EASTBOURNE CHORAL SOCIETY PAYS TRIBUTE


Robin Gregory reviews the February 2007 concert at the Town Hall


Two Requiems to commemorate the lives of Richard Garbutt and Michael Clark. In the concert’s first half Fauré was given due subtlety, if perhaps never quite revealing the Requiem’s essentially French understatement which is its greatest beauty. The orchestra (The Eastbourne Players, just the right size) was exceptionally fine, with lovely harp from Helen Arnold, flowing strings and the right balance between the basically quiet sweep of the work and the occasional brief climax. Conductor John Hancorn coaxed thoughtful singing from his choir and soloists, with baritone Mike Barber revealing an even range from bass to near tenor, and Amy Moore (a last-minute replacement for the indisposed Claudia Parkes) bringing perfection of timbre and involvement to the exquisite Pie Jesu.
Rutter’s Requiem presents even more problems for the performers, despite its relatively straightforward tunefulness. One simple theme recurs, a melody which can scarcely bear the religious demands made upon it no matter how well sung, no matter how musically the harp comments. Against this over-simplicity, some movements involve complex passages demanding real rapport between choir, soloists and orchestral instruments. Clearly everything had been thoroughly rehearsed, and all demands were met, all problems solved insofar as they are capable of solution. The solo cello and flute in “Out of the Deep”, the xylophone and timpani in “Sanctus”, the moving oboe, harp and organ in “The Lord is my Shepherd” were all wonderful examples of how instrumentalists should approach this Requiem. The Choir, though light on tenors (rare birds!), responded to the conductor’s clear direction, demonstrating an ability to change gear on demand without which this Requiem cannot succeed. The soloists again acquitted themselves well, Amy Moore delighting with her ability to float into the head register without any perceptible break: a fine singer, indeed, who brought her special magic to an evening of religious music to treasure. 

 

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