Bach’s B Minor Mass

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Bach’s B Minor Mass will be performed on Saturday 17 August in the stunning chapel of Keble College, Oxford. The concert concludes TRBC’s week-long Summer School and we are delighted to be performing in such a marvellous acoustic.

Bach composed the B Minor Mass in stages. The earliest sections date from 1733, when he submitted a setting of the Lutheran Mass (Kyrie and Gloria) as credentials for his application to be court composer at Dresden. In 1748–49, just before his death in 1750, he expanded this to a full Catholic Mass. He ‘recycled’ and enlarged a Sanctus from 1724 and added the colossal Credo, the Benedictus and the Agnus Dei. There is much conjecture on why he should have assembled, so late in life, a sacred work of such impracticality. It would be a huge undertaking to perform the work liturgically today; in 1749 it would probably have been impossible.

Our performance – also for practical reasons – omits the Credo and offers the original Lutheran Mass plus the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. Four prize-winning soloists join us: Harriet Burns (soprano), Tom Lilburn (countertenor), Sebastian Hill (tenor) and Ossian Huskinson (bass-baritone). During the week, our repetiteur Chris Finch will have played the complex score on the piano with just two hands. For the concert, 25 or so players from the St Cecilia Players will take over,  revealing all Bach’s orchestral colour.

Bach’s B Minor Mass draws to a close 10 years of TRBC Summer Schools directed by Brian Kay. It’s been a wonderful decade, including performances in Coventry Cathedral, Birmingham Town Hall, Bath Abbey, St Mary Warwick, All Saints Leamington Spa and now the historic surroundings of Keble College Chapel. We have explored a vast array of choral music by Duruflé, Rutter, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Elgar, Handel, Poulenc,  Puccini, Bach, Haydn and Lauridsen and enjoyed the company of hundreds of fellow choral singers.

Please come and hear our final Summer School concert, which starts at 7 pm. Tickets are available from TicketsOxford at £15 (£10 concessions).

The Tuesday Partnership

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‘The Tuesday Partnership’ was the name adopted by the four founders of ‘Messiah from Scratch’. All were scientists at Imperial College, London and three of them were keen amateur musicians.

Don Monro, a Canadian electrical engineer and amateur clarinettist, played in the University of London Orchestra and elsewhere. In his own words: ‘I was active as an organiser of amateur musical events almost from the day [my wife] Ann and I landed in the UK in 1966. We never intended to stay after my studies were finished, but the musical life of London quickly changed all that.’

His colleague, David Burgess, was a physicist and amateur trumpeter. Early in 1974, Don and David took part in a very under-rehearsed, but surprisingly successful, performance of Handel’s Messiah. This entrepreneurial pair then hatched a plot to do something similar, on a large scale, in the Royal Albert Hall.  They promptly went across the road and booked the Hall for an unrehearsed amateur performance of Messiah.

As the initial euphoria wore off, they realised that the financial commitment was considerable and they really ought to have some support. Enter David’s boss, Professor Reginald Garton who, although not a musician, was happy to offer financial and logistical support. The fourth person they persuaded was Dr Gavin Park, another physicist and excellent amateur musician. He was also conductor of Imperial College Symphony Orchestra, so it was natural to suggest that he might like to conduct the venture. He innocently agreed.

So why ‘The Tuesday Partnership’?  David and Don had a spoof club, called the Tuesday Club (after the infamous ‘Monday Club’). David’s wife Susan writes: ‘The Tuesday club had no actual existence – Don and David had their own peculiar brand of humour. They would occasionally put notices in the Imperial College magazine such as “The next meeting of the Tuesday Club, scheduled for Wednesday next, will now take place on Thursday of this week”. Quite senior members of the academic staff occasionally enquired how one could become a member! It therefore seemed natural and logical to Don and David  to call their new venture the Tuesday Partnership.’

Next in the series: A family business