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Feedback – Mar2014

Just to say how much we enjoyed the last concert. The Vaughan Williams was the first choral piece I ever sang, 43 years ago as a young teacher in Nigeria. Haven’t heard it since so it was very nostalgic.
Also thought Martin’s piece was great. So quirky and lively and reachable. Glad I wasn’t doing the piano duet – looked hard!
– Greg and Anne Yates

19th March 2014: Brush up your vocal technique workshop

Wednesday 19th March
7.30pm for 7.45pm start
Music Department, King’s School, Wrexham Rd, Chester CH4 7QL

Open to any singers . Free of charge. No need to book.

We will not be singing any particular repertoire but, if you have a copy of European Sacred Music edited by John Rutter (OUP), bring it along.

Hope to see you there!

15th March 2014 : The Springtime of the Year

Springtime_concertSaturday, 15th March 2014  7.30pm

Venue: Wesley Methodist Church, St. John Street, Chester, CH1 1DA


Vaughan Williams: Five English Folk Songs
Rutter: The Sprig of Thyme
Bussey: The Pied Piper

Tickets £12 (£11 concessions, £5 children)


Conductor: Martin Bussey

Countertenor: James Neville

Baritone: Andrew Davies

With the Choir of St David’s High School, Saltney trained by Lauren Faulkner as the children in The Pied Piper.

Pianists: Catherine Barnett and Nicholas Oliver

Flute: Martin Hoffman

Percussion: Ed Cervenka and David Lewis

English folk music lovers will have an opportunity to enjoy the music of John Rutter and Ralph Vaughan Williams at Chester Bach Singers’ Spring Concert. The choir will perform a collection of John Rutter’s folksongs known as The Sprig of Thyme. These short folksongs are performed by different arrangements of voices to create a beautifully harmonious sound that harps back to traditional England. Alongside this the choir will perform Five English Folk Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was fascinated by the beauty of folksong and music. They will be joined for the second part of the evening by the Choir of St David’s High School, Saltney in a performance of Martin Bussey’s The Pied Piper. This lively choral work for soloists, choir and children’s choir was first performed in 1987.

Tickets: £12

25th January 2014 : Choral Workshop

One Day Choral Workshop on Verdi’s Sacred Work and Opera With Justin Doyle (Opera North and Manchester Chamber Choir)

Saturday, 25th January 2014

St Mary’s Without-the-Walls, Handbridge, Chester CH4 7HL

Join Chester Bach Singers for their annual singing workshop – please book by 11th January 2014

Justin Doyle is Principal Conductor of Manchester Chamber Choir and Musical Director of Opera North Children’s Chorus; he has recently been appointed Artistic Director of the period-instrument Retrospect Ensemble. Justin is particularly known for his conducting of opera, including works by Bizet, Gluck, Donizetti, Handel, Humperdinck, Haydn, Kodály, Mozart, Purcell and Strauss for companies including Eastern Opera, Opera North and English Touring Opera. His recent “lithe and colourful” conducting of Albert Herring for Opera North met with critical acclaim.

Born in Lancaster, Justin Doyle was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral and studied at King’s College, Cambridge. He won second prize in the prestigious Cadaqués Orchestra Conducting Competition from over 180 conductors worldwide and was awarded the first Conductor Fellowship with the BBC Singers. Recent engagements have included concerts with the Orchestra of Opera North, Northern Sinfonia, Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, New London Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, the Harmony of Nations period instrument ensemble, Rodolfus Choir, EXAUDI vocal ensemble, regular broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 and a cover CD for BBC Music Magazine.

The music to be studied on the day will include Verdi’s Sacred works –

  • Ave Maria (Quattro pezzi sacri)
  • Stabat mater (Quattro pezzi sacri) (scores can be hired)

as well as some of Verdi’s greatest operatic choruses –

  • Fuoco di gioia (Otello)
  • Patria oppressa (Macbeth)
  • Spuntato ecco il dì d’esultanza (Don Carlo, Auto-da-fé)
  • Va, pensiero (Nabucco)

all in Italian. Justin has marked up copies of the opera choruses and these are available free to download from this website – a link will be emailed to you after you have registered for the workshop.

Our accompanist for the workshop will be Martin Bussey, Chester Bach Singers’ conductor.

The timetable for the day is:

9.15 am -10.00 am Registration and coffee
10.00 am -12.00 pm Session 1
12.00 pm -1.15 pm Lunch
1.15 pm -3.00 pm Session 2
3.00 pm -3.45 pm Break
3.45 pm -5.00 pm Session 3 (performance)

Friends and family will be welcome to hear the performance of the works studied at 3.45pm. There will be a charge of £5 for this, payable at the door.

Fees, Food and Parking

Workshop fee £18 (£10 under 19 or a full-time student), which includes drinks on arrival and during the afternoon break.

Hire of Quattro Pezzi Sacri £2.00.

Lunch will be available in the church hall during the lunch break. This will consist of soup and a filled roll. The cost of the lunch will be £5.00. This must be ordered and paid for in advance, as seating will be limited. If you bring your own sandwiches, seating will be available in the church. Coffee and tea will also be available in the church. Alternatively, there are local pubs and cafés in Handbridge, or take a short walk from St Mary’s over the river to Chester.

During the afternoon break, homemade cakes will be available in the church hall at a cost of £1.50.

There is limited parking at St Mary’s, and in nearby streets. All-day parking is also available at Queen’s Park High School (CH4 7AE) or there are car parks in Chester city centre, within walking distance, including the Roodee by the river.

18th December 2013 : Carols at Chirk Castle


The Chapel at Chirk Castle

Enjoy a magical evening of carols and singing in Chirk Castle’s magnificent Chapel.

On 18 December join the wonderful Chester Bach Singers as they perform a festive programme of carols and seasonal music. Tickets £10 – does not include homemade mince pies and mulled wine during the interval. A delicious pre-concert meal is also available to book in the Tea-room. 01691 777701

More Information: Chirk Castle, 01691 777701,

National Trust – Chirk Castle Event website

As this is a National Trust organised event, tickets are only available through Chirk Castle.

Review: Chester Bach Singers Present Handel’s Messiah at Chester Cathedral 30th November 2013

REVIEW by Kate Sawallisch

Before the concert I wondered if the Messiah I was going to hear by the Chester Bach Singers and the 18th century Sinfonia would be full-bodied enough to fill Chester Cathedral, the choir having only 39 members and the 18th Century Sinfonia consisting of 16 members. And, later, after sitting down in the Cathedral and perusing the programme, I began to worry about whether I was going to be bored sitting through 53 pieces of choral and orchestral music. But as the choir and orchestra took their places a sense of something special about to happen began to fill me. By the time the choir starting singing “And the glory of the Lord” (piece number 4) I found myself being inexorably drawn into the story of Jesus’ life in a way that I have never been before. The small size of the choir and orchestra augmented by 4 very fine soloists created an intense, intimate atmosphere as the story of Jesus’s life, from the announcements of his coming in verses from the Old Testament through his birth, crucifixion and resurrection, began to unfold. It was a story set to glorious music performed on a human scale about a remarkable, but very human, man.

30-Nov-13: Handel's Messiah performed by Martin Bussey with Chester Bach Singers, the 18th Century Sinfonia, Eleanor Gregory (soprano), Katie Bray (alto), Richard Dowling (tenor) and Louis Hurst (bass)

30-Nov-13: Handel’s Messiah performed by Martin Bussey with Chester Bach Singers, the 18th Century Sinfonia, Eleanor Gregory (soprano), Katie Bray (alto), Richard Dowling (tenor) and Louis Hurst (bass)

The soloists were well chosen – their voices suited their roles. However, Katie Bray, contralto and Louis Hurst, bass baritone stood apart for they were outstanding for their total engagement in the story. They rarely looked at their copy. Instead, they sang to the audience as a story teller tells a story to his audience. They told their part of the story with commitment and intensity. And when they weren’t singing they were listening and responding to the music. I was riveted by their performances and will be following their careers with great interest.

The choir sang well together although their very average diction let them down. It is extremely difficult to sing and be understood. Having sung with the Halle Choir first under the direction of Fanny Cooke and latterly with Madeleine Venner, I began to hear and understand the importance of good diction in taking a choral performance from very good to outstanding as the Halle Choir most certainly is. I believe that if the Bach Singers put more effort into perfecting their diction they would instantly become one of the top choirs in the North West.

The soprano section was particularly outstanding. The part is very high and very demanding for the soprano voice and I expected them to struggle to stay in tune. But I was surprised and delighted as they soared upwards with ease and as one voice. I was pleased for them. I could relax and enjoy them. Unsurprisingly they were euphoric after the performance!

There is a wonderful balance between the size of this choir and orchestra which is very pleasing. Overall, I rate this performance of the Messiah as the best one I have ever heard. Well done to Martin Bussey for leading this wonderful choir and orchestra. And a big thank you to all of the musicians for a memorable evening.

Kate Sawallisch
06 December 2013

Handel’s Messiah Programme Notes

Re-visiting Handel’s Messiah
Most choral singers love Handel’s Messiah. Of all choral works it is the one which has entered cultural consciousness to the extent where a movement such as the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus, with all its attendant myths and traditions, is recognisable enough to be used across an immense range of genres and traditions. It is a piece of music that it is assumed will be recognised immediately. This success was similarly immediate in Handel’s day; Handel was, in some ways unlike his contemporary JS Bach, celebrated in his own time and continued to be so after his death. Haydn was stimulated and influenced by the great Handel commemorations held in London at the end of the eighteenth century; they are echoed in his own oratorios. Handel had a gift for universal relevance. Messiah is perhaps the archetype of this trait (although many would argue for other oratorios being even greater works). Unlike Bach’s Passions and Cantatas, Messiah has relevance at any point in the Church’s year. Treated as a compendium of movements on different aspects of Christianity’s development, as it often is, it can be made to point in relevance to Christmas or Easter, as the season demands. Nor, in adopting this approach, can a conductor be accused of marring Handel’s concept. The composer himself presented versions of the work with altered versions of arias and choruses, and some omissions, to suit the occasion. While he might have baulked at Beecham’s version with triangle and cymbals, Handel would perhaps take in his stride performances with just organ, or on ‘modern’ strings.

This November, Chester Bach Singers present Handel’s masterpiece with all the Christmas music complete, followed by the majority of the ensuing movements which trace the Crucifixion story and the glory of Christ’s Resurrection. Thus, familiar movements, such as ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’ and ‘The trumpet shall sound’ remain in place. They follow Handel’s tracing of the Christmas story from Old Testament prophecies, through the experience of the shepherds to the joy of the releasing of burdens that the appearance of the Messiah brings. These are presented with instruments as near as possible to the types with which Handel would have been familiar, played by the 18th Century Sinfonia. A quartet of highly promising young singers brings a freshness to the arias and CBS places its strong choral technical skills at the disposal of Handel’s memorable choruses.

Recordings of Messiah are too numerous to mention and selection is probably invidious. Suffice to say that the listener can find all types of performance to suit their inclination, whether from established groups such as The Sixteen, Polyphony or Cathedral and Collegiate choirs, usually with ‘original instruments’, or larger-scale groups, such as the celebrated performances over the years by the Huddersfield Choral Society.