Today, as Gareth Malone on TV has shown, singing in a choir and listening to a choir has become popular. In Hampshire, everyone has access to concerts by local choirs, to be appreciated by performers and audience alike. Botley Choral Society has been involved in this musical feast for nearly 90 years. On 24 and 25 March they gave their Spring Concert to enthusiastic audiences in the churches of Locksheath and Botley.
This was the ideal programme to woo newcomers to try a classical concert. The two works were short and accessible; Dvorak’s Mass in D and Bach’s Magnificat. Dvorák wrote his Mass in D in 1887 and in 1989 it was sung in Prague Cathedral to mark his country’s seismic changes and to celebrate the new non-communist President Václav Havel. J.S.Bach wrote his Magnificat in D over 160 years earlier; for him the massive outpouring of sacred music was part of his genius – and his job.
The choir performed both works very well. David Burgess, conductor since 1990, brought out with precision the romantic tunefulness of the Dvorák and the sublime mystery of the Bach. Similarly Mark Dancer on the organ ably provided the lyricism of the Dvorák in contrast to the complexity of the Bach. Members of the choir stepped in to sing the soprano solos in place of Julie Bolton who was unwell.
The other soloists, Melanie Stephenson (soprano/alt), Thomas Jordon (alto), Peter Fellows (tenor), and Philip Stokes (bass/baritone) each came into their own in the short Bach arias, singly or together – local professionals contributing their gifts to the choral resurgence. Both works have triumphant moments and the choir and organ made the glorious crescendo of Bach’s final Gloria a fitting climax to a great concert.