EASTBOURNE CHORALíS MUSIC FOR
Review by Robin Gregory
St Saviourís Church on December 1 was the
venue for an ambitious Advent concert by Eastbourne Choral Society. Conductor
John Hancorn brought out the best from choir, soloists and orchestra in music by
Bach, Handel, Vaughan Williams and Britten, not to mention the audience when it
was required to participate.
Sleepers, wake (Bach) brought together the choir (in fine form, though
light on high male voices), soprano Daire Halpin, tenor Neil Jenkins, baritone
Jonathan Gunthorpe and the Eastbourne Players ably led by Christopher Phipps,
whose silky violin was a welcome bonus. Bachís wide-ranging genius received a
sensitive performance which provided the perfect start to what was to prove a
most happy evening.
Daire Halpinís two Messiah solos, especially I know that my redeemer
liveth, were a world away from the syrupy reverence I knew in my youth.
Hancorn set a perfect tempo, and the Players accompanied with light grace, as
the sopranoís beautifully placed high register caressed her exquisitely-judged
ornamentation of Handelís line: a fine demonstration that power is not the only
(or indeed, the main) attribute of good singing.
Indeed, the soloists throughout were exceptional. V-Wís Fantasia on Christmas
Carols filled the resonant acoustics of the church with familiar tunes which
received the composerís special magic. The opening cello theme set the tone for
a beautiful performance. The wordless choir backed the baritoneís fine singing,
and burst into song as enthusiastically as Nick Houghtonís magisterial organ.
After wine and mince-pies it was Brittenís St Nicolas (Santa Claus to
most of us). I have to say that this fascinating work received a magnificent
performance at St Saviourís. Neil Jenkins and treble Daniel Filmer sang
enticingly from the pulpit, and Richard Korne gave the percussion a thrilling
edge. This was grand music-making from start to finish.
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