Programme Notes – Musical Director (Bach Magnificat & Handel Dixit Dominus)

For the concert on 26 November 2016:

It is my pleasure to welcome you this evening to this exciting concert of Baroque masterpieces. I was first captured by Baroque music as a teenager whilst studying my A-level in music and funnily enough the first set work our teacher told us to study was J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 4. Little did I know at the time that just 6 years later I would be embarking on a professional conducting career with that very same work.

And what a work it is! Full of rich contrapuntal harmony and astounding virtuosity within the concertino which will tonight be played by the brilliant Anna Cockroft (Violin), Harry Parham-Connolly (Flute) and Ruth Ballantyne (Flute). Indeed, the orchestra can sometimes be the unsung heroes of choral society concerts so it is a real joy to have an opportunity to celebrate the individual talents of players who have shown a great deal of loyalty to the Exeter Bach Society over the years.

Following this will be G.F. Handel’s Dixit Dominus. This is a work I first encountered a few years ago with English Touring Opera. If you are not versed in Baroque music, you may be tempted to think that an opera company might not be the best choice to perform a sacred work of Handel. However, Dixit Dominus is one of the most dramatic pieces of choral music you will come across and I hope we can do that drama justice tonight. It is the work of a young man with a burning desire to succeed and it is incredible to think that Handel composed this masterpiece at the age of just 22. It requires virtuosic vocal soloists and I am very pleased to introduce some new faces to the society such as Bethany Partridge (Soprano), Aimee Presswood (Soprano) and Alexander Masters (Counter-Tenor) along with more familiar faces such as Philip Pooley (Tenor – Christmas Vespers, 2014) and Tim Mirfin – a debut with the society but an increasing reputation in the Devon area.

After the interval, we return to J.S. Bach and to his wonderful Magnificat which we will present to you in the updated version in D Major but with the additional Christmas ‘laudes’ (hymns) which were written for the original Eb Major version performed on Christmas Day in Leipzig, 1723. It seemed appropriate to include these four additional movements as we head into the holiday season and they add a different dimension to the work which I feel is lost in the abridged D Major version. There are also a few other interesting features which were changed between the two versions and I have decided to restore some of them – the most obvious perhaps being the uncharacteristic dissonance at the end of the ‘Omnes generationes’ which Bach decided to soften in the D Major version.

I am extremely grateful to several people for their continued support. Firstly, to the whole committee but particularly to Juliet Meadowcroft (Chairman) who does an incredible amount of work for the Society behind the scenes. Secondly, to Anna Cockroft (Leader) who takes a considerable burden off my shoulders by fixing the orchestra for all our events in such a professional manner as well as offering her vast experience and wisdom of all things musical. Thirdly, to John Pearce (Assistant Conductor) and Colin Pettet (Accompanist) for their invaluable support throughout the term. And finally, and most importantly, to the choir, who put up with my nit-picking but still always give 100% and offer great friendship as well.

The choir have put in a huge amount of dedication to sing these incredibly challenging pieces. I would go as far to say that these two pieces are probably two of the hardest pieces in the choral repertoire and they have attempted the challenge with absolute commitment. Every singer should have the opportunity to sing this evocative, incredible music and I am passionate that this will have been a great musical journey for each member of the choir. I hope you enjoy the concert and I look forward to meeting you after the event.

Musical Director

Jonathan Lucas Wood

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