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Wincanton Choral Society will perform Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle on Sunday 15th May

Friday 13 May 2022, 12:57
By Ben Critchley

Wincanton Choral Society banner for their performance of Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle

Wincanton Choral Society will be performing Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle in Wincanton Parish Church of St. Peter & St. Paul (BA9 9JN) on Sunday 15th May 2022 at 7:30pm.

Oh dear, 'solemn little mass', the literal translation of 'Petite Messe Solennelle', doesn't sound likely to provide a great evening out! Nothing could be further from the truth! Zesty and energetic are the two words that spring to mind when asked to characterise the music. There's an extraordinary range of musical form and feeling, from deliciously catchy tunes and bewitching heavenly harmonisations to a sort of inchoate vocal grumbling that reminds one of Ligeti's Lux Aeterna, via several fugues that Bach wouldn't be ashamed of - and will be causing the choir some headaches nearer the time! And as befits Rossini the renowned 'farceur', an urbane sophistication as well as evidently deeply-felt religious feeling.

So the work has become core repertoire for choral societies for good reason. One of which is NOT that it guarantees a good night's sleep! Rossini could afford to be self-deprecating by this late stage in his life having basically retired on the proceeds of the 39 operas composed in his youth - among them The Barber of Seville, William Tell (yes, the Overture!). The epithet 'solennelle' only indicates that it contains the full text of the High Mass, so it’s certainly not 'petite', and indeed, at about 1hr 20 mins running time, is the only work in the night’s programme.

Wincanton Choral Society poster for their performance of Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle

WCS continue their return to full-scale performances after several years' forced absence, building on a very successful pre-Christmas afternoon concert also in the Parish Church. At a current strength of just 40-odd singers they are still well above the '12 cherubim' Rossini specified for the original performance - and that included the four soloists - but still below their pre-pandemic numbers. But what they lack in numbers they make up for in a celebratory delight at being able to sing together again, a sentiment expertly nurtured and channelled by their charismatic director Katrine Reimers, and they can be counted on to do full justice to the score's electrifyingly abrupt changes from pppp to ffff in the space of one bar!

They are joined by four professional vocal soloists - soprano Stephanie Bodsworth, alto Olivia Ray tenor Matthew Keighley, bass Philip Smith - all of whom regular WCS concert-goers should recognise from past performances. WCS’s regular accompanist Jacquelyn Bevan plays the piano. The intriguing instrument on the WCS poster is a late 19th century harmonium of the sort that would have provided the sustained backing notes at the first salon performance in 1864. Since a very adequate church organ is available for WCS's performance, that's what Peter King will be playing for WCS.

Rossini wrote at the end of the autograph score "Est-ce bien de la musique sacrée que je viens de faire ou de la sacrée musique?" ('Have I just composed sacred music or just damn good music?'). The answer is evidently both!

Tickets £12.50 (under-18s £6) on the door, via a member, and at For more information see or ring Ben on 07813 680534.


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