A very English concert

An English Concert Haverhill Choral Society Old Independent Church Saturday, March 15 Review by David Starr

There was a stirring start to this concert with Nigel Brown demonstrating the power of the organ at the Old Independent Church, in the opening of Parry's Blest Pair Of Sirens.

This work dates back to 1887 and because of its wide acceptance following its first performance, Parry achieved fame as a composer establishing a style which was followed by others later on.

The music of two of these would also be heard in this concert. Throughout Saturday's performance of this work, there was a beautiful clear sound from all sections.

It worked its way to a wonderfully strong conclusion with the ladies particularly singing with gusto.

After this, the society treated us to a foretaste of its programme for this year's Haverhill Festival at the arts centre on Sunday, June 15.

On Saturday we heard just three movements of the five composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his cantata In Windsor Forest, which is a marvellous piece of fun where the basic text is drawn from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives Of Windsor and embellished with the writings of others.

Movement three of this work –Falstaff And The Fairies – was the first which we heard, providing a different texture as Nigel Brown switched to the piano for the rest of the evening.

This featured a skilfully-intoned soprano solo by society member Kate Hibbert which was a joy to hear. The tonal quality of Vaughan Williams' writing was probably best demonstrated in the fourth movement, entitled Wedding Chorus and the strong conclusion to this part of the evening came in the rumbustuous Epilogue.

The final item of the evening was Elgar's The Music Makers, which draws its text from an ode by Arthur O'Shaughnessy.

Some of the musical highlights here are from references to the Enigma Variations, in particular Nimrod.

This was a brave choice for the society. The writing is rhythmically and musically difficult and proved to be a real challenge for the choir which worked its way through from the quiet ensemble singing at the opening and then creating some real power as the music developed.

There are some exquisite solo passages which were beautifully sung by Janet Moore as her rich, round full mezzo-soprano voice lifted the overall performance to a higher level.

Once again musical director Jane Wright showed her ability to get the most possible from her assembled singers and Nigel Brown showed his mastery of organ and piano as well as all styles of writing.

Such an honest performance deserves recognition and provided a welcome tribute to English classical music in the 50th anniversary year of Vaughan Williams' death.