Sunday, December 31, 2017



Essex Youth Orchestra with Essex Youth Chamber Choir
Rotary Club of Chelmer Bridge 
at Chelmsford Cathedral

The EYO has been celebrating its 60th anniversary, and this great concert enabled us to share in the festivities.
Rotary have been promoting these New Year concerts for some years – not always seasonal Strauss, though I recall one memorable evening with John Georgiadis. This year they were joined by the Essex Youth Chamber Choir, another branch of Essex Music.
Simon Warne’s excellently disciplined choir gave us Howard Goodall’s 23rd Psalm – aka The Vicar of Dibley – Bob Chilcott’s Give Me The Strength, from his Life Cycle cantata, and an arrangement of a traditional spiritual, Standing in the Need of Prayer.
They combined with the orchestra for Vivaldi’s Gloria: a very impressive performance, conducted by Robin Browning. He managed to achieve an excellent balance, despite having a small choir, of largely untrained, sometimes immature voices, behind sizeable instrumental forces. A spirited interpretation, too – lively strings in the opening Gloria – with fine solo work from the players, oboe and cello, for example, and from the singers: three sopranos for the Domine Deus, and Kerensa Newcombe for the later movements, returning after the Qui Sedes to pick up her trumpet for the triumphant ending.
A pity we were not given a little more help in the programme – not necessarily text and translations, but at least a list of the movements.
No such problem with everyone’s favourite Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. Robin Browning talked us through the extracts, from the Christmas Eve party to the Waltz of the Snowflakes, from the Land of Sweets and its colourful divertissements to the heart-on-sleeve Pas de Deux. A real treat to hear the music at such close quarters, with the wordless chorus behind the violins, Tchaikovsky given a welcome freshness by these young players. As Browning pointed out, what is a bread-and-butter warhorse to the ROH pit band is a new discovery for these youngsters, playing it for the first time.

It was preceded by Witches, a curtain raiser written by Caroline Penn, the EYO’s leader. Her very own hexentanz, with exciting brass and thrilling percussion.

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