BACH CONCERT

Otley and Ilkley Choral Societies,

Otley Parish Church, APRIL 25, 2015


This was, sadly, Alan Horsey’s farewell concert with the two societies after his successful 19 year tenure as their musical director. Alan, who was born in the New Forest town of Fordingbridge, received his musical training at the Royal College of Music. Following appointments at Leeds Parish Church and St James, Muswell Hill, London, he became Organist at Bradford Cathedral in 1986, a position he held with distinction until 2002.


 We were treated to an ambitious programme of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750); most of the music performed belonged to his maturity in the 1730s although they are reworkings of pieces first composed a decade or so earlier. The concert began with the cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, (Our God is a mighty stronghold), set to words by Martin Luther. It was first performed in October 1735 to commemorate the day on which Luther pinned his 95 theses to the door of the Castle church at Wittenburg in 1517.The opening chorale is truly formidable, 228 bars of music, awe-inspiring in its complexity. By the time the chorus came to the two other chorales, with their familiar theme and melody, confidence had grown and they performed with a bright tone and clarity of words. They were ably supported by the Yorkshire Chamber Ensemble led by Sally Robinson.


The four soloists, Neil Baker, bass, Katie Trethewey, soprano, Robert Ogden, counter tenor and Steven Harrold, tenor, performed the arias and duets with distinction and the instrumentalists provided an excellent foil for them. The first duet between the bass and soprano demonstrated their beautifully compatible voices; the tenor and counter tenor, in their turn, were both warm and expressive in tone, all true performers in the baroque tradition!


The societies are losing not just a fine conductor but a distinguished harpsichord soloist. Alan Horsey performed the popular Harpsichord Concerto in D major. The sound, pace and articulations were beautifully judged, particularly in the slower adagio section which exuded pathos. Alan was ably supported by sensitive accompaniment from members of the string section.


Following the interval, the Yorkshire Chamber Orchestra performed exquisitely the ever popular Air on a G string. Bach revised this work in Leipzig in 1731 from an earlier composition. Robert Sudall, Ilkley Choral Society’s talented accompanist, played a Bach organ chorale, the only piece in the programme that is not one of Bach’s mature works. It is  a reflective piece, one which he captured perfectly.


In the final item of the programme, Bach’s Magnificat, the chorus was in fine form with confident entries, clear diction and some accomplished singing, particularly from the men’s sections. Special mention must be made of some fine playing by the oboist, Jonathon Tobutt.


Alan Horsey will be sadly missed in the musical life of the Wharfe Valley. He has contributed so much to the Otley and Ilkley Societies over the last two decades. In his farewell speech, with customary self effacement, he thanked them for ‘putting up with him’. He will be a hard act to follow!


This was also a temporary farewell to Otley Parish Church as a venue for the Otley Choral Society’s concerts. The church is shortly to be undergoing restoration work. Future Otley Choral society concerts will take place at Trinity and All Saints, Horsforth, until further notice.


Val Middleton                                        From:  Ilkley Gazette, 30 April 2015