Review - 02 December 2017

Performing Bach's music is always a challenge, a big deal that is now always successfully concluded. That Bridgwater Choral Society triumphed with his Christmas Oratorio in the town's gloriously refurbished parish church is an achievement of which soloists, choir, orchestra and conductor should be proud.

The Christmas Oratorio, compiled in 1734 is one of the greatest scriptural oratorios ever written. Conductor Iain Cooper enlivened every bar of Bach's inspired music with assured direction and stylistic propriety. The Christmas story is narrated by a tenor and the lightly articulated voice of Guy Withers offered an eloquent account. Soprano Charlotte Newstead sang with appealing clarity though she struggled with her highest notes. Przemyslaw Baranek was a resonant bass with clear declamation, but it was alto Fiona Mackay who stole the show with her warmly coloured singing of Bach's celebrated slumber song "Sleep, my most beloved.

The choir is kept busy in Bach's Christmas masterpiece and the many large-scale and often contrapuntally complex choruses were delivered with sharply focused aplomb. Indeed much of its singing was of praiseworthy merit in which the Society should take pride. Throughout the oratorio Bach fields a spectacular arsenal of brass, drums, woodwind and strings. The players provided yet another enriching dimension to the performance with especially rewarding contributions from Sally Hedges (flute), Tom Stevlin who gave us stellar trumpeting, a mellow coir of oboes and Brigid Kirkland-Wilson who led the orchestra and who engaged in a lyrical solo violin accompaniment to the alto aria "Enclose, my heart".

An evening to remember with affection and admiration.

Nicholas Anderson