On Saturday in Eye Church Eye Bach Choir performed the two requiems by the twentieth century French composers Durufle and Faure. The choir was accompanied on the recently installed magnificent Binns organ by Ian le Grice whose playing was outstanding in its sensitivity and mastery of the challenging and intricate score. His clarity of playing enabled the choir to sing with a great dynamic range, especially in the Durufle.
Leslie Olive’s conducting drew out the textures and colours through some exceptionally quiet singing from the entire choir; for example in the final few bars of the Durufle it created the mood of calm and repose perfectly.
Lisa Cassidy, Soprano, sang the solo arias in both works. Her ‘Pie Jesu’ in the Faure was beautifully composed and ethereal. A new young baritone, Malachy Frame, sang with great power and assuredness and is a talent to watch.
Saturday 26th November 2016
Baroque – Eye Bach Choir
Shirtsleeves and coloured tops were a relaxed feature of this Eye Town Hall concert conducted by Leslie Olive.
The bible provided much of the source material in Baroque music. So we heard Vivaldi’s Magnificat and Credo, a setting of the Nicene Creed. Then we heard some Mozart, Lotti’s Crucifixus and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. The religious music had an austerity about it but also an enervating, life-affirming glow.
The performance by William Bass in Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto was as starry as his shirt. He showed an adept, urgent flourish in the Allegro, a soulful intensity in the Largo, gliding into a vivacious Adagio.
In a Divertimento the orchestra recreated all the Allegro’s vitality, Andante’s serenity and Prestos’ tripping feel that the teenaged Mozart composed.
Under Mr Olive’s direction the choir tackled the high passions of Calvary, achieving passages of storming adoration.
Basil Abbott, Diss Express
Brahms Requiem Review in the Diss Express
Brahms in 1866 and Lauridsen in 1977 bought sought in music consolation for their dead mothers.
Instead of an orchestra, the German Requiem featured two pianists, Ian Le Grice and Jonathan Rutherford, at one piano. Their contribution was constant and telling.
Under Leslie Olive’s direction, the gently welling first chorus would have comforted any bereaved person.
The choir brought shudders of mortality to All Flesh is Grass, a peaceful lovely energy to How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings and some thrilling notes to the dead being raised.
The soloists were Alan Loader, with an eloquent bass-baritone voice, and Jane Burnell, still young enough to be pre-university. She combined the innocence of the pure soprano voice with the assurance of things to come.
With Ian Le Grice now at the organ, Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna had a very different texture to the Brahms. Warm and heartfelt, it provided a complimentary version of bereavement and the letting-go process.
Basil Abbott, Diss Express
Eye Bach Choir Sings the Blues
On Saturday night in Eye Town Hall, an excited audience was brought to its feet by a dynamic performance of Will Todd’s ‘Mass in Blue’. It was given by – yes, the Eye Bach Choir. It is difficult to imagine such a lofty Victorian pile as the venue for an evening of intimate jazz and blues, but somehow the organisers pulled it off. The audience sat round tables enjoying wine and nibbles during the show. The performance was underpinned, musically, by a marvellously gifted quartet of young musicians from the Royal Academy of Music formed specifically for the concert, and led by the accomplished pianist Owen Dawson. They improvised beautifully in the classic jazz style, in a set of numbers of their own, each displaying his or her talent, and they were particularly sensitive and skilful in accompanying the glamorous singer Lisa Cassidy in numbers by Thelonius Monk – ‘Around Midnight’ – and Gershwin’s ‘That man of mine’. Also in the first half, Lisa and the choir gave an upbeat and vigorous performance of a medley of songs from ‘Porgy and Bess’.
However, there was little doubt that it was ‘Mass in Blue’ which was the show-stopper. Written originally for the Hertfordshire Chorus, Will Todd’s brilliant blend of driving jazz grooves and clear strong choral blues writing, against which the quartet and soloist weaved and blended in a delightful aural tapestry, is a winner. Lisa Cassidy’s ‘sparkly’ performance was cool and confident. At one point, she effortlessly held a top ‘C’ for several bars and throughout the work she performed with great musical concentration yet in an appropriately sensuous and romantic manner. The concert was conducted by Leslie Olive who deserves enormous credit not just for driving forward and creating many moments of sheer magic from the performers, but for having taught what is essentially a choir with a thoroughly classical background, to sing and react to such entirely different music. All musical performances require precision and discipline, none more so than works based on jazz themes, and the apparent ease with which the players and singers performed belies what must have been very hard work undertaken by those taking part in this magnificent concert.
Diss Express Review of Petite Messe Solennelle
Rossini’s work Petite Messe Solennelle is not little, solemn or a Mass; but a feast of pleasures.
Under Leslie Olive’s direction, Eye Bach Choir seemed to pick up on the benign spirit of the composer. Their Kyrie had a sweet sanctity, holiness with happiness, accompanied by Jonathan Rutherford’s tripping piano.
The concert had piano and keyboard (Suzanne Vandenburghe) rather than an orchestra. Standing in at short notice, tenor Nico Darmanin let fly in operatic style in the Domine Deus – a star performance.
A lachrymose duet by soprano Fiona Campbell and contralto Jane Haughton, with a rippling piano, built to an enervating end. The same could be said for bass Dhilan Gnanadurai’s solo, starting grim and ending in hope.
The choir’s Cum Sancto Spiritu was like a canter through a sun-kissed landscape. Fiona Campbells’ Crucifixus was sung like a love aria.
The romantically operatic elements of the work were given full expression. Renowned gourmet Rossini would have enjoyed the feast.
Basil Abbott,Diss Express,November 2014
Soloists Reviews from the Petite Messe Solennelle
After our performance of the Petite Messe Solonnelle by Rossini on Saturday 29th November 2014, we received some lovely comments and reviews from our soloists for the evening, as follows:
“I very much enjoyed working with you again. It was a pleasure! The Eye Bach Choir is undoubtedly one of the best in the region. The choir sang with passion and put a lot of thought to their music making”
“It was a very special evening and the choir sang especially well”
“Leslie always inspires us and gives all of us great confidence I feel. The Choir sang so well and you all seemed very prepared in a piece that is very challenging in parts”
“I really enjoyed singing in the concert and heard so many compliments from members of the audience about how they had thoroughly enjoyed the Rossini and everyone’s performance”
“It was lovely to sing with your wonderful Choir. The energy was absolutely lovely and it was great to sing the Petite Messe with such lovely colleagues”
Conductors Review of the Choir in 2014
It is the most extraordinary privilege to find myself conductor of Eye Bach Choir on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary. I have been forming and conducting choirs for longer then that, which tempts me to feel qualified to comment from a breadth of experience on this special choir.
So now, after seven years here, I am more than happy to add my thoughts. What makes Eye Bach Choir a joy to work with is its sense of continuity, with a clear vision and purpose as night and aspirational now as forty years ago; a continuity symbolised by Merlin’s generous and encouraging attendance at just about every rehearsal. I can’t tell you what a joy and honour it is to have Merlin amongst us as we work together – the choir which his vision, enthusiasm and energy created from nothing. And never once does he say to me ‘I wouldn’t do it like that…” or ‘why don’t you take it a bit slower here?” … or anything of that kind, not even when we are working on music of which he printed the first editions and which I am exploring for the first time. He is the professional’s professional, and his generous encouragements (which are many) are beyond price.
What is more, Eye Bach Choir is superbly led. The particular combination of expertise, gifts, skills, and understanding shared by its committee gives the choir clarity of direction and competency of action. Committee members have long experience and depth of understanding which means they are the masters of some highly skilled tasks. They can, for example, select solo singers, engage orchestral musicians, edit music, even design and build a stage ideally suited to its location and to getting the best musical results – and much, much more besides, all of which provides the conductor with the freedom to focus on preparing performances of distinctiveness and leading the drive for choral excellence. An ideal partnership.
In forty years an enormous amount has been achieved. We celebrate that achievement with a concert of EBC ‘firsts’, and we look forward with excitement to all that is to come.
Leslie Olive, 2014, on the occasion of the Fortieth Anniversary Concert Programme
Performance on a grand scale
The splendour of the church formed a perfect setting for Saturday evening’s performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass by Eye Bach Choir. Their numbers alone made this a performance on a grand scale, yet conductor Leslie Olive made it sound authentic, adopting tempi which, for the most part, had a spaciousness which admirably projected the work’s grandeur.
The quintet of soloists made a fine team, with well focused singing from sopranos Lindsay Gowers and Lisa Cassidy in Christe eleison, while tenor Simon Gfeller and Bass Mark Saberton’s contributions were more variable, but it was the contralto Laura Trayhern, whose radiant voice and intelligent singing were outstanding.
Period style was in evidence in the distinguished orchestral playing; notably the flutes in Dominus Deus, the solo oboe in Qui sedes, and the splendid horn obligatto in Quoniam.
The choir sustained an excellent standard throughout what is a long and taxing work; indeed they seemed to get even better as the evening progressed. Although the male voices were numerically weaker, the balance was good, helped perhaps by placing tenors on the left, basses on the right. Intonation was excellent.
A splendid evening which did justice to Bach’s wonderful score
Frank Cliffe, EDP24 edition on 18th March 2013
Eye Bach Choir 40th Anniversary
About the time of Watergate, Abba’s Waterloo, and the invention of the Rubik’s cube, Eye Bach Choir was born.
The warmest and most sustained applause at last week’s concert was for 90 year old founder Merlin Channon, rising from his wheelchair to conduct a Bach chorale.
There was much to celebrate, starting with works from the choir’s earliest days, conducted by Leslie Olive.
Excerpts from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus began with a colourful tenor call to arms by Richard Edgar Wilson; with the choir aptly answering that ‘pleasing and dreadful call’. The rippling serenity of the voices and the orchestral contribution made for something sweet, strident and stirring.
Handel’s Occasional Oratorio excerpts were full of mellow praise, with ‘timbrels and cheerful psaltry’ and a vocal hailstorm.
Rutter’s Look to the Day had classical virtues combined with the sing ability of an uplifting West End musical. All five soloists joined choir and orchestra in Handel’s Dixit Dominus, whose surging emotions made you look forward to the next 40 years.
Basil Abbott, Diss Express 14th March 2014