The Sixteen, Bath Bach Fest at St Mary’s, Bathwick

WHEN I mentioned the Bach Fest to a friend, to whom the music which fills the programme did not appeal, they immediately hid behind that old excuse, “well of course such an event is very elitist”. To which I replied “there must be an great number of elitist music fans in the Bath area, because all of the five concerts included in this year’s fest were  sold out long before thE opening event.”

If ever a venue was tailor- made for a group of artists and the programme they had chosen, this was it. The Sixteen (there were actually 20 singers included in the company), and their beautifully complementary quartet of musicians – organist Alistair Ross, cellist Joseph Crouch, harpist Frances Kelly and theorbo player David Miller – combined under the energetic leadership of conductor Harry Christophers to bring out so many delights in a programme of music by Henry Purcell and Domenico Scarlatti.

The full company started the evening with Purcell’s Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes meil, Miserere mei, Remember not, Lord our offences, and O praise the Lord, all ye heathen, which underlined their perfect pitch, lovely phrasing, crisp diction and excellent connection to the conductor.

They ended the program Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater which, whilst it was bright,  and full of energy and enthusiasm, did not have the controlled definition that marked the rest of the programme that continually filled the church with crisp clear sounds.

We were treated to just one delightful solo and a duet, Purcell’s Close thine eyes and sleep secure,  sung with effortless poise.

As Sir David Bell, the Bach Fest Chairman, said in his introductory remarks, the only reason there were some empty seats in the gallery was because Health and Safety deemed them to far away from an emergency exit, as a result of this decision quite a few people were robbed of a fine evening of well-chosen music beautiful played and sung in an ideal setting.


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