Bach’s Magic is still there in Seaton

18:30 23 December 2014

Archant

Sunday, December 14 saw a well-filled Gateway Seaton with a lively and effective performance by Seaton Choral Society of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

In charge was Seaton Choral Society’s conductor, Peter Milmer, who directed with authority, with tempi always appropriate, catching the varying moods of the pieces.

The opening drum-beats ushered in the choir’s invitation to greet the birth of Jesus with gladness. It was a compelling start, even though the tiny, valiant group of strings sounded somewhat out of scale with timpani and trumpets.

The Evangelist, who recounts the bible story, was Leslie Baker. He has a real understanding of this role and he sang it convincingly,. He was accompanied sensitively and excellently throughout by Michael Dawson (‘cello) and Michèle Banting (harpsichord). Leslie’s role ranged from the recitatives to an impressive virtuoso performance with the flute in Happy shepherds .

David Fouracre’s Mighty Lord, with trumpet obbligato, and with his commanding voice and presence, had the required stature and regal energy.

It was good to have Kate Baker, Karen Curnock and Nicholas Arrow, members of the choir, members of the society, singing some of the arias.

The choir, obviously very well-prepared, kept up their standard from beginning to end. One or two of the choruses are a test of stamina; in particular, Glory to God, where we often hear signs of exhaustion in the last few bars. Not so here, with the finish as vibrant as the opening. There were some lovely resonant chords in a number of the chorales, tunes which would be known to Bach’s listeners

The hall itself is pleasing and welcoming, but the singers had to cope with a great deal of fabric on and around the stage. This militates against the resonances required in the building, and which Bach’s church in Leipzig certainly had and still has. Everyone rose above this difficulty, and after 65 years of intimate acquaintance with this work, it was good to know that the magic is still there.

William Llewellyn

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