It's Bach season!

It's March, and for those of us in choir-land that means the countdown to Holy Week has begun. As well as our St John Passion performance on Good Friday, my choir at the Scots' Church is doing a few Bach cantatas spaced throughout the year. We did one last Sunday - the first half of BWV 147, 'Hertz und Mund und Tat und Leben' - and it was really lovely to sing. The opening chorus was fast and exciting with its trumpet solos, and the final chorale was just beautiful. Definitely worth getting up at 7am on a Sunday. ;)

There's a video of us singing & playing the final chorale here on Facebook, courtesy of our organist Ria. The tune is best known as "Jesu, joy of man's desiring" - you might recognise it when you hear it. I remember coming across a piano arrangement at Nana's house many years ago and playing it on the dodgy old piano...

This is a video of the whole cantata, performed by The Sixteen:

I'm glad it won't be my first time singing the St John Passion this year, there aren't many weeks left now to brush up on my German (not to mention all of the notes). I'm also glad we have more than one special rehearsal scheduled this time in addition to the Sunday morning run-throughs.

One of my favourite Bach interpreters, John Butt and his Dunedin Consort, have recorded a liturgical reconstruction of the St John Passion. Here's a short intro video with some rehearsal clips:

After filling my head with all of this music, I'm going to be super-primed for a very, very exciting trip... This April I'll be heading off on my first trip to Europe with Willie and Julian! I really can't believe it's actually happening. We'll start with a visit to Berlin where Chloe and Celena live, and spend three weeks exploring a few different cities including Florence, Rome, and Amsterdam, with short stops in Leipzig and Munich. It was incredibly hard to narrow down our list of places to visit, but I prioritised the places with the art and architecture I most want to see (as a consequence of my years of studying music and art history and Latin).

In Leipzig I plan to visit the Bach Museum, the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche, a museum of musical instruments, and a music bookshop. And hopefully a coffeehouse or two!

More on the trip later. For now I need to work on my German and Italian (both beginner-level, alas) and do some more plotting and planning...

A good Good Friday

Last night was my big Bach concert! My choir and a fantastic Baroque orchestra performed the St. John Passion. As a first-timer, I had to put in a lot of practice to make sure I had my head around all the rhythms and my tongue around all the rapid-fire German. And it really paid off - on the night I wasn't nervous, and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

Willie, Julian, Chloe, and Hamish came along to hear us,and Willie took a couple of photos:

The Scots' Church is really pretty.

A chorus in full flight! I'm near the middle. :)

At home afterwards, enjoying a well-earned hot cross bun.

Here are a couple of my favourite choruses, performed by The Monteverdi Choir. The first is one of the fast, tricky choruses, and the second is the final chorus (which I adore)...

If you're a Bach nerd like me, you might want to poke around the All of Bach site, which will eventually house free videos of all 1080 of Bach's surviving compositions, performed by the Netherlands Bach Society. Bach's other great Passion setting, the St. Matthew, is the newest addition.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Bucket-list Bach

Disclaimer: I don't actually have a bucket list. But if I did, performing Bach's large-scale choral works would definitely be on it.

In a few weeks the Scots' Choir will be singing Bach's St. John Passion, which is massively exciting for me, as well as scary! I have a lot of music to learn, and a lot of German pronunciation to perfect. As I did in the lead-up to Messiah last year, I'll be listening to lots of different recordings as well as practicing on my own with the piano. Wish me luck!

Here's the opening chorus, 'Herr, unser Herrscher', performed at a cracking pace by the Academy of Ancient Music:

Music to wrap presents by

This is my first Christmas in a long time with no choir to sing with. I'm used to a big build-up of practices and carols concerts, culminating in Midnight Mass (I always skive off on Christmas morning). One of the special things about Midnight Mass at St Mary's was the fun of blasting out carols like 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' from the choir loft, together with a trio of trumpets and the organ...

I love a lot of the special music for this time of year, so I've tried to make do with listening to recordings and singing on my own. I found an absolute treasure-trove of downloadable free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL) site - they have six pages worth of Music for the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons, including traditional carols as well as choral music from the 14th century to the present.

One new discovery is Charpentier's 'Salve puerule':

And here's an old favourite, Bach's Christmas Oratorio:

And this is a lovely concert/documentary hybrid - a special Christmas episode of the BBC series Sacred Music (featuring The Sixteen), 'A Choral Christmas':

I recognised several pieces I've sung over the years, including Victoria's amazing 'O Magnum Mysterium', and the 15thC carol 'There is no Rose of such Virtue'.

Merry Christmas, folks! Enjoy your holiday. :)

For your viewing pleasure

First, an excellent new documentary about Bach's life and music. Really interesting, and some lovely snippets of music. It's an hour and a half long! I'm in Bach-nerd heaven.

...And here's something completely different: for an old friend's wedding present, Chloe made a very tongue-in-cheek rap video. Willie helped out with some of the dancing and filming, and I did general gofering. It was pretty much the most hilarious experience ever.
Here's a link to the video: Ra's Wedding Rap