bach’s great Mass in B minor in April? Please Click Here to find out more. You’d be most welcome!

The Christmas concert earned another very complimentary review in the local press, which can be viewed via the link below.

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