Dr James Eastham – End of an Era (April 2010)
It was with great sadness that we learnt of the sudden death on 14th April 2010 of our conductor Emeritus, Dr James Eastham. Although James had battled with prostate cancer for many years he had never ceased leading his musical life to the full and indeed was due to conduct Belshazzar’s Feast with Salford Choral Society this coming May. James, who was 79, had had a varied and colourful musical career, ranging from teaching at the university of Rhodesia and other universities and music departments in the UK, to playing French horn with the Liverpool Philharmonic and a number of London orchestras. In his later working life he was senior lecturer at the RNCM, where he was able to court the best young talent for our concerts. With such broad experience, he was much respected by both singers and players with whom he brought the concert platform in the Northwest to life over more than 35 years. Who could forget such spectacular performances of the Sea Symphony, La Grande Messe des Morts and the Verdi Requiem, to name just a few? These were all huge joint ventures with other choirs who benefited immensely from his courageous and innovative musical initiatives. He will be sorely missed by both audience and performers alike and with his passing an important and impressive era of music making has sadly come to an end.
Blackburn goes to Bolton (March 2010)
On 27th March, the choir went to Bolton’s Victoria Hall to join forces with Bolton Choral Union for a spectacular performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. This was a first collaboration, which, to judge from the reaction of the audience, was much appreciated. An added attraction was undoubtedly the exciting new arrangement of the work for brass band, interpreted with great aplomb by our very own Blackburn and Darwen Band. The work was supplemented by an equally well received number of solo items by the band and choral arrangements of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables under the baton of Bolton conductor, Michael Greenhalgh. The turnout was most encouraging, and the chance to sing in such a lovely hall was much appreciated by us all.
Messiah in the Snow (December 2009)
On 19th December, the choir gave a great performance of Handel’s Messiah in the traditional surroundings of Blackburn Cathedral. There was a good turnout, despite snowy weather, for some of the best playing ever by the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra. In particular, the soprano soloist more than made up for the fact that last year she was unable to perform for us by giving a magnificent performance of this most popular oratorio.
Belshazzar at the Bridgewater (November 2009)
The Autumn of 2009 was marked by a ground breaking collaboration with the Bolton Symphony Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall. Members were thrilled to take part in Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with polyphonic orchestra placed all over that fantastic auditorium. The inclusion of Peter Donohoe playing the Bliss piano concerto was a master stroke and the programme was given a definite thumbs up by a most enthusiastic audience.
Wake up! Bach’s Back in Fashion! (November 2008)
The choir held it’s autumn concert for 2008 on 15th November in the Cathedral; an appropriate venue for music of a sacred nature. The first half consisted of the Schubert Mass in G, Mozart’s Ave Verum and Laudate Dominum and a delightful piece for the organ by Bach played with great aplomb by our conductor James Davy. The highlight of the evening however, was undoubtedly the well known and much loved cantata by J.S. Bach “Wachet Auf” or “Sleepers Wake”, the main tune from which features in the TV advert for a certain high street bank. The choir was thrilled to have not just sensational soloists, but also the company of a dozen or so youngsters from the Cathedral choirs who really added to the evening both visually in their vermillion outfits and vocally, as their young voices soared effortlessly up into the ether. We look forward to a similar collaboration in the near future.
Brahms in House (April 2008)
The choir was accompanied in its performance of the Brahms German Requiem in April 2008 at Westholme Theatre by its very own, fantastically talented and versatile Joy Fielding, ably supported by the up-and-coming Daniel Holden. Not only did she play all the Brahms with great aplomb, but sensitively accompanied the two soloists in their prior rendition of a number of german Lieder. Her flying fingers are a sight to behold. How does she do it?
History Repeats Itself
After a break of over 40 years the Choir is to get together in April with its erstwhile “better half”, for one concert at least! As the name implies, Blackburn Music Society was from its inception in the 1930s more than just a choir. It boasted its very own orchestra. For reasons now buried in the past, the two halves decided to go their separate ways, with the orchestra setting up first as the Blackburn Symphonia then establishing itself more recently as the Blackburn Symphony Orchestra, a title which more fully reflects its growing success and prestige. History will repeat itself when the two halves come together again in the Cathedral for what will surely be a ground breaking performance of the Mozart Requiem, and the beautiful, but rarely heard “Lauda Sion” by Mendelssohn.