Sunday, May 03, 2009


Essex Musical Association Concert


After a hundred and three years, the Essex Musical Association rang down the curtain with Elgar's great sacred work, premièred a couple of years before the first EMA concert.

They've given it before, of course. At Chelmsford's Corn Exchange, and more than once in the evocative surroundings of Thaxted's parish church. Other venues over the decades have included KEGS, the Civic, Hoffmans's and the Cliffs Pavilion.

It was a farewell too for Keith Gurry, giving his last concert as leader of the excellent Essex Symphony Orchestra.

Robin Page conducted the massed choirs, including contingents from Ingatestone and Brentwood, and three soloists in a performance that was moving and stirring, and not simply because of the circumstances.

Julia Wilson-James sang a clear, confident Angel, with baritone James Lawrence imposing as the Priest and the Angel of the Agony. Gerontius himself was Nick Hardy, who acquitted himself well in this demanding role, especially in his creed in Part One.

The choirs were at their best when teamed with brass and percussion in the powerful full choruses, their song of praise echoing thrillingly round the architecture.

In Thaxted too early for our table at the Swan [just over the road from the church], we wandered

through the wild graveyard, listening to the last few pages of rehearsal. Spotted the baritone with iPod and score doing some last minute revision ... 

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