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A Magazine for Sheffield

The Discrete Charm of Sheffield Bach Society.

Readers of Now Then might be forgiven for thinking Sheffield isn't exactly a hub for classical music. But as any good Sheffielder knows, scratch the surface, and there's no telling what you'll find. Who knew that Sheffield has 11 good symphonic choruses, large choirs that rehearse weekly and hold several concerts a year? I'd lived in the city for ten years before I decided to go along to the Sheffield Bach Choir for a tryout, and since then I have sung some fantastic music and seen a side of the city I never knew existed. For more than 60 years, Sheffield Bach Choir has been known as the jewel in Sheffield's classical scene. It was set up in association with Sheffield University at a time when Bach's music was less well known. True to its name, the choir performs one of Bach's inimitable masses every year around Easter. In 2013 it'll be the St John Passion. Another fixture is Handel's Messiah, always a sellout at the Cathedral before Christmas, with a sing-a-long version at Dore church also in December, complete with mince pies and mulled wine. But at other times their repertoire reaches out in other directions, from Bernstein to Pergolesi, and they have also commissioned work from contemporary composers. The choir's conductor since 2009 is something of a Yorkshire musical star himself. Widely known as a choral specialist, Dr Simon Lindley is city organist in Leeds, but his grandmother was from Sheffield, and he has cousins in the city. Not one to stand on ceremony, he's the kind of conductor who actually talks to the audience, but more importantly he communicates the music through the choir, in every note and through every pause. The choir has around 60 adult singers of all ages and ranges, who are friendly and excellent in equal measure, as you would expect a good Sheffield crowd to be. Leaving rehearsals on a Monday night, there's always humming in the air, while rehearsals themselves are focused on the quality of the music. The oldest member of the choir, the outstanding bass singer George, has finally had to throw in the towel at the age of 92, but fortunately there are younger people joining regularly, and the choir is always on the lookout for new members. This month's concert is a very rare presentation of Handel's great oratorio Solomon at Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday 13th October with the fabulous Northern Festival Orchestra. On November 17th, the programme includes the gloriously vulgar Solemn Mass of St Cecilia by Gounod. Then on December 3rd, the complete Handel's Messiah also takes place at the Cathedral. Details can be found at, whether you fancy hearing what the choir can do or would like to join in yourself. Simone Abram is an alto with Sheffield Bach Choir. )

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