Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle at St Mark’s Dalston

“This Rossini is a real treasure – fabulous, uplifting, and it rolls and rolls on with one joyful moment after another”

“Hackney Singers connect to the emotions of the music. The drama and the standard of performance are a triumph”

The Hackney Singers made the impressive Victorian Gothic setting and acoustic of St Marks resound to powerful music. The 130-strong local community choir performed Rossini’s delightful Petite Messe Solennelle, conducted by Mark Shanahan, to a packed and delighted audience of over 500.

Scenes from the rehearsal earlier in the day (photos Imogen Radford)

Autumn Concert

St Mark’s Church

Sat 8th Nov 2007

Hackney Singers

Conductor Mark Shanahan

Soprano Linda Richardson

Mezzo Leah-Marian Jones

Tenor Dan Ludford-Thomas

Bass Simon Thorpe

Piano Andrew Storey

Harmonium Ben Saul

Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle

Rossini achieved both fame and fortune early in his career and “retired ” at the age of 37 having written nearly 40 operas.  He was later asked by a friend, Countess Louise Pillet-Will, to write a solemn mass for the consecration of a private chapel and scored the work for intimate forces – two pianos, harmonium, four soloists and small chorus.

The “Petite Messe Solennelle” was first performed in Passy near Paris in March 1864. At the end of the score he rather touchingly wrote: ‘Good Lord, there it is, finished, this poor little mass. I do not know if this music is sacred or sacrilegious (“musique sacrée’ or ‘sacrée musique”). I was born for comic opera as You well know. Little skill, some feeling and that’s all. Therefore let me sing Your praises and grant me your paradise. G. Rossini – Passy 1863.’ His description ‘little’ has stuck to the work so that it is customarily referred to as the ‘Petite’ Messe Solennelle, in spite of taking over 80 minutes to perform!

Edited version of programme note by Edinburgh Royal Choral Union. This note was supplied through the Programme Note Bank of Making Music, the National Federation of Music Societies.

Download the full programme text in 18pt type

The Audience

“It was lovely, and I especially enjoyed the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. It finished on a high.” Lucy Fincham

“It’s been a lovely evening, with fantastic voices, and it’s good to see this magnificent church full of people getting into it.” Revd Josh Zvimba

“It was lovely to hear how wonderful the choir sounds.” Margaret Peirce

“It was great to be part of such a large audience in a fine Hackney church.  The choir surpassed itself in some inspiring passages, and clearly enjoyed an excellent relationship with their conductor, pianist and harmonium player, as well as with the impressive soloists.” Oliver Williams

The Conductor

“The venue has a fine acoustic, and gives a real sheen to the sound. The piece is good for the choir. It takes a lot of a vocal stamina – there are two big fugues, and as there is no orchestra they really have to carry it off themselves. And they are living up to it magnificently.” Mark Shanahan, Conductor

The Performers

“It’s great to be back to perform with Hackney Singers again, and I am enjoying building up my rapport with the choir. They’ve grown in size and stature, and they carry off this intimate piece in this great venue. The Rossini has something for everyone – jolly moments and lovely passages.” Linda Richardson, soprano

“I am very excited to be doing this piece again – I last did it in 1992, and it’s great to work with Mark and the other soloists and the choir. I love the music.” Leah-Marian Jones, mezzo soprano

“I have worked with Mark before and it’s very nice to be here with the Hackney Singers. This Rossini is a real treasure – fabulous, uplifting, and it rolls and rolls on with one joyful moment after another.” Simon Thorpe, baritone

“The work plays to the strength of the chorus and the conductor. Hackney Singers always do well what the conductor demands, which is to connect to the emotions of the music. The drama and the standard of performance are a triumph.” Dan Ludford Thomas, tenor

“It just sounds fabulous. It’s great that the conductor can rehearse the music at a higher level as the choir is so confident. And it’s lovely for us all to work with these marvellous soloists.” Andrew Storey, pianist

“It’s a great ensemble performance – the soloists and the chorus sound absolutely great. They’re all going for it, and the choir is sailing through the fugues imperially”. Ben Saul, harmonium and piano