SIX soloists have been lined up to join Malvern Festival Chorus in a performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion, the group's first concert of 2001.

The performance promises to be a community event with the opportunity for the audience to play its part, singing three chorales with the choir and an extra, or ripieno choir, made up of pupils from Hillstone, Malvern College.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) composed five Passion settings, of which those based on the Gospels of St Matthew and St John survive. St Matthew Passion was, according to tradition, first performed on Good Friday, 1729, and tells of events surrounding the Crucifixion.

Events are related by the Evangelist, a part taken by tenor Charles Daniels, who is probably best known for his interpretations of baroque music. He has also made 60 recordings as a soloist and has appeared regularly at the BBC Proms and at concerts around the world.

The role of Christ is being sung by bass-baritone Simon Birchall, whose repertoire ranges from Bach and Handel to the present day and who has also performed extensively in Britain and abroad, including Japan, Malaysia and East Africa.

Forthcoming engagements include Vaughan Williams's Sea Symphony at Winchester and requiems by Faure and Durufle at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall.

Soprano Rachel Nicholls, who will be making her Royal Opera debut in December as a flower maiden in Parsifall, alto Alexandra Gibson, tenor Benjamin Hulett and bass Niall Hoskin complete the six.

The concert, conducted by Iain Sloan, will be at the Malvern Theatres on Saturday, March 24, at 7pm. Tickets are £12, £10 and £7, from the box office on 01684 892277.

Malvern Festival Chorus completes its 82nd season with a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah at the Malvern Theatres on Saturday, June 2. The soloists will be soprano Susan Black, mezzo-soprano Vanessa Williamson, tenor Dan Ludford-Thomas and bass Ian Caddy.