J.S. Bach St. Matthew Passion

Ardingly College Chapel, 14 April 2024

To re-create, as far as possible, the moving impact of Bach’s greatest sacred oratorio, the St Matthew Passion, at its first performance in 1727 in a service at Leipzig’s St Thomas Church requires a herculean, sensitive effort by combined musical forces entering fully into the spirit of the composer’s intentions and using the language of their listeners. A large Ardingly College Chapel audience had the privilege of experiencing just that on April 14, 2024. Afterwards, understandably, they gave generously to Time 4 Children, the chosen charity of one of their number, Haywards Heath’s Town Mayor.

More than 80 singers from the Ardingly Choral Society (ACS) and New Sussex Singers (NSS) formed two choruses whose seamless and highly effective co-ordination was maintained throughout from the podium, in Part 1 by ACS Musical Director Robert Hammersley, and in Part 2 by Sebastian Charlesworth, his NSS counterpart. Both they and the soloists were ideally complemented by the dulcet tones of Linden Baroque’s 18th century original instruments and modern copies of them, to complete this authentic rendition of a masterpiece, with few cuts or abridgements to its huge, demanding score.

Following rehearsals that for many began last July, the standard of music making, without exceptions, would have graced a Prom concert, or even the Thomaskirche Leipzig itself. A successful blend of youthful and very experienced first-rate soloists, full of enthusiasm matched by accomplishment, provided jewels for this musical crowning achievement.  Richard Robbins as Evangelist brilliantly held our attention to the unfolding of the Passion narrative, while Stephen Charlesworth sensitively captured Jesus’s humanity and divine serenity. Bach’s masterly linking of the performers with listeners’ responses to and reflections on what unfolds was superbly realised in recitatives and arias sung wholeheartedly by Olivia Bell (soprano), alto Lauren Easton, Edward Woodhouse (tenor), and bass Matthew Duncan. Wonderful stuff!

Review by: Melvyn Walmsley


To find out more about the choir and any performances:
contact Lorraine Doron, Secretary

07878 315901




President: Sylvia Lady Limerick CBE

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