Bollington Arts Centre
19th May 2024
St Oswald's Church - Tickets can be reserved on 01625 575554 and paid for on the door - Tickets £5 for anyone aged 18 or under - Doors 7pm

Dido and Aeneas

At St. Oswald’s Church Macclesfield

Bollington Festival Choir was within a few days of performing this concert in early April 2020. On March 14 that year, for reasons everyone will remember, members sang together – a Singing Day on Brahms’ Requiem – for the last time until September 2021. Since then, the Choir has resumed its normal activities, including three varied concerts a year. While we have sadly lost some members, most have returned and there’s a steady intake of new singers.

The Choir… Bollington Festival Choir celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2024. The group of around 40 singers, based at Bollington Arts Centre, performs a wide variety of classical music from many centuries.

The Music… All the music in this concert dates from the 17th century and is by composers famed for opera. Purcell is represented not just by Dido, but some numbers from his stage works The Fairy Queen and King Arthur. Purcell had a unique voice, but like Handel, was strongly influenced by Italian and French composers of the preceding generations. The concert includes from one of these, a scene from Jonah by Carissimi who worked in Rome. Opera was forbidden during Lent, so Carissimi turned to biblical subjects for eighteen short oratorios that could be performed in church and keep his musicians busy. Their form eventually influenced Handel in works like Messiah. Monteverdi, widely thought of as the finest Italian composer of the 17th century, is more associated with Venice. His operas include Orfeo and The Coronation of Poppea.

Guest soprano Katy Allan sings one of his glorious solo songs, Amor dicea, before the Choir closes the first half with Beatus Vir, a colourful and uplifting setting of biblical texts beginning Blessed is the man who fears the Lord. After the Interval comes the first English opera, Dido and Aeneas. Operas then invariably drew their stories from classical mythology, and this is no exception. Operas were often extremely long, but here, in around 45 minutes, Purcell and his librettist Nahum Tate (who also wrote the words of While Shepherds Watched) tell of the pair’s doomed love as their fate is manipulated by vengeful gods and witches. The chorus plays courtiers, witches and sailors as the story unfolds in recitatives, solo songs and choruses before the most celebrated number Dido’s Lament, sung as she, unable to live without her love, succumbs to the bite of a poisonous asp
as he sets sail to found Rome. While designed for the stage, the opera’s fast-moving action and varied musical numbers make it a very satisfying concert work.

Our soloists… We’re delighted to welcome Katy Allan to sing the role of Dido, and other solos in part one. Katy is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music who leads a busy life as a singer and choir trainer including work with the Halle Youth Choir and with dementia patients. Read Katy’s biography at

The Choir is fortunate in having several regular singers able and willing to undertake solos. In this concert, Mike Bell sings the role of Aeneas, while Dot Graham is Belinda, Dido’s confidante. Steve Thorpe plays the Sorceress (a male singer in the original production!) as well as Jonah in the belly of the Whale. Paul Yandell is the Sailor. Sopranos Sara Caldwell, Olwyn Bloor, Marcia Rowlands and alto Mary Halloran complete the line-up of solo witches and courtiers.

There’s another solo performer in this Dido – Sarah Walton-Smith – who won’t be singing but dancing. Each of the five short acts features an instrumental dance reflecting the action and the characters in the drama. Sarah’s time on stage began at the age of 8 in Bollington Festival Music Theatre, and her subsequent performances – acting, singing and dancing – include many at school and locally and while studying at Cambridge University. While we can’t run to scenery, classical costumes and a Deus ex machina – where for example. Mercury might appear from on high sitting on a cloud – the dances will add heightened
emotions and colour.

Our orchestra… The Choir is very pleased to have collaborated several times recently with string players led by Nicola Bright, including the last two editions of Messiah for All. Nicola is well known to local audiences as a teacher and violinist / violist in chamber and orchestral groups. She and others in her string quintet play regularly with the Lindow Ensemble alongside professionals and senior students from RNCM. Completing the band is Rosalind Hall playing keyboard continuo. Rosalind is the Choir’s long-standing and very experienced rehearsal pianist who also takes some rehearsals with sections and soloists.

Our conductor… Donald Judge was handed the baton by Dr John Coope on his retirement in 2002, having joined the Choir in 1976 as a singer and subsequently being its accompanist. Since then, he has conducted almost as wide a variety of music as his predecessor, including seeking out or making arrangements of some unfamiliar works – such as Carissimi’s Jonah – and composing pieces especially for specific concerts, most recently Missa Brevis heard last November.

The Interval will include non-alcoholic refreshments and a further chance to buy tickets for the Choir’s spectacular raffle that helps keep ticket prices reasonable, despite rising costs.

All payments can now be made by card or in cash.

The concert is expected to finish by 9.30 pm.

Bollington Arts Centre
Wellington Road
Bollington, SK10 5JR

Box Office
Booking information can be found in each event listing

General Enquiries (not box office)
01625 573863

Venue Booking Secretary (not box office)
Tim Marten


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