Bollington Arts Centre
1st December 2024
18's & under £5 - Tickets can be reserved on 01625 575554 and paid for on the door by cash or card. Cash is appreciated for raffle tickets and donations for refreshments.

ST. Oswald’s Church Event

Bollington Festival Choir has been resident at the Arts Centre since the days when the building was still a Sunday School. Founded in 1964, its conductor for 37 years was Dr John Coope. Donald Judge succeeded him in 2002, and with the committee has continued John’s adventurous and unique planning, demonstrated in this concert which takes place at St Oswald’s Church, Bollington Rd, Bollington, Macclesfield SK10 5EG.

Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit sets the familiar Latin Mass texts using French folk carol melodies, traditional even when it was written in 1694. The composer is best known for the prelude to his Te Deum, used as the Eurovision Song Contest theme. While this work is gentler, with recorders rather than trumpets, it is no less delightful. Charpentier applies the familiar Baroque technique of contrapuntal writing for voices and instruments to create the perfect fusion of folk and “art” music.

Written in 1772, the setting by Edmund Pascha could hardly be more different, yet it too has its roots in folk music. Little is known of Pascha, except that he was a Roman Catholic monk living in what is now the Moravian half of the Czech Republic. At the time, Pastoral Mass settings for Christmas were hugely popular in the Czech lands, often accompanied in church by spectacular Nativity scenes, some modelled, some with moving mechanical figures, and sometimes by live participants and animals, a tradition popular to this day, with a parade often accompanied by folk music and carols. The melodies here are probably Pascha’s own but inspired by folk music. Donald Judge discovered the work by the chance purchase of a CD in Prague in 2004, performed by Baroque specialists Collegium Marianum and folk musicians. Unable to find any published music, even in the monastery library in Pascha’s home city, Donald transcribed it from CD during a summer stay in South Bohemia. The voice parts of the Latin Mass movements were slightly adapted to give richer textures, while Donald created a narrative text in English to replace the Czech carol words, telling the Christmas Story up to the arrival of the Three Kings.

The Choir performed the work in 2006 and 2011 with the involvement of Tapestry of Music who had all the appropriate folk instruments. They no longer perform and there are no other players locally. But while the sounds of the hurdy gurdy and Czech bagpipes will be absent, we’re delighted to have the participation of specialist recorder players, maybe some surprise instruments, and extra strings to create an appropriate alternative.

On the last day of the holiday, having transcribed the work, Donald missed the marker for a path in the Šumava Forest. This is extremely hard to do in a system of colour coded routes, brilliantly signposted! Finding himself on an unmarked forest track and following a paper map, he persisted, and was rewarded by spotting a stone pillar bearing the perfect image for the work. Painted in the late 19th century and kept in perfect condition, it shows a woodcutter come to grief in the snow but with a guardian angel to rescue him. The caption reads Kyrie eleison – Lord, have mercy – the opening words of the Mass. The same guardian angel ensured Donald reached a marked path to the next railway station and one of Europe’s slowest trains back to town.

The concert includes three other brief works. One is an arrangement for alto solo, sopranos, and two violas of Away in a Manger but sung to a Basque folk melody. Then comes a brand-new work kindly written for the Choir by Adrienne Spilsbury, one of our regular string players, whose music is often performed by Cheshire Chamber Collective. To end the sequence and the first half comes a piece many will recognise, albeit without voices. It’s from Bizet’s music for l’Arlésienne: it combines a lively folk dance with a folk song – a march whose words describe the Three Kings on their journey to Bethlehem.

Tickets can be reserved on 01625 575554 and paid for on the door by cash or card. Cash is appreciated for raffle tickets and donations for refreshments.

The images show Bollington Festival Choir painted by Nola McGaul; St Oswald’s Church, the venue for this concert; a scene from a Czech Live Nativity in December 2023 and the image of the angel appearing to a startled woodcutter both photographed by Donald Judge.

Bollington Arts Centre
Wellington Road
Bollington, SK10 5JR

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Booking information can be found in each event listing

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01625 573863

Venue Booking Secretary (not box office)
Tim Marten


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