The Glory of Bach at Christmas

For our Christmas concert this year, on 16 December at the beautiful church in Lavenham, we are performing four parts (I, II, III and VI) of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. We will be joined by the period instruments of the Suffolk Baroque Players and four outstanding soloists: soprano Fae Evelyn, mezzo-soprano Valerie Reid, tenor Anthony Gregory and baritone Tom Asher.

The Christmas Oratorio is a joyful experience, the perfect way to begin the celebration of Christmas. Bach designed the six parts (or cantatas) of the Christmas Oratorio to be performed at specific church services in Leipzig during the Christmas and New Year period of 1734/5. The work follows the familiar Christmas story in a glorious sequence of chorales, arias and powerful choruses.

Part I, for the first day of Christmas, relates Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, and the joy of the birth of Jesus. Part II, for the second day of Christmas, tells of the angels’ announcement to the shepherds of the birth of Christ. Part III, for the third day of Christmas, describes the shepherds’ journey to see the baby Jesus and their adoration and wonder.

Part VI, for the Feast of the Epiphany, depicts Herod’s commanding the Magi to search for the baby and tell him where he is, the Magi’s journey by following the star, their presentation of gifts to Jesus, and God’s commandment that they should go home another way and not return to Herod. The work concludes with a triumphant chorale: ‘Death, devil, sin and hell have utterly lost their sting, and mankind has its place beside its God and King’.

Music Director Philip Reed observes: ‘The Christmas Oratorio, composed after both the surviving Passions and the principal cycles of church cantatas, is one of Bach’s most uplifting choral pieces, with some of the most colourful orchestration Bach ever used. A trio of trumpets and timpani provide much of the brilliance and celebration, to which Bach adds pairs of flutes and oboes to the basic string band. In Part II, he can’t resist the rustic charm of a quartet of oboes and oboes da caccia to depict the shepherds. The arias and choruses range from the tender to the majestic. It’s a superb piece which will suit the special surroundings and fine acoustic of Lavenham Church. Bach and Christmas: they were made for each other.’

The concert will begin at 7.00pm and finish at about 9.20pm.

To find out about joining the choir or to get tickets for this concert visit


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