This study of the Bach Choir provides a much-needed overview of one of the major choral societies in London. Dr Basil Keen examines the background that led to the formation of an ad hoc body to give the first performance in England of J.S. Bach's B minor Mass. The musical and organizational effects of a permanent choral society drawn from one social group are traced during the first twenty years, after such time the pressures of social change led to a complete review followed by a restructuring of the methods of recruitment and internal organization. The rebuilding of the choir at the opening of the twentieth century, the expansion of the repertoire, the upheaval resulting from the First World War and the impact of these events on preparation and performance, are all considered. The book is essentially structured around the tenure of successive Musical Directors: Otto Goldschmidt, Charles Villiers Stanford, Walford Davies, Hugh Allen, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Adrian Boult, Reginald Jacques and David Willcocks, since their varied tastes and interests inevitably had a decisive influence on policy. Keen draws upon previously unpublished material, including minutes and correspondence of the Bach Choir, interviews with relatives and descendants, and examination of family records and correspondence. To date, there has been no survey of a major London choir that encompasses the full history of the organization in context. In this study, Dr Basil Keen provides a thorough examination of the Bach Choir, including the response of the choir to social changes; the influence of conductors and officials; changes in musical taste; relationships with composers and composition; major national and international events; and the effect of these matters on organization and repertoire.
’… a well written and enthusiastic account …Keen's excellent book is not only a most readable description of a choir's progress and detailed account of each musical director, but also an abundance of musical and social information over the century. There are ten appendices full of invaluable information …’ Choir and Organ ’(Keen's) clear narrative thread gives a strong sense of the story of this remarkable choir.’ Journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies ’… make[s] valuable contibutions to the record of choral music in the UK, and are essential purchases for any library or personal collection devoted to the subject… full of illuminating insights and anecdotes that should prove instructive for the student of choral conducting, and entertaining for both professional and amateur choral singers.’ Music Teacher ’… fascinating … the story of the choir is a journey into excellence despite monumental problems over the years. Recommended to all who've ever put on a choir robe, concert dress, or tux.’ The Delian
Contents: Preface; Prologue; The Mass in B Minor; A permanent choir; The Stanford years; A choir in crisis; Recovery and renewal; New directions; A composer member at the helm; Boult fills the gap; Jacques gets the vote; New horizons; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.