SU Philharmonic Choir: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio ★★★★☆

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SU Philharmonic Choir rehearses and performs with Southampton Philharmonic Choir, making them one of the largest choirs in the area. They hold three major concerts a year, and this year’s winter concert at the Guildhall was a particularly spectacular performance.

SU Phil and Southampton Philharmonic Choir employed the skills of The Hanover Band and four soloists for their performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Written for the Christmas season of 1734, Bach’s oratorio narrates the well-known Christmas story in six parts. Although the text was written in German by an unknown author, the choir performed the English version of the piece.

Conducted by David Gibson, the choir sang beautifully, with effective dynamic contrast and clear diction. The choir members listened and responded to each other, staying in time and blending their voices together. The soprano voices lifted the piece, creating a bright sound. Professional soloists included soprano Erica Eloff, mezzo-soprano Catherine King, tenor James Edwards and baritone Alexander Robin Baker. They performed confidently and authentically, and their duet and trio sections were excellent.

In typical Bach style, the chords and cadences sounded lovely, in both the orchestral and choral parts. The choir was accompanied by orchestra for the entirety of the piece, although the vast solo parts resulted in the choir only singing for a relatively small amount of time. When they did sing, they were energetic yet sensitive to the music.

Near the end of the oratorio, all soloists came together. The choir’s last entry was solemn and beautiful, before allowing the orchestra to play their majestic ending. Bach’s harmonies and Baroque instrumentation gave the music a distinctly Christmassy feel, putting the audience in the Christmas spirit.

The choir’s next Christmas concert takes place on 15th December in Turner Sims and is definitely worth attending.

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