A SENSE OF PLACE
Waltham Singers at Great Waltham Church
Not for the first time, a world première for the Waltham Singers. For the 2015 summer concert they'd chosen A Sense of Place for their theme, and commissioned Jeffery Wilson to write a work in which the Singers could be joined by the Fibre Optics choir from New Hall School, both directed by Andrew Fardell.
“Songs of Home” proved an enjoyably accessible collection, with pictorial Haikus and Essex folk embraced within the ancient Offices of the Old Religion, the children's voices leading the way. Good to hear a fresh setting of Bushes and Briars, first collected in Ingrave by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and a “Ballad of Politics” of the same Edwardian vintage, penned by Charles Benham in the authentic accent of rural Essex.
The youngsters brought us another local composer, Armstrong Gibbs, with a lively setting of Five Eyes by Walter de la Mare.
And they gave a commendably crisp account of London Bells, the central setting in Bob Chilcott's Songs and Cries of London Town, which also featured a lovely lilting Flower of Cities All.
From further afield, Peter Maxwell Davies' Kestrel Road, with words from the Orkney poet George Mackay Brown, a joint commission of ten years ago. Good to have the words recited as well as sung; this evocative sequence was perhaps the piece mostly firmly rooted in its location – kirk and croft, school and smithy, manse and mill. Excellently sung, too, especially the challenging slow movement Windfall.
And to start, Elgar's tunefully Romantic Songs of the Bavarian Highlands – beautifully controlled clarity in False Love, and a lilting piano part in Lullaby.
The two accompanists – Laurence Lyndon-Jones and Weston Jennings – probably clocked up the most Air Miles, with duet Dances from Hungary and the Ukraine, Brahms and Dvorak.
A refreshingly eclectic summer offering, performed with the enthusiasm and attention to detail that make this choir so reliably impressive.