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The Newcastle upon Tyne Bach Choir

Category: Other Choirs
Voicing: Mixed
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom

The Newcastle upon Tyne Bach Choir was founded in 1915 by W.G. Whittaker, the musicologist, Bach scholar, folksong collector, composer, choral arranger and conductor. He gathered a group of 24 singers to study and perform the cantatas of J.S. Bach which were almost totally unknown at the time.

Whittaker was a personal friend of many British composers, particularly Holst and Vaughan Williams, and championed their music, giving many ‘first performances outside London’. In 1924, the choir sang William Byrd’s ‘Great Service’ in St Margaret’s Westminster, the first time it had been heard in public since the 16th century.

These enthusiasms still figure largely in the choir’s repertoire, making due allowance for a much larger membership. Three major concerts are given annually; one of works by Bach, one of British music, the third a contrasting programme. There may also be additional events at Christmas, and recently the choir has sung in Middlesbrough Cathedral, Fountains Abbey, on Holy Island and in Alnwick for Voices for Hospices and at The Sage Gateshead.

Throughout its history, the Newcastle Bach Choir has been based in the Music Department of what is now Newcastle University. Dr Eric Cross is the latest in a succession of distinguished Artistic Directors. Vaughan Williams, Edmund Rubbra and Denis Matthews have all been Presidents of the choir, a position currently held by Sir Thomas Allen, the internationally-acclaimed baritone.