Review of Eastbourne and Hailsham Choral Societiesí Summer Concert by Carole Mounter

The summer offering from the combined choirs of Eastbourne and Hailsham Choral Societies was an Eastbourne premiere of local composer Tony Biggin's Cry of the Earth.  The Choral drama, staged at the Winter Garden, Eastbourne, was preceded by three works; Haydn's Te Deum, three songs performed by Ocklynge School Choir and Elgar's Serenade for Strings.

The Te Deum was sensitively performed, with the amalgamated choirs working well together.  This piece has no solo parts, so allows the choirs to have full reign; and it was an inspiring chorale to open the evening's proceedings. The second offering from the Ocklynge School choir was an enchanting mix of three very different songs;  a Spanish folksong exalting the beauty of our planet Earth, the second and most melodic song "Look after our Earth" and finally - and most enjoyed by the young singers - " What's it worth, Planet Earth", a toe-tapping plea for recycling.  The singers, bright as buttons, sang their hearts out and obviously believed in getting their message across! Thirdly, we were treated to a rendition of Elgar's beautiful Serenade for Strings, the second larghetto movement played with inspiration by the Eastbourne Players, led by Christopher Phipps. There was a lovely moment, when one of the Ocklynge children, sitting in the back row, listened to the Serenade and clearly was very affected by what she was listening to.  Her face showed her falling in love with the music, it felt quite a privilege to watch.

During the interval, one had an opportunity to view the Recycled Arts and Crafts exhibition in the foyer; in itself a homage to the talents of local artists, using driftwood, textiles and other recovered materials. There was also an exhibition of art by children from Ocklynge school which so simply, yet poignantly, emphasized the theme of the evening. We returned to our seats to enjoy the main piece, the "Cry of the Earth".  The Choral Drama explores how we mismanage the elements which create our planet and what is possible if we begin to respect our place in the natural order of things.  It is a message with which we are all familiar, but still disregard so often.  The words and music of this work reinforced in an accessible manner, what is needed to restore our planet to ensure its survival,

The choirs sang wholeheartedly and with commitment in the acoustically challenging environment if the Floral Hall. The piece includes four soloists and two narrators. -  Olivia Robinson, the soprano, sang with gusto, having to reach top B's and C's and proving that she could carry a phrase without losing power, she sang the role of the element Water.  Marcia Bellamy, Mezzo, had a lovely, creamy timbre and good, dramatic line as Gaia, Mother Earth.  Andrew Wicks  as Air, sang with fluidity, and real poignancy and finally, and by no means least, local baritone and chorus master of Hailsham Choral Society, Jozik Koc, thrilled us with the dark, velvet tones of his voice. Bernadette Arthur and Richard Pryal as the narrators told the tale of the destruction of the earth as they found evidence and sought ways to amend the damage.  All realized their parts perfectly, and gave us a wonderful sense of the emotion of the drama. The music itself had many shades of inspiration.  There were passages reminiscent of Sibelius and Gershwin, to name but a couple; and the melodic whole was interspersed occasionally with dramatic discord and jazzy/blues passages. Dancers from Sussex Downs College enhanced the mood of the piece with some superb choreography, although as they danced in the aisles some of the audience may have missed this treat!

All works were conducted by John Hancorn, with his usual aplomb and verve. Screens, portrayed in 18 different pictures, the evolution and downfall of the planet; and if I had a criticism, it was that when we had actors, singers, screens and orchestra, it was too much of an assailment of the senses and I, at least, lost focus. But this is a small grouse.  Everyone played their part with huge enthusiasm and it was a delightful evening's entertainment.   A resounding " well done!" to all who took part.

  

 

 

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