Birmingham Bach Choir: Great Russian Sacred Music

Great Russian Sacred Music– Landmark concert featuring rarely performed works 

Birmingham Bach Choir launch their 2016/ 2017 season with a unique performance of sacred Russian music (19 November, Birmingham Cathedral).

Conforming to the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church, the works are performed without musical instrumentation, and while much of the music is reflective, it’s also incredibly passionate, often rising to huge climaxes which engulf the listener.

Deep bass parts rarely heard in Western and European sacred music is another distinctive feature.

The concert features rarely performed works by leading late-19th century/ early-20th century composers including Sergei Rachmaninov (The Ever Vigilant Mother of God, Ave Maria), romantic composer Alexander Gretchaninov (It Is Truly Meet), Sergei Prokofiev (Many Years), and three pieces by Pavel Chesnokov, who composed over 500 choral works.

Others represented include Nikolai Golovanov, Alexander Kastalsky, Anton Viskov (the only living composer selected), and 18th century Ukrainian composer Maxim Berezovsky. Many of Berezovsky’s works have been lost, but of those that survive, Do Not Reject Me, a setting of Psalm 71, displays a subtle Italian influence.

The choir’s conductor, Paul Spicer, said: “This music represents a unique contribution to choral music around the world. The sheer sonority of these composers’ sound worlds is something which marks it out as being so special. The incredibly low bass parts, the rich textures, the variety they achieve within the framework of unaccompanied music is remarkable.

“It is also good to perform a whole programme of music which is mostly unfamiliar. Normally choirs go for Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil (the ‘Vespers’), but it is really exciting to explore a whole series of composers’ works where even their names are not well-known.

“This will be something of a landmark concert for us.”

Accompanying the choral programme will be several rare examples of Russian organ music, played by Martin Rawles.

Birmingham Bach Choir: Great Russian Sacred Music takes place on Saturday 19 November 2016 at St Philip’s, Birmingham Cathedral. Tickets are £8-£15, available from:


Saturday 19 November 2016
Birmingham Bach Choir: Great Russian Sacred Music
Birmingham Cathedral, Colmore Row, Birmingham B3 2QB
Tickets: Nave £15 (£12.50 concessions); South Gallery £8 (limited view)

  • Pavel Chesnokov: Blessed is the man/ Cherubic Hymn/ The Great Doxology
  • Maxim Berezovsky: Do not reject me
  • Alexander Grechaninov: It is truly meet
  • Alexander Kastalsky: The Great Doxology
  • Sergei Rachmaninov: The ever-vigilant Mother of God/ Ave Maria
  • Anton Viskov: Rejoice, Nicholas, great miracle-worker
  • Alfred Schnittke: Our Father
  • Sergei Prokofiev: Many years 1/ Many years 2
  • Nikolai Golovanov: Our Father

Birmingham Bach Choir
Martyn Rawles: organ
Paul Spicer: conductor



As one of the UK’s leading large chamber choirs Birmingham Bach Choir has been contributing to the musical life of the West Midlands since 1919, making it one of the longest established musical groups in the area. Although the main focus is the Baroque period (especially JS Bach), the choir performs music spanning over 300 years including 20th and 21st century works.

A huge degree of dynamic subtlety… exhilarating… a wonderful evening.”  5-stars – Birmingham Post (reviewing Magnificat at Birmingham Cathedral, March 2015).

The real deal…” 4-stars – Birmingham Post (reviewing A Shakespearean Concert, June 2016)

Forthcoming concerts include JS Bach’s St Mark Passion (11 March 2017, Lichfield Cathedral, Staffs), and a programme of work featuring French composers (17 June 2017, Pershore Abbey, Worcs; 24 June 2017, St Philip’s Birmingham Cathedral).

For more information see:

Read more: Conductor Paul Spicer talks to What’s On about the concert …

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