“The greatest musical work of art at all times and nations.” So said Bach’s first publisher of his Mass.
This mighty work is a challenge to any professional choir, and in the performance on Saturday, the Exultate Singers, with fewer than 40 amateur members, showed their usual high standard in a superb rendering of this masterpiece.
From the opening Kyrie to the closing Agnus Dei, this was a performance that successfully captured the majesty of the work but also uncovered its intimacy.
The Gloria is split between chorus and soloists and covers many aspects of Bach’s skills in choral writing. After the long and sombre chorus, there is a pastoral feeling in the Domine Deus, where Nicki Kennedy (soprano) and James Gilchrist (tenor) produced some top-class singing. The Credo, the other long movement, had the second female soloist, Catherine King (mezzo soprano) joining Ms Kennedy in a delightful duet, while there is also a powerful bass solo, which Martin Le Poidevin performed with his usual skill and confidence.
In Osanna, James Gilchrist gave a ravishing account of the solo section, where he was secure and full in his tone. He was accompanied with considerable aplomb by Roger Armstrong (flute) and Keith Tempest (cello).
The Agnus Dei goes through many emotions before coming to a triumphant conclusion. David Ogden, who conducted the whole performance with great feeling and expertise, is to be congratulated for producing yet another superb exhibition of choral singing from his performers.
There was excellent support yet again from Emerald Ensemble, led by Roger Huckle.