mon 04/03/2024

Voces8 Foundation Choir and Orchestra, Smith, Voces8 Centre review - joyous Christmas music by Bach | reviews, news & interviews

Voces8 Foundation Choir and Orchestra, Smith, Voces8 Centre review - joyous Christmas music by Bach

Voces8 Foundation Choir and Orchestra, Smith, Voces8 Centre review - joyous Christmas music by Bach

Seasonal greatest hits selection with a spotlight on spectacular trumpeting

Voces8 Foundation Choir and Orchestra at the Voces8 Centre© Voces8

There’s a game called Whamageddon, where people see how deep into December they can go without hearing “Last Christmas”. I’m like that, but with the Bach Christmas Oratorio, and this year I made it four days. And who would want to wait any longer? Last night I was at the Voces8 Centre in London as part of a live audience for a concert also streamed in the ongoing Live from London series, started during the Covid summer of 2020 and continuing to flourish.

The programme was titled “Christmas with JS Bach” but could equally have been called “Blackadder Goes Forth” for the determination to get full value out of the presence of legendary natural trumpeter David Blackadder. He, and his two colleagues Philip Bainbridge and Matthew Wells, were given full chance to shine in movements from the B minor Mass and cantata extracts, alongside Part 1 of the Christmas Oratorio. And shine they did.

The orchestra is a period instrument band led by Bojan Čičić, also featuring the vigorous Benedict Hoffnung on baroque timpani, who could presumably play this piece in his sleep but was still brisk and compelling. The 24-voice choir included the eight singers of Voces8 (pictured below), who took the solos, bulked out by some excellent, mostly young, singers. It all went off with a suitably festive bang, under the leadership of Barnaby Smith.British vocal ensemble Voces8The ”Gloria” from the B minor Mass made an appropriately glorious noise, the trumpets jangling and the singers capturing the triple-time dance in their interweaving lines. There was a change of pace for three movements from cantata 140, “Wachet Auf”, associated with Advent season. The dotted rhythms of the opening bounced over the skipping lightness of Kate Brooke’s double bass. The famous “Zion hört die Wächter Singen” was delightfully fleet, Christopher Moore singing the chorale line as a to-the-point solo.

In the Christmas Oratorio there was more clattering of timpani, a radiant solo by alto Katie Jeffries-Harris and a fine bass aria in the eighth movement by the newest member of Voces8, Dominic Carver, who impressed with his German diction. There was then time for a bit of stately grandeur in the “Sanctus” from the Mass, building to its wonderfully maximalist climax and a final treat, the opening chorus of cantata 190, Singet den Herrn, with its crowning moment of choral unison that encapsulated the evening.

Bernard Hughes on Bluesky

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