Twenty nine present and past members of Bristol Choral Society were amongst the 185 singers who took part in a sold-out performance of the Grande Messe des Morts by Hector Berlioz at the Cheltenham Festival on Saturday 14 July.
Prepared and conducted by the Choral Society’s former conductor of 17 years, Adrian Partington, the South Cotswold Big Sing Group drew its singers from choirs around the south and west of England and Wales, and were thrillingly accompanied by the British Sinfonietta, with Nick Pritchard as the tenor soloist.
The SCBSG is a charity, formed to give singers from non-auditioning choirs opportunities to perform major choral works. This performance included singers from Stroud, Thornbury, Tyndale and Wycliffe Choral Societies, heavily boosted by singers from Bristol and Gloucester Choral Societies, in addition to 21 members of the St Cecilia Singers plus 5 Lay Clerks from Gloucester Cathedral. Thanks go to Jos Gregson of SCBSG for an incredible feat of organisation.
Adrian conducted the myriad forces with great skill and musicality, this including the huge orchestra and 4 brass bands dispersed to parts of the cathedral. Singing at full volume the 185 or so singers managed to be heard above the tumultuous sounds of the combined instrumental forces and yet provided a calm contrast in the quiet reflective passages, which completely stilled the audience.
An audience member on leaving, was seen to look up saying that he was checking to see if any masonry had been brought down from the roof of the cathedral!
The whole experience was hugely enjoyed by the Bristol Choral Society singers involved.