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Bishop's Stortford Choral Society and Bishop's Stortford Sinfonia winter concert at All Saints' Church, Hockerill, featuring Haydn's Nelson Mass



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Bishop's Stortford Choral Society is back in full voice and joins forces with the Bishop's Stortford Sinfonia next month for its first live concert since the pandemic struck.

After a difficult 18 months in lockdown, during which neither the choir nor the orchestra were able to rehearse in person, the music makers are now fully on track for their winter comeback concert at All Saints' Church, Hockerill, on Saturday December 4.

The main highlight of the evening will be Joseph Haydn's Nelson Mass, named after Admiral Horatio Nelson but originally called Missa in Angustiis, or 'Mass for Troubled Times'. It's a choice that seems curiously apt given recent circumstances.

Admiral Horatio Nelson
Admiral Horatio Nelson

"We've all had to struggle with the challenges of lockdown," said BSCS's musical director Richard Brain. "Now the choir is able to sing together again, I thought we should make it count with music that makes you want to shout and express yourself.

"I hope both the musicians and audience will enjoy concert night before the rush of the Christmas season."

Haydn wrote the Mass in 1798 at a time when Napoleon Bonaparte was terrorising Europe, and the future of Austria – the composer's homeland – hung in the balance. However, Haydn was unaware when he was finishing the work that Nelson had dealt Napoleon a stunning defeat at the Battle of the Nile.

Bishop's Stortford Choral Society with musical director Richard Brain (52861963)
Bishop's Stortford Choral Society with musical director Richard Brain (52861963)

When Nelson later met Haydn in Vienna – a visit which almost certainly included a performance of the Mass – it was reportedly a moment of real mutual admiration.

Napoleon's defeat would have changed the way the Mass was heard by contemporary concert-goers. The menacing, militaristic opening and unfolding drama, superseded by triumphant jubilation, would not have been lost on audiences. It quickly became known in its time as the Nelson Mass.

BSCS is also performing J.S. Bach's exuberant and dramatic Magnificat in D, which requires five soloists, a five-part chorus and, for its time, an unusually large orchestra.

The choir is lucky to have developed a long-standing partnership with Bishop's Stortford Sinfonia, which draws on the core of excellent professional and semi-professional musicians living locally.

* The Bishop's Stortford Choral Society and Bishop's Stortford Sinfonia winter concert is at 7.30pm on Saturday December 4 at All Saints' Church, Stansted Road, CM23 2DY. Tickets can be purchased at www.singwithbscs.org.uk or on the door.

Helen Miller



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