The audience arrived and left in falling snow and were seated amid soft candlelight in the beautiful Norman church so appropriate to this paean of praise to God.

The All-Night Vigil is a cappella choral composition of Russian Orthodox liturgy.It includes three styles of unaccompanied chant written for a four-part choir. Under the baton of their talented conductor, Matthew Hamilton, the choir handled the complex harmonies with great skill and sensitivity to the text. Even the notorious fifth movement was successfully accomplished by the low basses negotiating a descending scale culminating in a low B flat.

A highlight of the performance was Rachel Kershaw’s rich and beautifully controlled solo Bless The Lord,O My Soul. Her diction was immaculate aided, perhaps, by the fact that she studied Russian in school. The entire choir should also be complimented on their efforts with a very difficult language whilst maintaining a naturalness of performance.This was particularly evident in the textures and use of voices in the Six Psalms, a delightful rendition full of the sound of bells.

When Rachmaninov premiered his work in 1915 it was warmly received by critics and audiences alike. Reading Bach Choir upheld this response in providing a memorable Vespers.

Lynn Ellis

Henley Standard, Feb 10 2012