Society's celebration of two choral masters (June 2009)
Society's celebration of two choral masters
Submitted by Chris Norris on Sat, 27/06/2009 - 09:13
HENLEY Choral Society's 2009 summer concert, Sing & Rejoice, dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn's birth and the 350th of Purcell's, took place in St Mary's Church, Henley, on Saturday.
Lauda Sion and Hear My Prayer were the selected Mendelssohn works. They were coupled with Purcell's . Rejoice in the Lord Alway.
Rejoice in the Lamb by Benjamin Britten and Hear My Words, Thy People by Charles Parry were added to the mix, creating what looked like a potentially eclectic programme. But consistency was evident in the theme of 'rejoicing' and
Britten and Purcell had their birth dates in common. Britten also greatly admired Purcell.
The concert began with Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb, introduced by a simple liturgical chant. Complex time signatures and more frenetic phrases then kicked in, causing understandable uncertainty amongst the singers.
The memory of this vanished quickly as they gained in confidence, displaying energy, sensitivity and commitment throughout, particularly in the final chorus, not the easiest of sections to pull off. Roger Judd's contribution on the organ
was outstanding, underpinning delightful solos by soprano Mary Bevan, counter-tenor James Diggle, tenor Peter Davoren and last-minute replacement bass-baritone, Thomas Faulkner.
Rejoice in the Lord Alway by Purcell opened with a short, elegantly played organ 'symphony', its quality then immediately mirrored by a beautifully articulated trio of male soloists. Solo arias followed. The chorus entered confidently,
all the more so while singing from memory. Their interplay with the soloists and the organ was considerate and well balanced. All performers shared the limelight as the work unfolded, although the organ had the lion's share, handled
masterfully by Roger Judd. The choral themes may have been familiar, but one was still captivated by the beauty of Purcell's fresh simplicity.
On the German side were two works by Mendelssohn. First, the nine-part Lauda Sion, which took off with a great organ introduction and an exciting chorus. Soprano Mary Bevan was centre-stage, technically flawless and instinctively musical.
Her high notes were pure and absolutely on pitch, while her ability to toggle between subtle baroque and high-octane opera made for compelling listening.
A gem amongst many jewels was the first quartet, a beautiful piece and also the best example of the soloists' quartet ensemble, not forgetting an instinctive ability to shift between close madrigal and full-on operatic.
The choir was also ably supportive throughout, eyes fixed on Will Dawes for any subtle change in nuance. The closing quartet and chorus erupted in a wave of optimism, echoing the words of the text and ending with an affirmative Amen.
Hear My Prayer for solo soprano had everything: powerful operatic aria, with full chorus support, hymn like interludes and finally "0 For the Wings of a Dove", gloriously cushioned by chorus lines that formed a perfect backcloth to Mary Bevan's vocal artistry.
In this cross-section of English choral styles, the late 19th century composer Charles Parry was remembered with Hear My Words, an invitation to all to respond to its positive power.
It had a rousing opening chorus, a strongly delivered, dynamically sung bass baritone solo from Thomas Faulkner and some well executed solo quartets.
The quartet verse of the hymn was as good as it gets. The audience had their own chance to sing and the climactic closing Amen was a fitting sign-off to the evening's choral celebration.
All credit to Will Dawes and the choir for their preparation, attention to detail and choral discipline. The choice of soloists was, as always, inspired. And congratulations to Roger Judd for successfully simulating an entire orchestra on the keyboard.
For membership enquiries, please call Wendy Hawkins on (01491) 576929.
Source: Henley Standard
Date: Fri, 26/06/2009