EASTBOURNE CHORAL ON TOP FORM
Robin Gregory reviews Brahms’s Requiem at All Saints


Brahms made life difficult for amateur choirs wishing to perform his German Requiem. First, it’s hardly a requiem, more a meditation on life and death. Then, it makes great technical demands, with its rich textures, its lack of obvious tunes and its relative brevity (little over an hour): take too long to get into gear and there’s no time to recover. It requires a highly competent orchestra, large enough to meet its demands, sensitive enough not to overwhelm the singers. (Saving funds by using a Church organ is seldom satisfactory.) Two outstanding singers must be booked for the solos, but they are onstage so briefly that one is tempted to save money and promote from the choir that way danger lies.
This can be a short review. Eastbourne Choral Society, conducted by John Hancorn, got everything right. The large choir sang with conviction, and (more important) accurately. Their sound was well balanced, and (when necessary) rich and full-blooded. The orchestra (some forty instrumentalists under the title The Eastbourne Players) played superbly, with the woodwind especially caressing some of Brahms’s exquisite counter-melodies. The soloists were chosen from the finalists in the Royal Academy’s Richard Lewis Memorial Competition, invited by Elizabeth Muir Lewis to bring their fine voices to Eastbourne. In “Surely all my days” and “Lo, I will show you a mystery”; David Butt Philip made every word audible, his rich baritone filling the Church with ease. Kishani Jayasinghe’s soprano solo ranged from sorrow to joy, her voice as beautiful as the composer’s inspiration. The full house rightly gave John Hancorn and his forces long and appreciative applause.

March 2008

 

 

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