simple about good music-making. First you select a programme which would tax any
professional choir. Then you manage to afford five distinguished soloists, and
engage the best small baroque band for miles around. Ensure that your conductor
knows his job, knows the music, and preferably can sing himself. Twist the arm
of a fine pianist (Mark Smith on this occasion) to accompany rehearsals and to
perform on the night. Convince the choir that, with hard work and discipline,
they really can master the musical problems, then draw up a schedule.
Sell tickets; book the hall. And pray!
Prayers were answered for Eastbourne Choral Society’s performance at the Town
Hall on June 23d, which was given in memory of Valerie Thomas, choir member and
generous benefactor. (The Society is, additionally, supporting two charities
which help children with cancer.) The first half spanned three hundred years of
English choral music. Purcell’s “Come Ye Sons of Art” introduced sopranos
Gillian Keith and Elizabeth Cragg, countertenors William Purefoy and Jonathan
Peter Kenny, baritone Jonathan Gunthorpe, the Sussex Baroque Players led by
Alison Bury and the full choir, conducted by John Hancorn. We knew we were in
for a splendid evening, and the rest of the first half (Ford, Elgar and Britten)
lived up to expectations The early Elgar “My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land”
showed the choir at its best.
Vivaldi after the interval was an inspired choice: no point in having superb
soloists if they get no chance to shine. And shine they certainly did. It was
good to hear that countertenors can be so different in timbre (thus easily
distinguished) yet equally musical. Similarly, in “Gloria” the soprano duet has
seldom sounded so melting, with both voices differentiated but exquisitely
blended. In the less familiar “Nulla in Mundo” Gillian Keith gave us singing of
supreme quality: breath, range, tone and conviction which well explained her
burgeoning career. The band’s contribution was memorable, with notable solo
contributions from valveless trumpet (How does he do it?) and oboe. And
with the Eastbourne Choral on top form, John Hancorn clearly deserved the
applause which ended a midsummer evening to treasure.
- ROBIN GREGORY
Charity Registration No 1063701