Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Teaching the World to Sing

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Teaching the World to Sing

Article excerpt


The Bach Choir is celebrating its 125th birthday in style, reports Simon Tait

THERE aren't many choirs that can take over Covent Garden for its birthday party, can boast an audience of a billion for a single live performance (the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales), or commission a new piece from Sir John Tavener for its next Prom. But, then, the Bach Choir is probably the finest independent choir in the world.

"It is completely amateur, which requires a level of dedication that's hard to find anywhere else, and it's not connected to an orchestra so it controls its own agenda," says musical director David Hill.

"That makes them better than professionals in my book."

The choir is gathered in its home of the last century or so, Westminster Cathedral Hall, where at the top of everybody's mind is the 3 June event at the Royal Opera House, the celebration of its 125th birthday.

There's an assistant prison governor, a former station master, a research chemist, a theological lecturer, lawyers, architects. At the front a woman in a pink cardie, buff slacks and trainers is taking a sip from an Aroma beaker.

She is Katherine to everyone and was a bit late this evening - trouble parking her car.

But to you and me she is Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent.

The 3 June programme the choir is launching into tonight includes Walton's tricky Belshazzar's Feast, the first movement of Bach's Christmas Oratorio, some Brahms, and a very awkward Vaughan Williams. These people are serious about what they do.

They come from as far away as Chester for their Monday evening sessions.

Someone's mobile goes and the ring is not the EastEnders theme or the Ride of the Valkyries but a Bach partita.

Until recently, Diana Rayner educated her four children at home in Evesham as well as organising the choir's programme publications and archives, commuting to Victoria twice a week, and singing.

"I've done it for 15 years and I can't imagine not doing it. It's just the most terrific fun."

Until she ceremoniously chucked her stethoscope into the Thames on Millennium night, Jane Mackay was a GP in Walworth Road. …

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