Our time on that Open Space residency (and the one before it with just singers back in February) was in preparation for our concert as part of the Aldeburgh Music Easter Weekend this Sunday at 3pm in Orford Church, Suffolk. The time was incredibly valuable in terms of honing our collective awareness, and putting in the kind of preparation that our chamber music approach requires. We could discuss and agree on interpretation, practise tricky points of coordination, and solidify social bonds in the pub in Thorpeness!
Bach in particular poses challenges to ensemble and balance. In the first chorus of ‘Der Himmel lacht’ BWV 31, he switches instantly from Allegro to Adagio, with the music seemingly in full flow, to illustrate the text, “he who has chosen the grave as his resting place.” Moments like this require a precise interpretation of the tempo relationship, and plenty of rehearsal in order to coordinate it.
The programme is tailored to the day on which we are performing, as three of the pieces were specifically written for Easter – J.S. Bach’s cantatas ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’ BWV 4 and ‘Der Himmel lacht’ BWV 31, and Johann Kuhnau’s ‘Wenn ihr fröhlich seid an euren Festen’ (see the title of this article for a broad translation). This work interprets Christ’s victory over death very literally as a military victory over a deadly adversary, and the fanfare deployment of four trumpets and timpani as well as five-part string and vocal groups is truly rousing. We frame the concert with Kuhnau’s very moving passiontide motet, ‘Tristis est anima mea’, and it’s reworking by Bach, with a more generally moralising German text, ‘Der Gerechte kommt um.’ The general trajectory of the concert should be one from darkness into light, whilst also drawing the connections between Bach and his immediate predecessor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.
There are some tickets still available for Sunday, and we very much look forward to taking our audience back to the Easter Sunday atmosphere of Leipzig around 300 years ago.