Music review: Bar Choral Society

HHJ Philip Bartle QC reviews a dramatic and confident Bar Choral Society Performance of The Creation at Middle Temple Hall

The magnificent sixth concert of the Bar Choral Society (BCS) on 16 November 2016 was in Middle Temple Hall – the first not performed in Temple Church. 

The new venue was ideal for Haydn’s The Creation which depicts the creation of the world according to the Book of Genesis. He was in his mid-60s in 1797 when he wrote what Leonard Bernstein described as ‘one of the supreme music dramatisations of all time’. His inspiration was hearing Handel’s works on a visit to London in 1791. It was written in English and German and was so popular that it was performed many times in Haydn’s lifetime.

The Creation is written for a large chorus and three soloists who in Parts 1 and II sing the three angels Raphael (DeAndre Simmons, bass), Uriel (Andrew Tortise, tenor) and Gabriel (Amy Haworth, soprano) and, in Part III, sing Adam (bass) and Eve (soprano).

The chorus exists in its own right and not simply as an echo or support for the soloists. Its first words are ‘(pp) And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said Let there be Light and there was (ff) Light’, a moment of explosive drama achieved through the chorus going from pianissimo to molto forte precisely on the second ‘Light’ without any pause. This leads to an unforgettable orchestral evocation of that moment. Then at key points, the chorus marks the end of a day of creation and finish the work (with the soloists) singing ‘The Lord is great. His praise shall last for aye. Amen. Amen.’

The orchestra frequently plays alone, particularly the overture which describes the chaos before creation.

It has been a great pleasure to see the BCS tackle major choral works and its thrilling performance in The Creation was without doubt its best to date. I was enormously impressed by the dramatic power and confidence of their singing. Also, the soloists brought great individuality to their singing which rang out in the glorious setting of Middle Temple Hall.

Once again, Greg Morris was conductor and musical director. He was in complete and effortless command of the large forces. The orchestra was the Temple Players. Although at just over 30, they were far less than the 120 at the premiere, the range and colour of their playing was outstanding and fully justified a small orchestra.

This was the last concert by the BCS under the chairmanship of Tim Dutton QC. Tim has achieved more than most in his career and we are all enormously grateful that the BCS is one of his greatest achievements.

Now under the Chairmanship of Stuart Ritchie QC and a talented board of trustees the BCS will sing the Bach St John Passion in Temple Church on 11 April 2017, followed by Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the Parliament Choir and South Bank Sinfonia at the Royal Festival Hall on 17 May 2017. See: 

Reviewer HHJ Philip Bartle QC

Category: 
Issue: 
Author details: 
HH Judge Phillip Bartle QC

Philip Bartle has been a Circuit Judge since July 2012 sitting at Luton Crown Court. He was a barrister for 36 years specialising in professional negligence and practised from Littleton Chambers.