Imagine yourself in a Baroque drawing room, candles flickering and the gathering enveloped in darkness, then fast forward almost three centuries. In July, three of our Cathedral musicians are planning to conjure up that early 18th century atmosphere once again, in three late night performances of J.S.Bach’s six French Suites, a series of European dances.
The concerts will take place after hours in the North Transept, lit by candlelight and played on the Cathedral’s Blüthner concert grand. In Bach’s day they would have been played on the harpsichord.
Performed by New Zealand-born Alistair Watson, who sings baritone with our Cathedral choir, the first concert takes place at 21.15 on Wednesday 18 July. Alistair is playing French Suite No 1 in D minor and French Suite No 2 in C minor as well as Bach’s Toccata in D major.
Both a singer and a pianist, Alistair has performed with the Dunedin Sinfonia and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, winning the National Piano Concerto Competition in 2000. He spent two years studying piano and singing at the Royal College of Music and performing with choirs in London and other Cathedrals before joining Salisbury Cathedral Choir in 2010.
The next evening's Late Night Bach concert is given by pianist Peter Grove, who performs the French Suite No 3 in B minor and French Suite No 4 in E flat major. A scientist and musician, Peter is a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, a keen chamber musician, an accompanist for choir rehearsals and students’ examinations, and a continuo player and percussionist in orchestras. His concert takes place on Thursday 19 July at 21.30.
The final Late Night Bach concert features David Halls, our Director of Music and an avowed Bach lover. Whilst struggling to squeeze rehearsal time into a busy schedule, which includes overseeing this year’s Southern Cathedrals Festival, David remains a passionate advocate of the Late Night Bach concerts:
“It is a completely different way to experience the Cathedral and Bach’s music. By night the building is transformed, becoming a more intimate space, and we bring the audience closer to the performer by using the North Transept. Bach is my favourite composer, so playing his work is a particular pleasure and performing his work by candlelight in such a lovely space is a privilege. The mood at these late night concerts is always very convivial too, with the Refectory providing cheese and wine before and after the concert.”
The Late Night Bach Concerts are generously sponsored by Leslie and Susan Baker and part of the special three-day programme of concerts, recitals and services that make up the annual Southern Cathedrals Festival (18 – 21 July). Nearly 100 choristers and twenty-four adult singers from the choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals are involved in the festival, with events taking place across three venues in the city: St Thomas’s Church, Salisbury Cathedral School and Salisbury Cathedral.
For the full programme and details check the Southern Cathedrals Festival website. Tickets can be purchased from Salisbury Playhouse online, in person or by calling 01722 320333. The Festival Box Office opens on Thursday 19 July at Ladywell, 33a The Close.