Mass in B minor - J.S.Bach with the Merbecke Choir and Belsize Baroque

  • Venue


  • Time

    7:30 PM

  • Price

    £8.00 - £20.00

  • Book Tickets

Join us this Advent for the annual Merbecke Choir concert along with the Belsize Baroque and professional soloists

One of the Baroque period's most celebrated choral masterpieces, this Mass was Bach's last major work before he died.Bach composed his Mass in B minor around 1748–49, a year before his death in 1750. Despite its sheer scale and grandeur, Bach didn't even give the work a name, and exists only as a collection of itinerant manuscripts. Bach never heard the Mass performed in its entirety; in fact, it was not until 1859, more than a century after Bach died, that the entire work was performed at a single sitting.

This concert will be preceded at 7pm by a talk by Mark Seow who is a violinist, musicologist, writer, and broadcaster. Mark will discuss this choral masterpiece before the concert starts at 7.30pm.

The doors will open at 6.30pm.

Orchestra: Belsize Baroque

Soloists - Cecilia Osmond, Carris Jones, Mark Dobell and Jonathan Brown.

Conductor - Emily Elias

The Merbecke Choir is a group of around 25-30 singers who sing a wide range of music to a high standard. The choir is mostly made up of people in their twenties and thirties, who meet to rehearse every Tuesday during term time. It is a regular contributor to the liturgy at Southwark Cathedral, notably at the monthly service of Compline and Eucharistic Devotions. It also performs regular concerts, usually one a term, has toured abroad and in the UK and has released a CD, Under the Shadow of Thy Wings.

In 2003, Southwark Cathedral founded the Merbecke Choir to be a place for boys and girls who left the Cathedral Choirs to explore a wide range of repertoire under expert tuition. The choir has grown since then and has a broad mix of ages and backgrounds, though former Cathedral choristers remain very welcome.

The choir is a staunch supporter of new music, having commissioned several new works, as well as being adept in the performance of Renaissance polyphony. They have performed for HRH Princess Alexandra, the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and contributed to Her Majesty, the Queen’s, Christmas Broadcast recorded at Southwark Cathedral in 2006.

The choir’s current director of music is Emily Elias.

The Choir is named after the Tudor composer, John Merbecke (1510-1585), who composed one of the most popular settings of the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service. Merbecke with three other companions was tried for heresy in 1543 in the Retrochoir at Southwark, which was used for this purpose at the time. He was found guilty and condemned to be burned at the stake. However, his sentence was commuted by Bishop Stephen Gardiner, the then Bishop of Winchester, who decided that as a mere musician Merbecke ‘knew no better‘ and so was released to continue his music making.

Formed in 2002, Belsize Baroque is a leading amateur baroque orchestra. It comprises young professionals, students, and accomplished amateur baroque players. The orchestra performs on period instruments in an historically informed style. It collaborates regularly with leading baroque directors to give orchestral performances, and performs baroque and classical works with choral groups.

The orchestra showcases the abilities of talented college students and young professional musicians, providing these players with the opportunity to perform with top directors and an experienced baroque orchestra. It runs an annual scholarship programme.

Since studying at the University of Cambridge and Royal Academy of Music, Mark Seow leads a busy freelancing career across Europe.

Highlights include performing with Masaaki Suzuki in Lincoln Center NYC, John Eliot Gardiner in France, Robert Levin in Oregon, Rachel Podger at the Wigmore Hall, John Butt in Edinburgh, Trevor Pinnock in Scotland, Chineke! at the Royal Festival Hall, and with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in the Royal Albert Hall and a pub.

Festival appearances include Aldeburgh Festival, BBC Proms, City of London Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Bath Mozartfest, London Handel Festival, Glyndebourne, Snape Proms, New Music Biennial (UK); Leipzig Bachfest, Göttingen Handel Festival (Germany); Les Musicales de Normandie, Festival Mozart Maximum, Festival Berlioz (France); Oregon Bach Festival, Boston Early Music Festival (USA); Salzburg Festival, Haydn Eisenstadt Festival (Austria); Tivoli Festival (Denmark); Trondheim Barokkfest (Norway). Since his solo debut on BBC Radio 3 in 2014, Mark has recorded for Signum Classics, EMI Classics, Elgar Editions, and Label Aparté.

Mark is a broadcaster for BBC Radio 3, mostly as presenter of The Early Music News. He made his presenting debut with ‘On Bach’s Farm’ for The Early Music Show, and has since appeared on Record Review and as a guest musicologist for the televised BBC Proms. Mark was a consultant for Decca Classics, working on campaigns for Vladimir Ashkenazy, Cecilia Bartoli, and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. He worked as an editorial apprentice for the late Christopher Hogwood on the Bärenreiter Urtext edition of Brahms Op.18. Mark writes for Harmonica Mundi, Linn Records, Channel Classics Records, Delphian Records, Warner Classics, Challenge Records, and Early Music America magazine. He is a critic and writer for Gramophone.