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July 15, 2005

Choir Scores with a cappella treat

Westminster Times (UK):

There are those who often bemoan the future of the English choral tradition - and admittedly I have begun more and more to share such pessimism. Of course, it is not only a dearth of young amateur singers coming forward to fill the mature ranks of the choral societies but the parlous state of vocal music in education.

As for audiences, a cappella performances seem to lack universal attraction and only the most popular choral works seem to lure bodies on to seats. But those who avoided Saturday night's concert by the HCS missed a treat.

Firstly, the programme, half English and French, offered a diversity of repertoire to satisfy most tastes. Secondly, it allowed the choir, at about three-quarters strength, to show its full plumage. The programme opened with Vaughan Williams's motet O Clap Your Hands, illustrating the character and beauty of the composer's choral writing. The Frank Bridge's 1916 setting of a text by Thomas ŕ Kempis shows the composer's work metamorphosing into a musical language of challenging harmonies.

The first half closed with Ronald Corp's A New Song, a cantata in tribute to singers everywhere. The work ranges in mood from the triumphal, the reflective and, of course, joyful. This, the work's third London outing, revealed again the choir's quality. The performance by tenor Mark Wilde was particularly praiseworthy. The second half was devoted to Fauré's Requiem, which is perhaps more familiar in its final and full orchestral versions. Corp opted for a gentle course that was refreshingly direct and restrained and the more effective and moving for it.

Baritone Samuel Evans gave a performance of dignity and strength, but was perhaps emotionally overshadowed by the decision, and not unusually, to give the soprano part to a treble. Nine-year-old Harry Barford, who is blessed with a voice of absolute clarity, sang like an angel. But, it was the choir which really scored, excelling in the Sanctus and, best of all, with the sopranos' singing of the hauntingly beautiful In Paradisum.

Posted by acapnews at July 15, 2005 10:22 PM