For 37 years Dr John Coope MBE conducted the Festival Choir, introducing singers and audiences to an extraordinary range of choral music. Taking on the baton in 2002, Donald Judge has endeavoured to maintain the sense of adventure, even as the venues for large scale works closed. Concerts are now given by a choir of between 30 and 40 either in the Arts Centre or at St Oswald’s Church. Guest singers and instrumentalists often enhance the music making.
Some highlights of the Choir’s music making in the past decade – which of course includes the disruption by, and recovery from, Covid – contribute to a wide range of fascinating music from the 12 th to the 21 st centuries. With piano accompaniment from Rosalind Hall, the choir is joined by a guest wind quintet who were all friends of Choir member and bassoonist Judith Smith, sadly no longer with us.
Donald is a great afficionado of all things Czech, and after some choral numbers by Czech composers and folk song, the wind quintet plays his tone poem Raining on the Vltava. Folk songs, two of the melodies sung by the choir, and quotes from more familiar Czech composers tell the story of a picnic in a meadow, an annoying cuckoo, an even more annoying thunderstorm, and finally an ascent to a tiny wooden chapel dedicated to the patron saint, (Good King) Wenceslas.
After the Interval, with a licensed bar, comes the quintet’s own choice of attractive works by Josef Suk and Bohuslav Martinů before the Choir’s talented soloists lead us from Czechia to Opera, beginning with Mozart who found such open minded support for his revolutionary Don Giovanni in Prague. Purcell, a composer beloved of many choir members takes over, before Carissimi tells us the wondrous story of Johan in the belly of the Whale and of the sinners of Ninevah seeing the light. From the sublime to the ridiculous, Donald Judge spins a jazzy yarn of the Whale delivering Jonah to Bollington, the notorious drinking town as described in John Coope’s play Wedding Photo.
Finally, all the musicians join forces to celebrate The Bolly Flyer. Hector Berlioz wrote an ode to a new railway in Lille about 20 years before the railway came to Bollington, sadly to be a victim of Dr Beeching around a century later. But Choir member David Ward penned brilliant new words to celebrate the 150 th Anniversary that coincided with the 2019 Festival.
The images show the Choir drawn by Nola McGaul; the Chapel of St Wenceslas in Stozec, Czechia, taken by Donald Judge; and Dr John Coope MBE, the Choir’s conductor for its first 37 years.
Tickets should be available on the door, but to be certain you can reserve them on 01625 575554 and pay on arrival by card or in cash. Cash is preferred for the fabulous raffle. Please note that the licensed bar is CASHLESS, but cash donations will be welcomed for tea or coffee and biscuits.