Finding our voices again the start of a week culminating in a terrific performance of Bach’s
St John Passion.

3–8 August 2021


Our 2021 Summer School took place just after the final stage of the lifting of the coronavirus lockdown in England, and the joy and relief amongst the singers was palpable, even though there was a limit on numbers and appropriately still a certain amount of caution and mask wearing (not while singing, of course!). Bach’s St John Passion had never had a choir more eager to sing it, nor a professional coaching team more determined to coax the best possible performance from their singers. Both Brian Kay and Chris Finch were unstinting in their encouragement and relentless in their pursuit of accuracy, so that the final performance in the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick didn’t drop a single stitch. In Brian Kay’s own words: ‘Of all The Really Big Chorus summer schools we have been able to enjoy, I’d say that this ranks as the greatest achievement, with a performance (and three days of rehearsals) which were totally uplifting, musically, emotionally and spiritually.’

Our soloists were soprano Jessica Cale, mezzo-soprano Emily Gray, tenor William Wallace, and baritones Alex Ashworth and Jerome Knox. After working with piano alone at Warwick (a brilliant recreation of the orchestral score from Chris Finch), the arrival of the soloists and the baroque players of Canzona for the final rehearsal and concert brought an extra dimension to the work, and the choir duly raised their game a couple of levels. To quote one singer: ‘We gave our all to the music, because we were so happy to be singing again!’

We proved to be the only residents at Warwick University that week, and so benefited from the full attention of the staff. And Wednesday evening’s mystery guest for ‘talking heads’ turned out to be Brian Kay himself interviewer turned interviewee answering the questions posed by Tony Hastings with a mixture of anecdote, humour, backstage confession and philosophical musings. Who needs Shakespeare?

Click here to view photos taken during the week (opens in a new tab/window).

What our singers said:

‘I found the performance amazing – moving and emotionally draining but ultimately uplifting – and the clock striking nine as we were held at the end: wow!’ (Sue R.)
‘I’m sure I wasn’t alone in having my spirits raised just by singing again with a large group of people and meeting up with old friends.’ (Sally M.)
‘A thoroughly memorable occasion all round: excellent performance; perfect venue, and exceptional soloists.’ (Clare H.)

Why not sign up for our 2022 Summer School in Bath, studying works by Haydn and Morton Lauridsen? Click here for details.