THERE is no doubt that we love tradition in Britain and one of the most satisfying traditions is to hear a choir singing and keeping alive the music of long ago; the tradition seems even stronger and more meaningful when the music is bound up with the history of the Church and the daily musical and choral life in our parishes and, particularly, our stunning cathedrals.
The Magnificat settings of Bach and Vivaldi have now been sung for almost 300 years since their first performances in the early 18th century and, of course, the story is much older than that. Go back another hundred years and we have the splendour of Tudor times and what has been termed a golden age in English music, when the Magnificat was being composed by the likes of Thomas Weelkes at Chichester Cathedral and Orlando Gibbons at Westminster Abbey; they died in 1623 and 1625 respectively. The traditional settings of Luther’s translation of the Magnificat can be traced back to variants of Gregorian chant and in Protestant music it is thought that no other Latin text was more often set to music.
There was a great resurgence of interest in Bach’s music in Victorian times, which may have been triggered in 1829 by a then rare performance of the St Matthew Passion conducted by Mendelssohn. Our nation’s choral societies have always loved their Bach and the South Devon Choir is maintaining that tradition on 28th November at The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, St Marychurch, Torquay, though it is surprising to note from Malvern Cooke’s history of our choir that Bach’s Magnificat – reckoned to be one of his most significant and popular works – has been performed only once before, in 1986 at Central Church, Torquay.
The problem is that maintaining tradition takes money and an awful lot of effort. Concerts such as this do require a budget, a great deal of planning and roughly a three-month session of weekly rehearsals. Basically, our singers do it because they love the music and they want to maintain a tradition.
For us, the audience at this time of year, it becomes a wonderful Christmas gift.
If you would like to join us on Saturday buy your tickets online here