The arresting opening piece was Johann Michael’s lively motet for double choir, Fürchtet euch nicht, which deals with the shepherds’ part of the nativity story. Johann Ludwig’s Das ist meine Freude, a motet for eight voices, only survived because the great Bach copied it for use in his own church some years later. In this delightful work, the three sections are linked by common themes, which appear in different time signatures to spectacular effect.

After an unusual organ piece by Fischer, expertly played on the full organ by Nicholas Shaw, the first half concluded with Bach’s motet for double choir Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied. The Reading Bach Choir was in its element and communicated its love of the music with energy, poise and enthusiasm, under their talented and empathetic conductor JanJoost van Elburg.

While the Bachs were running church music in northern Germany, Domenico Scarlatti was similarly busy in Rome where he composed his best known choral piece, Stabat Mater, a substantial 10-voice setting of a 13th century poem about Mary’s grief at the cross. There were spine-chilling moments throughout this convincing performance not least in the stunning solos from soprano May Chiu and tenor, Nicholas Richards. Delightful accompaniments for the choral works were provided on the chamber organ by Nicholas Shaw, along with Henrik Persson on viola da gamba and Kate Aldridge on violone. The period instruments underpinned the choirs exceptionally well, with the whole sound melding together in a most satisfying richness and depth. This was an excellent evening from a choir that deserves Berkshire’s continuing gratitude and pride.

Catherine Side.

Reproduced with kind permission of the Newbury Weekly News.