Birmingham choir celebrates centenary with historic cathedral gala

Lichfield date marks one hundred years of Bach in the city.

Birmingham Bach Choir celebrate its 100th birthday with a special Centenary Gala Concert at Lichfield Cathedral on Saturday 16th November.

Returning to the cathedral for the first time since 2017 – when they performed JS Bach’s St Mark Passion, a ‘lost’ work by the 18th century composer – the historic occasion sees the choir look back to their founding inspiration with JS Bach’s three-movement motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied.

Also on the programme are Handel’s baroque setting of Psalm 110 Dixit Dominus (“The Lord Said…”), and Haydn’s Nelson Mass. Originally titled Mass For Troubled Times, the work became forever associated with British war hero Lord Nelson after he spectacularly defeated Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 – just before Handel’s piece premiered.

Discussing the programme, the choir’s Conductor Paul Spicer said: “A centenary concert is a very special occasion and in the midst of all sorts of different and challenging programmes that the Birmingham Bach Choir is currently undertaking, it seemed essential to go back to our core and sing Bach and Handel, with Haydn’s extraordinary Nelson Mass.”

Choir Chairman Philip Bellshaw added: “It’s an extraordinary feat for an organisation such as ours to celebrate 100 years. The choir has such a rich history and continues to play a hugely important cultural role in the region. Whilst this concert gives us the opportunity to reflect on our roots, it also allows us to look ahead, and consider the future too. As a result, this gala is very much a bridge to future programmes – more of which we’ll be revealing over the coming months.”

Joining the choir are the baroque-style Musical and Amicable Society (which regularly performs with the choir) and four outstanding soloists: Australian soprano Anita Watson (who is also touring The Marriage of Figaro and Carmen with Welsh National Opera); Welsh alto Samantha Price; Scottish tenor Mark Wilde; and Felix Kemp (bass), who recently debuted with Royal Opera.

Birmingham Bach Choir’s origins date back to autumn 1919 and the formation of the Birmingham Bach Society by musicologist Bernard Jackson. Name changes in 1929 and 1947 saw the choir become Birmingham Bach Club and then Birmingham Bach Society.

Conductor and Director of Music Richard Butt’s arrival in 1966 resulted in a broadening of repertoire, major festival appearances and various commissions. With Richard retiring in 1992, choral conductor, teacher, author and composer Paul Spicer took the helm, changing the name to Birmingham Bach Choir.

During his long directorship of the choir, Paul has expanded the repertoire further, as well as overseeing further major commissions and new works – including his own Easter Oratorio (2005) and the major choral symphony, Unfinished Remembering (2014), written to commemorate the start of the First World War.

Birmingham Bach Choir: Gala Concert – Celebrating 100 Years is at Lichfield Cathedral, Lichfield, Staffordshire, on Saturday 16 November 2019. For more information and tickets, see