Bristol Choral Society

'This was really a performance to treasure'

Paul Corfield Godfrey
Seen and Heard International

News and reviews

Five stars for Mendelssohn and Mozart concert, March 2017

Music making of the highest order was on offer when Bristol Choral Society presented a hugely enjoyable and accessible programme at the Colston Hall.

Whilst Mozart’s Great Mass was the main work of the evening, the programme included a fine performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with soloist Julia Hwang. A former pupil at Clifton College and now student at Cambridge, Julia’s playing was both technically assured and polished. Much of her playing displayed an intensity of musicianship – adopting a tempo for the first movement, in particular, which allowed the music to ‘unpack’ itself in an unhurried manner, whilst allowing dramatic moulding of the cadenza.

Julia was superbly supported by the Bristol Ensemble who, under excellent leader Roger Huckle, played with unfailing sensitivity.

The choir came into their own with the evening’s opening piece – Mendelssohn’s ‘Hear My Prayer’, with soloist Lucy De Butts singing the famous concluding part (‘O for the Wings of a Dove’) so often sung by a boy treble. The soloist’s impassioned pleas were more than matched by the excellent singing and dramatic contrasts of the choir.

Under their new conductor, Hilary Campbell, the Choral Society seems to have found a new ‘voice’. Their singing is committed and inspired, and projected with a sense of purpose and clarity which is utterly compelling and absorbing. Their control of dynamics is outstanding and the warmth of their tone quite beguiling.

***** Martin Firth, Bristol Post

Come and Sing 2017

Our recent come and sing, Hilary’s first such event in Bristol, was a sell out and was fun and hugely inspiring to those that attended. Feel the Spirit by John Rutter allowed Hilary, in true charismatic style, to work with everyone in a myriad of ways to achieve vocal effects to match the character of the pieces. Mezzo Soprano soloist Jo Weeks added much to the day with both her inspired singing and advice on singing technique. Steve Kings, our assistant musical director provided his usual excellent accompaniment.

Belshazzar’s Feast, 26 November 2016

Belshazzar’s Feast was a triumph! The audience reaction said it all. And no wonder. The work is so
exciting and percussive, with the Choir and the Philharmonia Orchestra superbly rising to the
occasion. David Soar narrated with passion and the offstage trumpets and trombones added to the

What a send-off for Adrian Partington – his last concert with the Bristol Choral Society. The choir
celebrated afterwards with him, presenting him with a book of his time with them, including
reference to many of his memorable bon mots!

Listen to the choir

Our performance of Rachmaninov’s Vespers in June 2016 was professionally recorded.
Click the play button to listen to ‘Bogoroditse devo’.

Hilary’s first rehearsal with the choir

It cannot be easy to step into the shoes of our highly esteemed and distinguished former artistic director of 16 years, Adrian Partington. However, if our newly appointed artistic director, 31 year old Hilary Campbell, harboured any nerves, she certainly did not reveal them at her first rehearsal with us on 13 April 2016. With an easy assurance which belied that fact that we don’t yet know each other, she led us through the first movements of Rachmaninov’s Vespers (aka All Night Vigil) in a rehearsal characterised by charm, humour and pinpoint focus upon the intricacies of this sublime music.

As we have twice before performed the Vespers, most recently in 2009, we have a head start and were able to start working upon the work’s subtlties almost immediately. A former professional singer turned conductor, it is clear that Hilary has an ear finely attuned to its beautiful, rich textures and colours, and knows exactly what she wants of us.

The Vespers are a compilation of 3rd century Ukrainian chants adapted by Rachmaninov, “znamenny chant” (an ancient Russian system of non-western musical notations) and “conscious counterfeits”: melodies that Rachmaninov composed to sound like chant, and based upon authentic Russian chant melodies.

Exhorting us to listen attentively to each other at all times, and particularly to the basses, the foundation upon whom all the other harmonies are built, Hilary paid great attention to the role that each voice part has in both balancing and highlighting the harmonies. With her ear for detail, it’s clear that this performance is going to be one in which the rich colour and glorious complexity of Rachmaninov’s composition will be fully realised. I can’t wait for the concert!


In March 2016 Bristol Choral Society joined the Call Me Al Quintet and pupils from more than 10 Bristol schools in a performance of Alexander L’Estrange’s Ahoy!

Bristol Choral Society Education and Outreach worked on this project in partnership with Bristol Sings Music and Orchard School Bristol. This performance launched the ‘With One Voice’ project involving Orchard School and its feeder Primary Schools.

Photos and video clips from the fantastic evening can be viewed on Orchard School’s Flickr feed.

March 2016


Bach: St Matthew Passion

‘From this dramatic opening to the sad farewell, the chorus were in fine form with the chorales producing some outstanding singing, the last one being particularly moving.’

John Packwood
BRISTOL POST (not published online)

Sea Symphony: Philharmonia Orchestra concert reviews

Bristol Choral Society was honoured to have been invited by the Philharmonia Orchestra to join them in three performances of Vaughan Williams’ magnificant Sea Symphony in January and February 2016. We were joined by Gloucester Choral Society in Basingstoke, London and Cardiff, and the programme also included Vaughan Williams’ overture The Wasps and the Clarinet Concerto by Finzi.

Please click through to read reviews of the Royal Festival Hall performance by Bachtrack, The Arts Desk and the Evening Standard, and the Cardiff performance by Seen and Heard International.

HC1Bristol Choral Society appoints Hilary Campbell as its new Musical Director

We are delighted to annouce the appointment of Hilary Campbell as our new Musical Director. Adrian Partington will be standing down after sixteen years with the choir, as Hilary joins us in April 2016.

Having studied at York University followed by Trinity College and the Royal Academy of Music, Hilary has previously worked with choirs throughout London and the South East including her own professional chamber choir Blossom Street. She also sits on the board of the Voices of London festival, and is starting to do regular work with the BBC Symphony Chorus.

Please read the press release if you want to know more.

October 2015

Verdi Requiem


The British Sinfonietta and Bristol Choral Society produced a sensitively balanced sound under their musical director Adrian Partington. For the chorus the piece must be a huge pleasure to sing – from the ethereal moments of the opening whispered verses of the requiem text to the thunderousle apocalyptic Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) and Tuba Mirum (Hark the Trumpet).

Sadly, Adrian will soon be leaving the choir but, if he wanted to go out with a bang, the fortissimo strikes on the bass drum in the Dies Irae provided the perfect occasion.

Pete Taberner
BRISTOL POST (not published online)

VEday2V E Day 2015

As part of the BCS Outreach programme, BCS were asked if a group of singers could be involved in a community project based at Orchard School Bristol, to celebrate V E Day with a wide range of people from the local community. The idea was to get both young and old together to celebrate and to understand what it was like in Bristol actually on V E Day in 1945. BCS singers were invited to be involved to help lead singing for a communal sing song.
Student groups from Infant Schools to Secondary schools sang, danced and read poetry before a rousing rendition of war time songs sung by all.
There was a splendid tea provided by Orchard School students, during which young and old chatted together before the cutting of a very special V E Day cake.

VEday5  VEday3 VEday6

December 2014


Handel Messiah

On 20 December 2014 Bristol Choral Society gave their annual evening performance of Handel’s Messiah, preceded in the afternoon by the family-friendly and now hugely popular ‘Mini Messiah’ concert.

‘The chorus was once again in brilliant form showing complete control with the contrasting dynamics…’

‘As is now the tradition the complete work is sung from memory and it was pleasing to see that the soloists followed suit.’

John Packwood
Bristol Evening Post
» Read the full text at Bristol Evening Post

November 2014


Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius

On 29 November 2014 Bristol Choral Society welcomed the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and soloists Mark Padmore (tenor), Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano) and David Stout (baritone) for a performance of Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.

‘…the choir and its director Adrian Partington presented a passionate and sensitive interpretation of Elgar’s crowning choral work’

Rosie Pentreath
» Read the full text at

Picture gallery from our 125th anniversary

Ready to sing!

The singers are assembled in Colston Hall: Ready to sing!

BCS's Musical Director Adrian Partington

BCS’s Musical Director Adrian Partington

Paul Walton, the accompanist for the day

Paul Walton, the accompanist for the day

Louise Mitchell from Bristol Music Trust addresses the singers and audience

Louise Mitchell from Bristol Music Trust addresses the singers and audience

Musical cupcakes and a glass of bubbly awaited singers and listeners after the performance

Musical cupcakes and a glass of bubbly awaited singers and listeners after the performance

The party is well under way

The party is well under way

Bristol Choral Society celebrates 125th anniversary

BCS_CS125_newsletterAs the city’s choir with the longest continued existence, Bristol Choral Society has been a vital part of Bristol’s musical and civic life from the beginning.

Founded in 1889 by George Riseley, then organist of Bristol Cathedral, the choir’s first performance was of Mendelssohn’s St Paul in the Colston Hall, with 500 singers on the stage.

Over the years the choir has continued to promote from three to six concerts a year, and has performed with many international soloists, including singers Isobel Baillie, Kathleen Ferrier and (in recent years) our current Joint President, Mark Padmore. Guest conductors have included Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Adrian Boult and our former Joint President Sir Charles Mackerras. The list of orchestras is equally illustrious: the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Bristol Ensemble, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Music for Awhile, and the Philharmonia Orchestra to name but a few.  Most recently BCS has been privileged to be invited to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra.

Since 2000 the choir has flourished under the baton of Adrian Partington, one of the foremost choral conductors in the country, receiving invitations to take part in the Proms with BBC National Chorus of Wales, and performing at the Royal Festival Hall with Gloucester Choral Society and the Philharmonia Orchestra. And with an eye to the next 125 years, BCS is working with Bristol Sings Music to help bring on the next generation of Bristol musicians, as well as singing Poulenc’s Gloria next April at the invitation of the National Children’s Orchestra.

October 2014


125th birthday Come & Sing

On 18 October 2014, Bristol Choral Society organised a ‘Come & Sing’ event at Colston Hall to celebrate 125 years of the choir. Several hundred singers spent the day singing a selection of favourite choruses under the direction of Adrian Partington to celebrate this milestone.

‘The Hallelujah Chorus was a fitting end to this memorable day’

John Packwood
BRISTOL POST (not published online)

Music for sale or hire

MusicimageBristol Choral Society has a stock of sheet music available for hire and/or sale.

There are a small number of complete sets for hire, including Florent Schmitt’s Psalm 47, Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis (in books containing 2 choirs each), and a work commissioned by Bristol Choral Society for adult and children’s choirs, plus orchestral sets of Bach’s St Matthew Passion and B minor Mass.

Additionally, there is a very large range of new and secondhand choral and vocal scores for sale (just one or a few copies of each) covering a wide variety of works from staples of the repertoire such as Bach’s B minor Mass, Fauré’s Requiem, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and The Kingdom, in addition to an array of more unusual works by composers from Malcolm Archer to Warlock, Warren and Wesley.

Click here to view the current list of music for sale.

September 2014 (Royal Festival Hall, London, Thu 25 September)

Berlioz Requiem (for Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Esa-Pekka Salonen)

Members of Bristol Choral Society with Philharmonia Voices & Gloucester Choral Society. Chorus master: Adrian Partington

‘Opening its season in style, the Philharmonia and Philharmonia Voices under Esa-Pekka Salonen joined forces with the excellent Gloucester and Bristol Choral Societies to present the work.’

Barry Millington
» Read the full review at

‘Four extra brass bands, playing high in galleries and the royal box; four sets of timpani; and a vast massed choir marked the start of the Philharmonia’s new season in grand style.’

Hilary Finch
» Read the full review at

Dynamic Berlioz from Salonen and the Philharmonia
Gavin Dixon
» Read the full review at

‘The choruses certainly sang beautifully’

Ivan Hewett
» Read the full review at

‘…fine singing and playing’

Tim Ashley
» Read the full review at

September 2014

(Colston Hall, Tue 16 September)

Beethoven Symphony No.9 (for Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra)

Bristol Choral Society joined the Kinshasa Orchestra and Choir for the Bristol performance of their UK tour.
» Read a blog review by Rosie Pentreath for BBC Music Magazin

‘…a triumphant grande finale’

» Read the full review at

April 2014

(Royal Festival Hall, London, Sun 13 April)

Janáček Glagolitic Mass (for Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Jakub Hrůša)

with Philharmonia Voices and members of Gloucester Choral Society
Chorus master: Adrian Partington

‘This was as good a performance as one could reasonably hope to hear… Outstanding!’

Douglas Cooksey
» Read the full review at

Slavonic, dramatic, overwhelming – Glagolitic Mass at the Royal Festival Hall

‘The choir’s entry in the ensuing Kyrie [Gospodi] was sensational…
a truly thrilling rendition’

David Karlin
» Read the full review at

Janacek RFH 350 (1)

April 2014

(Colston Hall, Bristol, Sat 12 April)

Janáček Glagolitic Mass (for Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Jakub Hrůša)

‘Exceptional concert’

» Click to read a blog review by a representative of the Dvořák Society

….Some audience reaction via twitter:

Janacek flyer 250

March 2014


Come & Sing Mozart Requiem

On 29 March 2014, Bristol Choral Society organised a ‘Come & Sing’ event at Colston Hall where several hundred singers of varying experience spent the day under the direction of Adrian Partington preparing a ‘scratch’ performance given that evening with orchestra New Bristol Sinfonia and soloists Samantha Crawford (soprano), Beth Moxon (mezzo-soprano), Peter Harris (tenor) and Osian Rowlands (bass).

Read an account of the day from a member of a local community choir:

» ‘A truly inspiring day’


‘The whole occasion was a great success and the musical director of the choir, Adrian Partington, is to be heartily congratulated for his enthusiasm and skill’

5/5 John Packwood
» Read the full review at

March 2014


On 25 March 2014, Bristol Choral Society organised a concert at Colston Hall of Zimbe! by Alexander L’Estrange, featuring 300 children from Bristol primary schools (Ashley Down Primary School, Beacon Rise Primary School, Chester Park Junior School, Fair Furlong Primary School, Hannah More Primary School, Horfield CEVC Primary School, Oasis Academy New Oak, Sea Mills Primary School, Sefton Park Junior School, St. Barnabas CEVC Primary School, St. Nicholas of Tolentine RC Primary School and Upper Horfield Community School), along with Ashley Down Community Choir and the ‘Call me Al’ jazz quintet, as part of Bristol Choral Society’s outreach work, in conjunction with Bristol Sings Music and with support of the Paragon Concert Society.

» Click to read a review by

From the composer via twitter:


February 2014


Valentine’s Opera Gala


‘A beautifully controlled performance by the singers.’

***** 5/5 John Packwood BRISTOL POST (not published online)


December 2013

Handel Messiah


‘Throughout all the choruses the choir showed complete control…with great singing from all sections.’

***** 5/5 John Packwood BRISTOL POST (not published online) Some audience reaction via twitter:

…and for Mini Messiah:


Mini Messiah 2013 pic jordanlgough350
View from rear balcony (image courtesy Jordan Gough)


November 2013


Britten War Requiem (Bristol, Colston Hall, 23 Nov)

‘A stunning performance’
‘With the tremendous support of the large chorus and the two orchestras, this was a stunning performance.’

5/5 John Packwood
» Read the full review at

Some audience reaction via twitter:


November 2013

Gloucester War Requiem flyer

Britten War Requiem (Gloucester Cathedral performance, 16 Nov)


‘A distinguished performance of Britten’s masterpiece’ ‘Gloucester Choral Society and Bristol Choral Society…came together for this performance… This super-choir made a very positive impression…and sang with fine assurance and great commitment. I felt Adrian Partington’s judgment of tempo was faultless throughout the performance… In a fine and sensitive reading…the great climax..was absolutely shattering. One felt that the performers were digging deep, both musically and emotionally, and the effect was deeply moving.’

John Quinn SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL » Read the full review at Seen & Heard Some audience reaction via twitter:

June 2013


Vivaldi Gloria, Kyrie & Dixit Dominus

Some audience reaction via twitter:

May 2013


Beethoven Symphony No.9 (for Bristol Ensemble)

» Read the full review at

Some audience reaction via twitter:


March 2013


Rossini Stabat Mater Verdi Four Sacred Pieces

Genuine Thrills and a Fine Tribute

‘…the choir and the English Symphony Orchestra, who were excellent throughout, came together to produce something genuinely thrilling. It was a fitting end to the evening and marked the concert as not only a fine tribute to the composers … but to the performers of those works.’

Lee Callaway BRISTOL POST » Read the full review at


December 2012

Mini Messiah 2012 350

Handel Messiah


‘Bristol Choral Society not only gave a fabulous performance…but also mastered every intricate scale and canon off by heart. The timings were spot on under the baton of Adrian Partington…in this masterful rendition.’ ‘This was an absorbing and thoroughly entertaining evening. It was as though Colston Hall had been wrapped in a giant ribbon for what can only be described as a Christmas present come early.’

***** Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres BACHTRACK.COM » Read the full review at Some audience reaction via twitter:

Mini Messiah 2012 350 (1)and for Mini Messiah:

November 2012


Brahms Requiem

‘On Saturday (24 November 2012) we were treated to a moving performance of Brahms’ Requiem.

The hushed opening was brilliantly portrayed by the choir…

…the beautiful “How lovely” stunningly sung by the chorus was followed by soprano soloist Hye-Youn Lee singing gracefully and with intimate tenderness.

This was a superb and impressive performance by the choir, led by conductor Adrian Partington.’

9/10 John Packwood
» Read the full review at

June 2012

Handel Israel in Egypt


The choir ‘came through with flying colours. The tone was, as usual, spot on’.

9/10 John Packwood


Some audience reaction via twitter:
NB Lord Mayor of Bristol as at June 2012 was Cllr Peter Main

March 2012

Berlioz Te Deum and Faure Requiem

faure[1]A tremendous evening of two contrasting works…

‘With a chorus of nearly 300 voices…conductor Adrian Partington did an amazing job with the contrasting moods in a warm and spacious performance in which the sound was carefully balanced.

Altogether this was a tremendous evening of choral singing much appreciated by the large audience.’

9/10 John Packwood
Read the full review at

Some audience reaction via twitter:
NB Lord Mayor of Bristol as at March 2012 was Cllr Geoffrey Gollop

December 2011

Bach Christmas Oratorio with Mark Padmore

Christmas2011[2]Choral Society turns in a masterful performance…

‘For the first time for a while Bristol Choral Society changed from their annual Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah to another masterpiece – Bach’s The Christmas Oratorio.The work is really six cantatas covering the services that begin with Christmas Day and end on Epiphany (January 6th).

Beautifully sung by the choir with great expression they were the mainstay of the oratorio and the well-known Lenten hymn O Sacred Head Now Wounded is used twice, with different words, in four-part harmony and then in a full-blown version in the final chorus Now are ye well avenged where the large choir were in great form.

The irrepressible Mark Padmore was superb as the Evangelist showing all the experience he has gained over the years with immaculate voice control. Helen-Jane Howells (soprano) was at her best in her main aria, But a wave of his own hand, whilst Ashley Riches (bass) had a strong voice in all his items.

Adrian Partington, with the excellent baroque Corelli orchestra, conducted the whole performance with his usual aplomb.’

9/10 John Packwood

October 2011

Mozart Requiem


‘Concert triple treat…’

‘In turn the Bristol Ensemble, clarinettist Emma Johnson and Bristol Choral Society took centre stage and made the most of the wonderful opportunities the music offered them….

It seems hardly creditable that it was 27 years ago when Emma Johnson was declared BBC Young Musician of the Year. The range of tone she found to fully develop the concerto underlined once again her mastery of this instrument, and the joy her controlled passionate playing gives to the listener.

Having watched their conductor, Adrian Partington, show his skills in handling orchestral works the choir then rose…to take centre stage with Mozart’s unfinished Requiem Mass…[and] responded readily to their conductor’s instructions…’

Gerry Parker

June 2011

Handel Dixit Dominus
Bach Komm, Jesu, Komm & Lobet den Herrn


‘The beautiful setting of the cathedral, with the sun shining through the stained glass windows, was a perfect place for the final concert of the society’s successful and varied season.

A large audience was treated to a splendid programme of Baroque masterpieces by Bach and Handel.

The sopranos excelled with the arpeggios in the earlier section before the quieter movement built up to the powerful Alleluia.

After the interval Handel’s exuberant Dixit Dominus, where the influence of Vivaldi is evident in the vivid harmonies, produced choral singing which was crisp and precise. The orchestra played with real verve and the soloists, especially Hannah Atherton with her pure tone in Tecim Principium, were uplifting.’

9/10 John Packwood
Read the full review at

April 2011

Carmina Burana (for the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain)

Carmina_NCOHuge standards from under-14s

‘This was always going to be an exciting and vivid presentation.

The young orchestra, brilliantly led by Charlie Lovell-Jones, aged only 12, were excellent accompanists to Bristol Choral Society, up to their usual high standard.’

John Packwood
Read the full review at

View pictures of the day at the NCO website

March 2011

Stanford The Revenge
Parry Blest Pair of Sirens


‘Singing with clear diction, the choir became completely involved in this tragic tale [The Revenge], and drew the audience into the story with them.

..the choir was in particularly good form with the unaccompanied, emotional Lay a Garland by Bristol-born composer Robert Lucas, Sir Arthur Sullivan’s The Long Day Closes, and Joseph Barnby’s lovely setting of Tennyson’s Sweet and Low.’

John Packwood
Read the full review at

November 2010

Holst The Hymn of Jesus
Elgar The Music Makers

elgarconcert[1]Bristol Choral Society: Classical music meets Hollywood drama…

‘This was an exceptional evening in more ways than one. The programme promised three outstanding pieces of classical music written by British composers between 1912 and 1917; the grim days of World War One.

Holst’s The Hymn of Jesus, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending and finally Elgar’s The Music Makers. All pretty exciting and dramatic pieces in their own right. But before a note was sounded, an entirely different drama was being played out elsewhere…’

Read the full review at

June 2010

Hosanna! A journey through English sacred music


‘With his usual imaginative programming, Adrian Partington presented a journey through English church music covering works from the 13th century right up to the present time.

…delicate and expressive singing of the choir came to the fore before the power of Purcell’s I Was Glad led up to a wonderful and inspiring rendition of the mighty Coronation Anthem, Handel’s Zadok The Priest. Here it was noticeable how well the conductor had drilled each section.

Wesley’s Thou Wilt Keep Him and two works by Stanford gave the choir a chance of some softer singing, which they managed very successfully.

The excellent Adrian Partington controlled his forces with great skill and the choir obviously enjoyed this challenging programme.’

John Packwood
Read the full review at



“I have just returned home after spending the evening at the Colston Hall…

… for the Bristol Choral Society’s (BCS) ˜Bristol Sings” in aid of Brace and Julian Trust Night Shelter and would like to say how utterly superb a night’s entertainment it was and what a fabulous job BCS have done.

I didn’t want it to end. The orchestra was exceptional, the soloists flawless and the chorus, well, they looked like they enjoyed it more than the audience, which even I, as a downright Philistine, felt absolutely exhilarated by. Many, many thanks to everyone who gave up their time, organising the event and taking part.”

Evening Post
June 2009


“Adrian Partington…

…led the 150-strong choir through Rachmaninov’s Vespers with a confidence that made the task of singing it appear comparatively easy”

Evening Post
March 2009


“The lyricism and romance associated with Mendelssohn’s music…

… is still to be heard throughout the oratorio. Conductor Adrian Partington was never afraid to allow these qualities to show through in the choral singing and the choir changed moods readily under his guidance. Three members of the choir – Stephanie Spragg, soprano; Margaret Johnstone, soprano; and Angela Read, alto – made telling contributions as angels.”

Evening Post
Nov 2009