Somerset Chamber Choir, Wells Cathedral
Bach's Mass in B minor requires a combination of extremely accomplished singers and players. In the Somerset Chamber Choir, Canzona and eminent soloists under the direction of Graham Caldbeck, a great deal was achieved in their performance of this monumental work at Wells Cathedral to a capacity audience.
Having succeeded during 1747/8 in completing his Mass, Bach was always going to require performers with high technical skills, sound musicianship, experience in plenty and great confidence. All the performing elements on Saturday, July 30, had these in abundance.
On the whole the choir managed the quick-tempo choruses with accurate and athletically controlled melismas. True, there were moments when speed appeared to cause concern for the choir but they were carried over the hurdles by a very secure orchestral accompaniment from Canzona.
The Confiteor section produced a fine sound and the whole choir passionately embraced the magnificence of Bach's Sanctus. Further evidence of the choir's ability to sing with understanding of the music came in their finely phrased and articulated Et incarnatus est.
The huge structure of the Bach Mass requires a conductor who will carefully select convincing tempos for his musical forces. In Graham Caldbeck, the Somerset Chamber Choir's director, the performance was in very safe hands.
This choir is of enormous cultural value and significance for Somerset and the region: its achievements should be celebrated.