St. Matthew Passion as a Steven Spielberg film? This was just one of the vivid analogies used by tenor Andrew Staples in the exhilarating workshop he led on Bach’s great work as part of the preparation for BFC’s performance on Sunday 19 February.

Brighton Festival Chorus were delighted to accept the offer by the Royal Philharmonic Society of a special afternoon for the Chorus to explore this monumental work. It was planned as part of the preparation for the performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion on 19 February – an exciting collaboration with the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra at the Brighton Dome.

The afternoon was led by Andrew Staples, an internationally known tenor who has performed the role of the Evangelist in the Passion worldwide and BFC Music Director, James Morgan. Andrew was brilliant at bringing the drama of the piece alive describing how the chorales and recitatives could be thought of in cinematic terms; suggesting we come up with a single word to convey the mood of each chorale – e.g. guilt, sorrow, etc; and making the two choirs converse and argue with each other.

Andrew’s unique insight into this monumental work came at just the right time in the preparation process. After a series of rehearsals focusing hard the intricacies of Bach’s music we needed the input of energy and imagination to get us away from concentrating entirely on the language and the notes.

Andrew commented, ‘I’ve just spent the afternoon with BFC & James Morgan, working with them on Bach’s masterpiece, and I’m left inspired and impressed. Their passion for the piece is evident in every note they sing. Join them on 19 February to explore this true treasure of our choral heritage, and to enjoy what is sure to be a performance of emotive power and beauty’. 

The afternoon was part of a new initiative by the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) to shine a light on non-professional groups like BFC and connect them with professional counterparts. James Murphy, their Chief Executive, said that amateur groups such as BFC are the musical life blood of the country and do so much to open a doorway to musical discovery. He continued by saying ‘What a buzz to be in the room with Brighton Festival Chorus this afternoon. Not just musically impressive; there’s a real warmth, spirit and consideration among them of which the whole Brighton and Hove community can be proud. Anyone in the locality who loves to sing should really consider getting involved’.

The Chorus members were so enthusiastic and as one commented, ‘Bach is incredible to experience –  both as a listener and a performer. After this afternoon’s deep immersion we gained the depth of understanding and emotional connection with this masterpiece to show everyone from Bach aficionados to first time Bach-goers why this astonishing music matters!’

Richard Blows, BFC Chair, said, ‘We are looking forward to the final rehearsals with the orchestra and conductor Robert Howarth, and are confident that this stimulating afternoon will enhance our performance’.

Read more about the work of the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Brighton Festival Chorus join the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra and a splendid array of soloists under the baton of Robert Howarth in Brighton Dome for a performance of St. Matthew Passion on Sunday 19 February at 2.45pm. For tickets and further information, visit the website of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra.