Have you ever thought, whilst watching a superb performance of a Shakespeare play, how much the Bard would have enjoyed being in the audience? Or pondered how Beethoven might delight to hear a top modern orchestra playing one of his symphonies? Had J S Bach been sitting in St Cuthbert’s Church in Wells on Saturday evening, he would surely have been thrilled with the Somerset Singers’ performance of his Christmas Oratorio. Singing together with the Lochrian Ensemble and soloists Christina Birchall-Sampson (soprano), Daniel Brown (counter-tenor), Philip Pooley (tenor) and James Birchall (bass) it was a superb evening.
Sung very competently in German the opening chorus ‘Rejoice, be glad, celebrate the time…’ was a truly irresistible summons. Throughout the evening the choruses were strong and vibrant, a response to the call to ‘Serve the Highest with splendid choruses …’ with choir and orchestra, especially the trumpet, complementing each other. These were then balanced by the singing of gently familiar chorales each of which concluded with its own soft harmony.
The recitatives and arias sung by the four talented soloists brought to us different dimensions of the whole. The bass solo ‘Who can rightly extol the love our Saviour holds for us‘… gave us gentle, quiet strength whilst the delightful aria ‘Happy shepherds hurry…’ had flute and tenor voice singing and dancing together on the way to see the baby. The final recitative sung by all four soloists, seemed to represent the whole of society as they sang ‘How can hell be frightening now…‘ and indeed we would not go home under a cloud of fear but overjoyed to have heard such a beautiful, assured but tender performance of this wonderful Christmas piece.
If you are interested in joining Somerset Singers, their next performance will be in St Cuthbert’s Church, Wells on Saturday 9th May 2015 when the programme will be Faure’s Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine and Schubert’s Mass in G. Rehearsals will begin at 7:30pm on 14th January 2015 at the Friends’ Meeting House, Sidcot.