Tuesday, 29 November: A dank, dark, depressing day. Off to the Temple Church for the Bar Choral Society’s Winter Concert. Expectations are not high. No venerable Bar institution, the Society was founded in 2014 by Tim Dutton KC, the smiliest silk ever to appear in the Supreme Court. It welcomes singers from all quarters of the justice system and all levels of experience. There are no auditions! It rehearses regularly every Monday, but attendance at all rehearsals is not compulsory. To cap it all, they were not singing old familiar stand-byes but risking early pieces by Schubert, Haydn and Mozart, which I at least had never heard of. What sort of amateurish shambles might this be?

But of course I needn’t have worried. The moment we arrived, the Temple Church worked its customary magic. Expectations rose. First, there were the Temple Players, represented by a chamber organ, six violins, two violas, two cellos, a double bass, two ancient trumpets and drums. There was the musical Director, Greg Morris, formerly Assistant Director of Music at the Temple Church and now Director of Music at St Margaret’s Westminster, clearly expert at getting the most out of his performers. And there were three professional soloists, led by soprano Augusta Hebbert, with bass Christopher Webb and tenor Gareth Treseder. But the choir itself was the real revelation – what can be achieved by singers who sing for the pure joy of singing.

Schubert’s 1815 Mass in G was wonderfully tuneful – a lyrical Kyrie with soprano solo, a glorious Gloria with sounding trumpets, a contemplative Credo with cruel crucifixion, a vigorous Sanctus with jolly Hosannas, the Benedictus a trio of soloists with more jolly Hosannas, and a suitably contrite Agnus Dei.

Next came Haydn’s Salve Regina in G, probably from 1756. I kept wondering which Queen we were saluting until it dawned on me that it was Mary, Mother of Jesus, Queen of Heaven. Here was a chance for the soprano to shine, with changes of mood from reverent Salve Regina, to Ad te clemamus, starting gaily but becoming darker, a very jolly, very Haydn, Eia erg advocata, a glorious chorale celebrating Et Jesum benedictum fructum, and the concluding O Clemens – Maria.

The trumpets and drums had left us for this more intimate piece, but they returned for Mozart’s Te Deum in C, written in 1769 when he was just 13. Like any good Te Deum, the music matches the very different moods of the various sections of the text. Now the choir came into their own, without the protection of the soloists, and clearly enjoying themselves hugely.

We noticed that, instead of the usual arrangement of sopranos and altos at the front and tenors and basses at the back, there was a row of women, a row of men, another row of women and another row of men. No doubt this was to get the best possible balance of sound out of a choir which – unusually for the Bar and the justice system – needs more men!

The concert was all too short. It could have gone on much longer. We came away uplifted and resolved to come back for future concerts. 

Do you enjoy choral music?

The Bar Choral Society is looking for new members. A non-audition choir, the Society gives two or three concerts annually, many with professional soloists and orchestras, and our friendly rehearsals take place on Monday evenings in Temple Church. If you are interested in joining, or just want to find out more, please contact us at: info@barchoralsociety.co.uk