Chelmsford Singers in the Cathedral
Mince pies aside, this superb concert was pleasingly free of seasonal clichés. Two of the three Handel works featured were entirely secular, and the least known, La Solitudine, had no role for the choir. Timothy Travers-Brown was the soloist, accompanied by Peter Nardone on the continuo organ and Emily Robinson on cello. His compelling alto mused on loneliness and nature in two arias separated by a brief recitative.
And it was his voice which began the evening, in the seductive word “eternal” at the start of the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne. Behind him, the bright baroque trumpet of Paul Sharp, and the new-baptised Chelmer Baroque Ensemble, whose sensitive and spirited playing helped make this one of the most memorable Chelmsford Singers concerts of recent years. The choir was inspired, too and their positive sound in the Ode was well blended. We admired the warmth and purity of the soprano soloist in the verse about the birds, and the triumphant final stanza saw alto and trumpet gloriously re-united.
The final work was Handel's dramatic setting of Psalm 110, the Dixit Dominus. The vivid imagery and the percussive Latin verse were well served by the choir, whose vigorous approach matched the driving energy of the Ensemble, with Peter Nardone's direction carefully bringing out bright colours, the dynamics and the architecture of the choruses. Olive Simpson's beautiful soprano shone in the contemplative Tecum Principium, and the work ended with an exultant Gloria.