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Choir Celebrates Conductor’s 50th Anniversary
Anthony D Ford
On Saturday, 30th March, Anthony D Ford will do what he has done many times over the past half century.

He will don black tie and tails, pick up a clutch of orchestral scores and head off to conduct the Hull Bach Choir as they perform another of their concerts of baroque or classical music in a church or concert hall in or near Hull.

But this year’s Spring Concert will be special. This time, when Tony climbs onto the podium to face the choir and the Hull Bach Orchestra, it will be fifty years to the day since he first did so in March 1969.

Why does he, and why do the choir members, do it?

The audience is likely to be disappointingly small.

The music they perform is distinctly, well, dated, mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries, by the likes of Monteverdi, Bach (of course), Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and so on.

When Tony began his career, concerts such as these would play to packed churches and cathedrals or vast Victorian concert halls such as Hull’s City Hall.

But fashions change. The crowds no longer flock.

Even the local council has given up on choirs such as this as relics of a bygone age, preferring to give its arts funding to community choirs who will jig and sway and wave their arms, and sing songs from the shows in colourful dresses.

But ask the members of this choir, and they’ll leave you in no doubt. The music is worth it.

Shakespeare doesn’t go out of fashion.

Michelangelo and Rembrandt are not old-hat.

And neither is Johann Sebastian Bach!

Yes the music is complex. Yes it’s often long. It’s demanding. Very. But that’s the attraction. You get lost in it, carried along by it.

And the interplay of counterpoint and harmony, solemn slow passages followed by insanely fast bits, sudden shifts in tonality and, especially, unexpected weird dissonances that are then magically resolved, bend the brains of performers and listeners in ways that nothing else can.

The venue this time will the choir’s ‘home’ territory of Trinity Methodist Church on Cottingham Road, a stone’s throw from the University of Hull where Tony was senior lecturer in music for over 30 years until his retirement in 1999.

He was appointed Conductor of the Hull Bach Choir in March 1969. Under his guidance the choir has performed over 100 major works, including all of Bach’s major choral works, most of Handel’s oratorios, Purcell’s major odes and theatre music, and many of the choral works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

The choir has also given the first performances in Hull of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and 1650 and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms.

The choir members greatly value Tony’s devotion to the choir and his expertise. John, a bass who has been a member for ten years, told me he had come late to both classical music and choral singing, but that he had experienced and enjoyed so much under Tony’s direction.

“Sometimes he is critical - and needs to be – but he is always appreciative of the efforts and quality of the choir, which is largely down to his skill in bringing out the best from people who love the music and benefit from what he hands down through his vast musical knowledge.”

The article was written by Mike Kirby. Photos are by Mike Kirby.

The programme on March 30 will consist of Masses by Hummel and Schubert.
It starts at 7.30 pm.

Full details can be found on the choir’s website at www. hullbachchoir.org.uk

Choir Celebrates Conductor’s 50th Anniversary, 9th March 2019, 15:04 PM