120th Season: Programmes and Reviews (2023-2024)

Saturday 20th April 2024 at 7 p.m.
Marktkirche, Wiesbaden, Germany

Purcell, Henry
Chaconne for strings

George Frideric Handel
Coronation Anthems: Let Thy Hand be Strengthened, HWV259; Zadok the Priest, HWV258.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Mass in C major, op.86

Conductor: Ulrich Backofen
Soprano: Eleonore Marguerre
Mezzo Soprano: Judita Nagyová
Tenor: Stephen Charles Sy
Bass: Ralf Lukas

Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society
Frankfurter Sinfoniker

After the choir’s concert in the Assembly Hall Theatre on 14th April 2024, around fifty members of the choir travelled to Wiesbaden – a twin town of Royal Tunbridge Wells – to repeat most of the programme. Starting Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th the conductor Ulrich Backofen, who had come across specially from Wiesbaden, took two further intensive rehearsals.

On Thursday morning 18th April the choir set off for Wiesbaden in the state of Hesse, Germany, near to Frankfurt am Main. The majority travelled by coach – leaving at 06.30 – and ferry. A small number chose instead to fly or to take trains. On Thursday evening some Wiesbaden members of the twinning association circulated among the arrivals, to welcome us to the city.

Friday’s official programme began with a visit to the Stadtschloss Wiesbaden (the Wiesbaden City Hall) – the seat of the state government. We were welcomed by the President – effectively the Speaker of the Parliament – with a plentiful breakfast for those who had not already breakfasted at the hotel. After that, split into two groups we were shown around the modern parliament building and a couple of rooms of the original building, much of which is under conservation work.

Hardier souls were led on a guided walk around the city centre in the rain which was fairly persistent that day.

In the afternoon everybody piled onto the coach to go to the southern borough of Biebrich where a hall – the Bürgersaal – had been booked for rehearsals with orchestra and soloists from 14:30 to 17:30, and then another from 18:30 to 21:30. To the relief of many, we were allowed away an hour earlier from the second rehearsal, which allowed us to get to the hotel bar and restaurant before they closed.

On Saturday after breakfast everyone was free for the morning and early afternoon, then at 15:00 we visited the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) where we were welcomed by the Lord Mayor and treated to some of the most excellent local sparkling wine.

At 17:00 there was a ‘warm-up’ in the Marktkirche for choir, orchestra and soloists . This was an opportunity for our conductor to judge the balance in what would be an unusually lively acoustic for our choir.

The hour of 19:00 arrived and we filed to our places and took our seats along with the orchestra while a ten minute peal of bells took place above us.

The programme began with a Chaconne for strings by Henry Purcell. [Subsequent investigation reveals this to have been Purcell’s Chacony Z730 in an arrangement for string orchestra – presumably, though not so credited, the arrangement by Benjamin Britten.] Two short speeches of welcome then took place from the Mayor of Wiesbaden and the British Consul-General, who is based in Düsseldorf.

The remainder of the programme followed with two of the Coronation anthems, and then the Beethoven C major mass. This concert was originally planned to take place in 2020 to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven but then Covid19 intervened and our world turned temporarily upside down. It is with great thanks that our conductor Herr Ulrich Backofen persisted with his intention to make this concert happen.

Once the applause – a standing ovation – had died down we made our way just next door to the Ratskeller restaurant in the basement of the Neues Rathaus that we had visited earlier. A menu had been circulated to those travelling well in advance for choices to be registered, and the restaurant coped fairly well with a sudden influx of 50 extra diners.

Sunday brought another early start for the majority who were travelling by coach. The hotel agreed to start breakfast at 06:30, half an hour earlier than normal for a Sunday, so that the coach would be ready to depart at 07.15 rather than the originally planned 08:00. With less traffic around Brussels than on the outward trip, the coach was back in Tunbridge Wells around 18:30.

Summary by Antony Gordon

A small selection of photos from the performance can be seen in the Gallery.

Sunday 14th April 2024 at 3 p.m.
The Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

George Frideric Handel
Coronation Anthems (HWV 258-261): Zadok the Priest, Let Thy Hand be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice, My Heart is Inditing

Ludwig van Beethoven
Mass in C major, op.86

Conductor: Robyn Sevastos
Soprano: Kristy Swift
Mezzo Soprano: Helen Stanley
Tenor: Stephen Anthony Brown
Bass: Peter Grevatt

Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society
RTWCS Orchestra

The choir repeated this concert in our Twin Town, the City of Wiesbaden in Germany, on the following weekend.

Sunday 19th November 2023 – Assembly Hall Theatre Tunbridge Wells

Maurice Duruflé: Requiem, op.9
Gabriel Fauré: Requiem, op.48

Conductor: Robyn Sevastos
Soprano: Rebecca Mitchell
Baritone: Robbie Haylett
Organ: Craig Hudson
Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society and Orchestra

Performances with organ and strings

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