A Magnificat performance from Aylesbury Choral Society

From the very first bars of Bach’s Magnifcats on Saturday 23rd March, Aylesbury Choral Society hosted a thoroughly enjoyable evening, performing not one, but six renditions of one of Christianity’s oldest hymns.
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Taking its text from the Gospel of Luke, The Magnificat is the passage spoken by Mary upon learning that she will bear the son of God, declaring that “my soul magnifies the Lord”. So important is the Magnificat in the Christian faith that the text has been put to music by many composers and is sung regularly in services as part of Vespers and Evensong.

Of those that have set the text to music, Aylesbury Choral Society brought us the whole Magnificat of Bach, plus parts from Arvo Pärt, Purcell, Dupre, Walmisley and Vivaldi, with conductor Jeff Stewart doing a fantastic job as raconteur to explain the origins and meaning of each piece. Not only were these snippets informative, they helped one to picture the setting of the original performances whilst listening to the live event.

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It must be noted that the choir is under-numbered, with the Gentlemen in particular down to just five Basses and an equal number of Tenors. In places, this showed, and there were parts that simply needed more power and more confidence behind the vocals. Yet in other places the choir more than held its own against the perennially impressive Aylesbury Sinfonia, and despite their lack of numbers it was the male sections that encouraged and roused the whole band up to full speed in the opening bars of Bach.

Aylesbury Choral Society's MagnificatAylesbury Choral Society's Magnificat
Aylesbury Choral Society's Magnificat

Soprano Melissa Stewart was note perfect in the first Aria and provided the perfect tonic of calmness following the excitement and drama of the opening chorus. When the she was joined by Felicity Davies (soprano) and Janet Shell (alto) for the Trio “Sicut locutus” the result was beautiful and nothing short of celestial.

Perhaps the most challenging movement of the evening, being unaccompanied, was the Arvo Pärts Magnificat. However, the ladies of the choir absolutely nailed the opening bars and, considering the complexity of the piece the choir can be rightly proud of its performance, especially the crescendo’s where we were finally treated to the full choral experience. This was truly an incredible performance and the confidence that it gave the choir was like a switch being turned on. Henry Purcell’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were brilliant. With the choir now at full capacity, it was easy to close ones eyes and be transported back in time to the court of a medieval King. And it kept on coming. Now full of confidence, the choirs Walmisley and Vivaldi were an absolute delight, and with the success of Pärts unaccompanied Magnifcat under their belt, they excelled at the interspersed choruses of Dupres organ recital.

Once again, Aylesbury Choral Society provided a fantastic evening of music. A chance to savour the Choral Society’s performances should never be missed and it is becoming more important than ever that we support our musical traditions. I would encourage anybody with an interest in singing to join them at rehearsals on a Tuesday evening for a chance to experience the exhilaration of performing from the other side of the stage! I’m sure you would be made to feel very welcome whatever your age or experience. Aylesbury Choral Society's next concert, at St Mary’s church Aylesbury, is on 15th June and will, I am sure, be a very enjoyable

Music of a Lighter 'shade' for Summer. Tickets from www.aylesburychoral.org.uk