Heavenly and extraordinary music from Battle Choral Society this weekend

members of Battle Choral Society SUS-170523-100942001
members of Battle Choral Society SUS-170523-100942001

“Back where we belong”... Battle Choral Society returns to Battle Parish Church on Saturday October 20 for an eagerly anticipated performance of both the Fauré and the Duruflé Requiems.

The concert, a cornerstone of this year’s busy and vibrant Battle Festival, is only the second performance by the choir in almost ten years in St Mary’s Church. And it is high time.

Director John Langridge, who is also director of music at Battle Abbey School, is delighted to bring the Battle Choral home. “St Mary’s is not only the spiritual heart of Battle, but also the historical home of our choral music in the town. The church was actually the venue for the first ever BBC musical outside broadcast, back in the 1930s, when the Mozart Requiem was performed for the nation!

“Quite a number of Battle Choral’s concerts in recent years would have been difficult to stage in St Mary’s, on purely logistical grounds. We have performed works such as the Verdi Requiem, Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and the Bach B Minor Mass, with full orchestra and a very large chorus – and these have needed the vastness of of venue such as Christ Church in St Leonards.

“In terms of resources, the Fauré and the Duruflé are somewhat smaller scale, and so St Mary’s Church is a perfect fit. But quite apart from the practical issues, it is a privilege to be an integral part of the Battle Festival. Both I and all of our members are thrilled to be returning to the choir’s roots. We are back where we belong.”

The evening’s two central works are both Requiems – a reflection, perhaps, of musical and cultural mood as the nation approaches commemorations of the 1918 Armistice. Fauré’s Requiem is among the best loved of all choral works, exquisitely woven and full of those moments when the earthly seems to touch the heavenly. The performance features Battle Abbey School student singing the Pie Jesu soprano solo.

The Duruflé Requiem is an extraordinary work, comparable to virtually nothing else in the choral repertoire. First performed in 1947, in a Paris still numbed by war and by the pain of the Vichy occupation, Maurice Duruflé’s work combines some very modern and dramatic musical effects with the haunting echoes of medieval plainsong. “I am terrified,” said Durufle, “by the adventure I have embarked upon. It reflects the anguish of man faced with the mystery of his final end.” Conceived in war, but achieving a serenity which transcends suffering, the Requiem touches audience and performers alike.

As well as student Donya, the professional soloists include baritone James Newby, winner of the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Award.

The performance begins at 7.30pm, with tickets (£15, with Under-18s free) available on the door or at Battle Festival outlets. by Kevin Anderson.

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