Celebration concert honours memory of society’s founder

Bakewell Choral Society.  Concert in memory of Richard Barnes
Bakewell Choral Society. Concert in memory of Richard Barnes

Bakewell Choral Society honoured the memory of their founder and chief conductor, Richard Barnes, with a celebratory concert.

The music was a mixture of works Richard had requested,that the family wanted included, and which the choir felt reflected their memories of their director.

The Heart of England Orchestra, the pianists Gillian Bithel and Amanda Kornas, Lizzie Ball the violinist and members of the Lady Manners Senior Choir, with past and present members of the choral society, and some distinguished

guests, all performed under the able direction of Jon Weller, who has stood in during 2012 since Richard became ill, and has clearly developed a rapport with the choir over the last few months.

It was an evening of memories, and inevitably one tinged with sadness for many, but there was a determination to make this a celebratory occasion of which Richard would have been proud and would have enjoyed. It was in every sense joyous and the music making was robust, widely varied and eclectic.

The sound lifted the roof of the school sports hall, which was packed to the doors with friends and supporters of the choir and those associated with the musical life of Bakewell and Lady Manners School.

Two major choral pieces were at the centre of the concert. Cherubini’s Requiem of 1815 and in its day a very popular and much praised work, but now less often performed. It requires no soloists and for its date is a remarkably advanced musical setting of the requiem mass, admired by Beethoven. The text is set quite briefly in places and often with considerable power. It is a demanding work but one well suited to the Bakewell team.

The other piece was Neil Ardley’s Cantabile, commissioned by the society from ‘one of their own’ in 2004 and given its first and only performance at the choir’s 25th birthday. It revived well and sets three contrasting poems for full choir. In both works the Heart of England Orchestra supported the choir with some fine accompaniments.

The rest was perhaps more intimate. Lizzie Ball with Gillian Bithel played Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, in a way the emotional heart of the evening. Then the choir, accompanied by Amanda Kornas, sang a group of arrangements by Richard of 20th century songs. These, I think, received their first performance at a summer concert two years ago and reminded everyone why music making for young and old in Bakewell had been such a joy, but on this occasion they were

touched with an added poignancy.

After the very tender moments in Smile, originally set to music by Charlie Chaplin, the audience was invited to join in Down Town, and did so with gusto and then reluctantly, though it had been quite a long evening, spilled out into the winter darkness consciousof what had gone out of their lives but full of hope for what was still possible and which one senses the society is determined to sustain.

A big thank you to Jon Weller for his splendid leadership and to all the Bakewell forces who rose so magnificently to the occasion. So see you at the next concert!