Review of FBC's Mozart & Liszt Concert
Review by Margaret Harrison

This performance by Furness Bach Choir drew a large audience, I suspect due to the popularity of the main work being sung: Mozart’s Requiem. This unfinished work by the classical genius was performed in the version completed by his student Franz Süssmayr, and the well-trained choir gave an impassioned rendition, with confident singing and clear diction throughout.
All four vocal parts could be heard clearly in the fugal entries, there were plenty of contrasting dynamics and the Dies Irae in particular was full of energy.
Crucially, both choir and Ensemble Laus Deo produced a well-balanced sound – neither drowning out the other – and the provision of a translation in the programme meant that the audience was able to follow the Latin text with ease.
Musical director Alex Robinson provided an interesting introduction at the start of the concert, explaining that a series of short sacred works by Liszt would be interspersed between some of the Requiem movements, and as such provide reflections.
The first of the Liszt items, Salve Regina, was beautifully sung and provided a calm, gentle reflection.
The choir sopranos top A flat at the end of “Vater Unser”, though, was very impressive after over an hour’s singing. Two of the Liszt reflective items were performed by Ensemble Laus Deo who produced carefully controlled playing and a peaceful atmosphere.
Professional soloists for the evening were Clara Orif (Soprano), Lorna Day (Alto), Christopher Littlewood (Tenor) and Ieuan Jones (Bass). Much of their contribution was in quartets which they successfully negotiated, particularly in the Requiem’s Benedictus, which flowed elegantly.
A calm and gentle rendition of Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” brought the concert to a satisfying conclusion.
Review of FBC's Haydn - The Creation
Review by Alan Bolt

FURNESS Bach Choir gave its performance of Haydn's Creation with full orchestra at the Victoria Hall, Grange-over-Sands, writes ALAN BOLT.
As a visiting choir, it drew a good audience to hear this popular work, and many of its regular followers made the journey to join the locals. The choir was in top form and returned to the practice of drawing most of the soloists from its members. Naomi Marczak sang the part of Gabriel; her lovely voice was a joy to hear, and showed what talent is in the choir. Her performance of the aria With verdure clad was one of the evening's highlights. Ron Eadington was in good form and his arias, as Raphael, were dramatic and expressive. The choir sang the fugual parts of the choruses with exceptional clarity, and the balance between the parts was excellent. I have never heard the word 'Light' performed with such emphasis, as all the brass, wind and strings join the singers at full power!

Nick Hardy, as Uriel, sang the aria Now vanish with appropriate feeling, for the choir to follow with Despairing, cursing rage. The trio of these three soloists sounded fine in the interludes that give the choir their opportunity to sing The Heavens are telling. This fine chorus ends the first part.
Part 2 describes the creation of birds and animals ranging from lions and whales to "the creeping worm." Domestic animals - sheep and cattle - are made, and then, finally, man. It contains fine arias for all three soloists, who brought the drama of creation to life.

We have to wait until part 3 to hear the other choir members, Ciara Preston Myakicheff as Eve and Mark Horsley as Adam. Ciara's beautiful silvery tone provided the other highlight of the evening in her duets with Mark. Her words "Ye purling fountains" showed the beauty of her singing as she joined Adam in their duets and they sang with drama and conviction. This series of duets between Adam and Eve is followed by the final chorus. Throughout the performance the orchestra played well and some of the solo passages deserve mention.

Furness Bach Choir and its musical director Marco Bellasi is to be congratulated on giving the audience such a fine performance of this popular work, and I am sure they enjoyed it as much as I did.
Review of FBC's Music for Double Choir Concert
Review by Rachel Garnett

IT WAS obvious how much the audience enjoyed and appreciated Furness Bach Choir’s concert Music for Double Choir from the warmth and enthusiasm of the applause at the end, writes Margaret Harrison.

Challenged to divide into separate groups of singers, and then sing a wholly choral programme of music in so many different styles, the choir proved themselves equal to the job, and in many cases excelled in the performance.

Conductor Marco Bellasi had provided an introduction to the music and its links with architecture in the printed programme. His verbal explanations between items helpfully set the scene in an informative and sometimes amusing way.

Making use of the layout of Ulverston Parish Church, the choir performed in a number of different formats – most notably successful in this was Gabrieli’s Hodie Christus Natus Est where a quintet of strong voices positioned in front of the altar contrasted with the body of the choir several yards further forward on the chancel steps.
I also particularly enjoyed the choruses from Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the swelling sounds and words tossed backwards and forwards between the two sets of singers positioned in the choir stalls. This aptly provided a musical picture of the Red Sea, parting and converging.
From the gentle blend of the a capella Hymn to the Virgin by Britten, to the final flourish of Handel’s Praise the Lord, the latter enhanced by Colin Dean’s virtuosic organ accompaniment, the choir with their conductor have worked hard to display the intricate and varying ways in which composers have written for a subdivided choir.
Review of FBC's Haydn Revealed Concert
Review by Alan Bolt

The Furness Bach Choir may bear the name of one world famous composer, but they frequently take on works by some other major names. On Saturday, at St Mary of Furness R C Church, in Ulverston, they turned their attentions to pieces by Haydn
FOR their concert Haydn Revealed, the Furness Bach Choir chose his Stabat Mater and the Nelson Mass.

The Stabat Mater, written in 1867, rapidly became a popular choral work, with performances across Europe.

It is not an easy work, but the choir took the harmonic and rhythmic shifts in their stride, and gave a fine, secure and sensitive performance. The music for soloists was sung by members of the choir, and the quality of their contribution shows what considerable talent they have available.
Particularly impressive was the bass solo Pro peccata sui gentis, sung by Ron Eadington. It is a work full of passionate drama and pathos, and the choir and soloists responded admirably to its demands.

Thirty years later Haydn wrote the Mass which came to be known as the “Nelson” Mass as it was performed in 1787, on the day Nelson won his victory at Aboukir Bay. This is a choral composition written at the height of Haydn's musical career. From the opening Kyrie for choir and soprano solo, beautifully sung by Naomi Marczak, the music is robust and singable, and the choir obviously enjoyed it.

The balance of the choir was splendid, and in the contrapuntal fugues the parts came through with great clarity.

It was nice to see a tribute to organist Colin Dean in the programme. He has accompanied the choir for some 40 years and has contributed much to its continuing success.

As ever, the training and direction of the choir is crucial, and Anthony Milledge is to be congratulated for producing a most enjoyable concert.

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