Sunday, November 05, 2017


Chelmsford Singers at Chelmsford Cathedral

Three dramatic choral works from the Singers made up a very satisfying programme for this second concert of their 90th anniversary season.
Revelatory, too, since the first offering was Harold Darke’s A Song of David – setting the same psalm as Parry’s celebrated I Was Glad. A rare opportunity to hear this Festival Anthem, with its striking opening from the strings and the Cathedral organ - Christopher Strange. The choir enjoyed the challenge of this bold music – old-fashioned, perhaps, but very stirring stuff. The bridging passage before the prayer for peace was a lovely violin solo from Robert Atchison, leading the Chelmsford Sinfonietta for this concert.
In an inspired bonus, he was joined by Tim Carey for Darke’s Sonata No 3 for Violin and Piano. These two excellent musicians had to prepare the performing edition for themselves – it turned out to be expansively eloquent chamber music in the late Romantic English tradition, with, especially in the slow movement of Darke’s First Sonata which followed, some reflective, more sombre moments.
Two familiar choral favourites followed. Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, in the version for organ, harp and percussion which seemed ideally suited to this space and these vocal forces. A rousing opening – then the “joyful noise” Hariu. The 23rd Psalm beautifully sung by Elliot Harding-Smith, his mature treble absolutely right for this soulful setting. Interrupted by the men’s voices as the raging nations, before the optimistic close and its unison Amen.

Duruflé’s Requiem, based largely on the Gregorian Mass for the Dead, is a demandingly intricate work, heard here in the version for organ and string quartet, with contributions from the harp, the trumpets and the timpani. But it did feature both soloists – Colin Baldy’s baritone in the Hostias and the Libera Me, and Katherine Marriott’s richly expressive mezzo in the Pie Jesu. An impassioned plea, matched for drama by the choir, especially in the Domine, Jesu Christe and the Dies Irae. Fine choral singing, under the baton of James Davy, from the tranquillity of the Introit to the beautiful otherworldliness of the In Paradisum, Duruflé’s devout evocation of the life to come.

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