New Music
Continued support for living composers
Our home since its very first concert in 1935 has been St Matthew’s Church, historically associated with commissions from composers including Britten, Finzi, Howells and Tippett. The Northampton Bach Choir are proud to continue the tradition of supporting living composers. They have commissioned large scale works from Trevor Hold and Will Todd, and in their seventy-fifth anniversary year commissioned carols from Simon Johnson, Edmund Jolliffe, Gordon Lawson, Michael Nicholas, and their present Musical Director, Lee Dunleavy.

In 2008 the Northampton Bach Choir took the bold step of announcing a programme of première performances of some of the most inspirational new choral-orchestral music from living composers working in North America. Over one hundred works were studied, and from this a shortlist was drawn up and then five première performances scheduled.

Dies Gratiæ
14 November 2009

In 1997 the composer Craig Phillips was approached by Keith Weber, Director of Music at Christ Church, Tyler, Texas, with the idea of writing a piece that would serve as a “companion” to the Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. Mr Weber commissioned a text by the Dallas poet and theologian John Thornburg, and Phillips set completing the piece, Dies Gratiæ: Requiem Reflections in September of that year. John Thornburg’s text reflects on the idea of a ‘Day of Grace’ rather than a ‘Day of Judgment’ and its orchestration is the identical to that of the Fauré (ed. Rutter), making for a full and complete concert when programmed. The piece is in six movements, each one preceded by a prologue that uses portion of the Dies Iræ sequence. The poems/movements that follow are reflections on, or reactions to that portion of the text, and the work concludes in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the conclusion of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms: “And now, Eternal One, give us the grace to treasure who you are; to honour what you do, to live the here and now. Alleluia!”.


September Sun
10 September 2011

The choir’s schedule for 2011 was changed to accommodate a concert marking the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 unfolding before our eyes. The Californian composer David Conte’s September Sun was written in response to the attacks and in memory of those who perished on September 11th 2001. One of the last students of legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger, David Conte has been Professor of Composition and Conductor of the Conservatory Chorus at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 1985. In 2008 he was commissioned to write a work for the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20th 2009. September Sun has a text by the modern American poet John Stirling Walker that forms an acrostic on the line “God dwells in joy in the midst of sorrow”. A prelude and postlude for string orchestra frames the comfortably tonal score. The choral writing is accomplished and telling, especially in the repeated invocations to the sun that shone all that dreadful day when “so many of your dynamic sons and daughters” went to their deaths.


in paradisum...
19 May 2012

In 2009 the Association of Lutheran Church Musicans awarded its Raabe Prize for Excellence in Sacred to Dan Forrest for his work for chorus and orchestra in paradisum…. Forrest holds a doctoral degree in composition from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in piano performance. He is a former professor of music at Bob Jones University, where he served as Department Head of Music Theory and Composition for several years. in paradisum … is an eleven minute work takes its texts not from the Requiem Mass, but from the Gospels of Luke and John, the Revelation of St John the Divine and Psalm 116. The composer rescored the work for both chorus and wind orchestra or chorus and piano, and for the Northampton Bach Choir he scored it for chorus, organ, brass and percussion, in a scoring matching that of John Rutter’s Gloria. At its most moving climax paradise is reached, and a chorus of high pitched handbells are chimed in an aleatoric manner from the distance. Later in the year the Northampton Bach Choir recorded Forrest’s arrangement of Holst’s ‘Jupiter’ theme, O God, beyond all praising, and gave the European première of three of Dan’s carols – Good Christian men, rejoice!, O come, all ye faithful and There is faint music.


Proud Music
of the Storm

27 April 2013

Minnesota-born composer Stephen Chatman is one of the most prominent composers working in Canada today. Professor and Head, Composition Division at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver since 1976, Chatman is the first Canadian ever short-listed in the BBC Masterprize international competition. In 2001 he began work on a large work for chorus and orchestra, setting selections from the poetry of Walt Whitman. In 2002 the work was completed and premièred in a concert marking the 75th anniversary of the Vancouver Bach Choir. The composer began the four-movement work on September 10 2001, the day before the tragic attacks on the United States. He recalls, “While re-reading Whitman’s poem on 9/11, I felt Fate had tapped me on the shoulder – the cathartic emotion of the text became an overwhelming inspiration”. Chatman’s stirring ‘symphony of sound’ proclaims spiritual exaltation and raises allegories with every blast. His exuberant setting celebrates not only Whitman’s embodiment of music, but also the optimism and virtuous wonders of the human spirit.

Sadly the Bach Choir were unable to give the première performance as a medical emergency meant our Musical Director was unable to conduct the concert.


My Rose: A Shakespeare Oratario
7 June 2014

The conclusion of the Northampton Bach Choir’s five-year cycle of North American première performances aligned with the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. The final work performed was the concert-length oratorio by Steve Dobrogosz, setting fifteen of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Dobrogosz was born in North Carolina in 1956 and studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. For more than thirty years though he has been based in Sweden, working as a jazz pianist and composer. His albums with Anna Christoffersson, It’s Always You and Rivertime, were nominated for the Swedish Grammy Award in the jazz album category. His 1982 album with Radka Toneff, Fairy Tales, was named best Norwegian album of all time in a 2012 Norwegian artist poll. His oratorio My Rose is a melting pot of styles and traditions – lyrical classical forms, Jazz flute and trombone breaks, and it even included a first for the Bach Choir, a movement marked Tempo di Rock’n’Roll!