The Choir of St James’ King Street in collaboration with The Choir of Trinity College Melbourne and Ironwood Orchestra, directed by Warren Trevelyan-Jones and Michael Leighton Jones presented the opening performance of Bach and Beyond at St James’ Church, King Street last evening. the concert is repeated tomorrow, Saturday 24th September at 5 pm.
The works were presented in broad reverse chronological order climaxing with JS Bach’s explosive Magnificat in D major BWV 24. This linked back to the opening Magnificat in B flat for double choir Opus 164 by Charles Villiers Stanford, completing the circle around the Australian premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Kothener Messe, JS Bach’s motet Singet dem Herrn BWV 225 and two motets by Johannes Brahms, Es ist das heil uns kommen her and Schaffe in mir Gott.
Dove’s Kothener Messe which the Choir of St James’ performed, was commissioned by the Kothener Bach Festival in 2002 and very well received in subsequent outings. It continues the tradition of parody in music where older themes are re-worked. In this case, the parody was inspired by an endearing picture of Bach as imagined by Dove, falling asleep during a sermon, as fragments of his music from the Kothen period tiptoe into his subconscious and form themselves into a Mass. A solo quartet introduces the Kyrie which swells to the Gloria before pulling back into the Sanctus -reminiscent of Faure and with a piquant mix of plainchant and chromaticism, The effect of busily plucked harpsichord strings with the violins playing pizzicato, adopting their alter-ego as plucked instruments conveyed a delightful effervescence. This is a work that is well worth its place in the programme not just for its intellectual values and historical derivations, but because, quite simply, it is a pleasure to listen to.
The Choir of Trinity College Melbourne, directed by Michael Leighton Jones delivered a beautifully rich and balanced rendition of the Brahms motets, reminiscent of Bach, not least because Brahms demonstrates his mastery of counterpoint as the unadorned columns of the opening Lutheran style chorales give way to a distinctly Romantic take on fugue.
The Stanford Magnificat was as refreshing to hear as were the Bach motet and Magnificat, impeccably performed and enhanced by the simplicity of the church and its honest acoustic.
Warren Trevelyan – Jones maintained a crisp and cohesive unit with understated style. The opportunity for the choristers to perform alone and in smaller configurations was an affirmation that each one is a soloist in their own right.
At a broader level the musical life at St James’ is something that the workers and residents of Sydney city are slowly becoming aware of. Trevelyan-Jones has an extensive background of performance, recording and teaching in Europe and the UK. His vision will see the Sydney CBD host a musical life that will include superb performances, workshops and think tanks – all within a few minutes’ walk of offices, major shops and malls, restaurants and city residences. Log off and listen in.
Bach and Beyond is presented again tomorrow, Saturday 24th September at 5 pm at St James’ King Street. This is informed and creative programming which stays within focus.