Thu, 20 Feb 2020
Newbury Chamber Choir,
at St George’s Church, Wash Common,
on Saturday, February 8
Review by JOHN HERITAGE
Stay inside and batten down the hatches! This was the advice to the Newbury public as Storm Ciara approached from the west. However, a sizeable audience gathered at St George’s Church on Saturday evening for Newbury Chamber Choir’s concert, and they weren’t to be disappointed. What a stunning location this is, beautiful and acoustically resonant and such a rewarding singing ambiance. Two major choral works with matching orchestrations, proved to be an inspired programme.
We began with Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes K.339 and the choir was immediately engaged and alert to Edwards Lambert’s inspired leadership. The six movements enjoyed clarity and precision and the orchestra, playing period instruments, accompanied with dexterity and a lightness of touch. Our soprano soloist, Alys Mererid Roberts, sang with warmth and clear diction and the famous Laudate Dominum delighted us all, especially the ensemble between Alys and the choir. During the interval I enjoyed reading Ed’s well-written programme notes and was amazed at the extensive and interesting information provided for our further enhancement of the music.
The Nelson Mass (or Missa in Angustiis), is a staple of the choral repertoire, but this performance was delightfully intimate and very much in keeping with Haydn’s slightly austere orchestration. Natasha Agarwel (alto), Guy Withers (tenor) and Dominic Bowe (bass) proved a formidable team, blending beautifully in the Benediuctis and the Agnus Dei. My highlight was Dominic Bowe in the deliciously profundus Qui Tollis. The natural trumpets and timpani sounded magnificent and the strings played with sensitivity and accuracy.
A special word to Susan Holmes, the choir’s rehearsal pianist, who played the chamber organ and helped gel the orchestra and choir together. The choir was inspired and sang with a large dynamic range, even though not all the diction was as crystal clear as it could have been.
The Sanctus was performed with excellent warmth of tone and shaping of phrase. The Dona Nobis Pacem was an exciting conclusion and all performers were glued to Ed’s clear and innately musical direction. The audience responded with
enthusiasm and were clearly impressed with both the audio and visual content of the evening, in this eye-catching and exciting venue.
We are fortunate to have so much wonderful music making in Newbury, varying from exciting new music at one concert to established masterpieces at the next. I am so pleased we didn’t pay too much heed to the inclement weather warnings, otherwise we might have missed a really terrific evening’s entertainment.
Thank you Ed and Newbury Chamber Choir!