Major dramatic work for Billingshurst Choral Society

Billingshurst Choral Society
Billingshurst Choral Society

Billingshurst Choral Society will be in action this Saturday, November 25 performing Haydn’s dramatic Nelson Mass, accompanied by the London Ulysses Orchestra.

BCS spokeswoman Joy Baggs said: “The professional soloists on this occasion will be Janet Coxwell, Hannah Pedley, Nicholas Sales and Paul Carey-Jones. The concert also includes Handel’s oratorio “Let Thy Hand be Strengthened” and popular opera and oratorio arias by Handel, Mozart and Vivaldi which will be performed by the soloists. The Musical Director, Cathal Garvey, commented last week on the preparations: “I am delighted with the way the rehearsals have progressed over the last few weeks. What has impressed me is the vigour and general sense of responsiveness of the choir to the music. I am very much looking forward to conducting the piece, complete with orchestra and soloists on Saturday. I can guarantee that it will not disappoint.”

“The Nelson Mass is arguably the composer’s greatest single composition. It was written at a time of great fear for the future of Austria, whose citizens were not in the best of spirits. In 1797-1798 Napoleon had defeated the Austrian army in four major battles, even crossing the Alps and threatening Vienna itself. The prevailing political and financial instability even affected the musical resources Haydn had at his disposal. It is little wonder that he called his latest work the ‘Mass for Troubled Times’. It is said that Haydn decided to write the opening movement in D minor, a key that he had loved ever since hearing it to evoke doom in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. What Haydn didn’t realise, however, as he penned the work, was that the British had dealt Napoleon a terrible blow at the Battle of the Nile. As the news reverberated around the world, Nelson was heralded as the saviour of Europe. It is possible that reports of the victory may even have reached Haydn and his audience on the day of the Mass’s first performance in September 1798. The title of the Mass became firmly fixed when in 1800, Nelson himself visited the Esterhazy Court, accompanied by his mistress Lady Hamilton, where they met the composer. It is thought that the Mass was performed to honour Nelson during his visit and Nelson and Haydn reportedly became friends.

“Napoleon’s defeat changed the way the Mass was heard from then on. The menacing opening became a depiction of danger and agitation supplanted by triumphant victory.

“The performance of the Nelson Mass takes place in Billingshurst Leisure Centre, on Saturday 25th November at 7.30pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door, Adults £15 and Students £7.50.

“The Society’s Christmas Carol Concert will take place at St. Mary’s Church, Billingshurst on Saturday 9th December at 7.30pm. It will include audience participation and performances by children from Billingshurst Primary School. In the New Year BCS will begin rehearsals for Verdi’s Requiem which will be the main work for their Spring Concert. If you are interested in some taster sessions, please check out the website www.billingshusrstchoralsociety.org and click on ‘sing with us’ for details of the rehearsal times and venue. If you enjoy singing why not make it your New Year’s resolution to join BCS.

“With Horsham Year of Culture beginning in 2019, you’ve got 12 months to ‘get into shape’ and what better way than to join a thriving local choir? Billingshurst Choral Society (BCS) is a lively and well established group of singers with just under 100 members and interested parties are most welcome to attend some rehearsals to see if it’s for them.

“The choir has a wide repertoire ranging from Handel, Bach and Beethoven to Verdi and Vaughan Williams. It also includes modern composers; Chilcott, Goodall, Jenkins, Rutter and Todd. Over the years BCS has performed the Premier of a number of choral works by Vann, Fanshawe and L’Estrange, and has enjoyed performing under the baton of musicians such as John Rutter.

“BCS performs three major concerts a year, two of them with a full orchestra and soloists. It also performs biennially at Chichester Cathedral and is a regular contributor at the Brandenburg Spring Choral Festival in London.”